Between the two downtown centers of the Twin Cities, there is a neighborhood which sits midway. The neighborhood is aptly named Midtown, and one of its main hubs has been appropriately dubbed a global market. When you step inside, you are immediately immersed in a titillating diversity of sights, sounds and smells originating from a variety of international merchants and vendors. Minnesota’s own Midtown Global Market (MGM) is comparable to Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, or perhaps even Seattle’s Pike Place, but with even more emphasis on representing the world’s cultures. The breadth of cuisine includes Mexican, Mediterranean, Moroccan, Italian, Korean, Southeast Asian, African, Indian and American as well as many vegetarian and vegan options. It is an excellent place to walk through and be captivated by all the decorations and attractive items. Though it is difficult to decide given the selection, hopefully this review can give you some assistance.
Within the world, there is a vast variety of culinary styles. Within the MGM there is a similarly vast selection of dishes. Within a single vendor’s menu there are more options than anyone could easily comprehend on an empty stomach. Luckily, during my visit to the MGM I was graced with the company of three gastronomic accomplices, each providing a taste of their dish to contribute to this review.
We decided on Taqueria Los Ocampo, a food-court style restaurant offering many authentic Mexican meals. I got the Alambre with pork al pastor, and tasted the torta Cubana, and Huarachazo with beef barbacoa. Many of the dishes let you chose your meat, expanding the menu combinations even further.
The Alambre was a hefty portion of pork, cheese and vegetables seared on the grill and then thoughtfully served with both corn and flour tortillas and a roasted poblano pepper on the side. The flavors married wonderfully and alternating between corn or flour tortilla kept things interesting. You’ll be messy, but these well-tuned pork tacos (or beef or chicken or veggie depending on your choice) are indicative of a staff that knows how to keep their dishes deliciously authentic.
For a less unilateral flavor experience, try the torta Cubana. The incorporation of breaded steak, ham, Mexican sausage, egg, chicken, shredded cheese, avocado, mayo, onions, jalapeños and tomatoes makes this sandwich a confusing interchange crowded with distinct flavors. It reminded me of laying a forearm across the keys of a piano; every ingredient provided its own little hint to an overall indistinguishable cluster of taste. The torta Cubana is a good sandwich, but it is the mirror opposite of the Alambre’s simplistic deliciousness.
Tasting the Huarachazo further emphasized the point that at Los Ocampo, simplicity makes for good eating. This masa cake covered in beans, cheese, and meat only features a few ingredients, but, like in the Alambre, they marry together very well and create a flavor that stays interesting throughout the whole large serving.
The take home message learned at Los Ocampo is that the simple, classic Mexican dishes will not disappoint. Come for the tacos, the burrito, or the gordita, and even though I didn’t try these, I’m sure they’ll be wonderful because of Los Ocampo’s mastery of Mexican cuisine. The dishes I detailed above were delicious, but be warned that the more complex a meal looks, or the longer the ingredient list, the less stupendous it may be.
If you like this review or don’t like Mexican food, come to MGM anyway. It is a fun spot worth visiting if you want to experience a wide variety of diverse restaurants and shops.
Midtown Global Market is located at 920 E Lake St in Minneapolis.