Housed in the bottom floor of the mixed-use Midtown Exchange building on Lake Street, the Midtown Global Market is the perfect place to visit in the Minnesota winter. It has wide walkways between stores, a large open space with chairs and tables at its center and plenty of mouth-watering menu options to keep you warm and well-fed.
We stopped by the Market on a Sunday afternoon to grab a quick meal. The atmosphere is peaceful at the end of the weekend as visitors stroll through the shops or munch on lunch. You can hear the sounds of good food sizzling and roasting at nearly every corner, and the mix of smells in the air gets you excited to eat.
The Arepa Bar is a star member of the Market’s wide lineup of food options. Hailing from Caracas, Venezuela, Arepa Bar Chef and Owner Soleil Ramirez packs a punch with a menu boasting both sweet and savory choices. Highlights include tostones – an appetizer of fried plantains topped with signature sauce and cheese, cachapa – a honeyed and cheesy sweet corn pancake and, of course, arepas.
We tried an arepa with pulled pork overflowing from two hot white-corn tortillas, topped with avocado, plantains and Venezuelan cheese. Paired with a house-brewed warm black coffee, the classic dish didn’t disappoint.
We couldn’t resist also snagging a chicken empanada, deep fried and piping hot, that also hit the spot. It came with a zesty sauce that was able to cut the oiliness of the empanada, making a near-perfect combination that melts in your mouth.
Located right next to the Arepa Bar, Taqueria Los Ocampo offers recipes that, according to their website, have been handed down from generation to generation. The included spices are sure to satisfy cravings, and every order is built from scratch. The location in Midtown Global Market is their third, opening in 2006. The staff is dedicated to serving authentic Mexican food using fresh ingredients, and you can really tell when you eat their food.
The menu has a ton of options for customization, but we settled on al pastor tacos. Topped with cilantro, onion and radishes, the tacos came with slices of lime, which really lifted the dish. The tacos would be delicious either way, but we highly recommend eating them hot, while the smell is still wafting off them and the tortillas are warm.
There is also a combo option for the tacos, which includes three tacos, a soda and rice and beans. However, the tacos on their own are very filling.
The staff at Taqueria Los Ocampo was extremely friendly, and helped us pick out what to order. Aside from tacos, the store also serves a host of other dishes, including pozole and menudo, two traditional Mexican soups. They also have burritos, quesadillas and enchiladas.
As we strolled around, we found ourselves right in front of Moroccan Flavors. Its cutlery and decor is reminiscent of the northern Moroccan city of Chefchaouen – famous for its landscape of buildings painted in cool shades of blue. The restaurant is renowned not only for its various couscous and tagine dishes but also because of the warmth with which customers are greeted. Their website notes that head chef, Hassan Ziadi, established the restaurant in 2016 and works with his partner to serve customers the delights of Moroccan cuisine.
Chef Ziadi welcomed us warmly as we scanned the menu. The menu boasts Moroccan sandwiches which are baguettes filled with choices of marinated chicken, marinated ground beef and shrimp, three different kinds of couscous and their well-loved tagine with choices of beef, chicken, lamb shank, meatballs and vegetables.
After much deliberation, we opted for chicken tagine. In the short wait for the food, we witnessed the chef effortlessly put the meal together as the aroma wafted around the restaurant. Made with braised chicken and turmeric rice, it was topped with boiled carrots, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, chickpeas, preserved lemon and olives. This was the perfect meal for a Minnesotan winter day — warm, flavorful and served with love.
Moroccan Flavors also serves gluten-free and vegan options for tagine and couscous. If you’re with a large group, the “Family Tagine Meal” serves six people and boasts custom options for tagine, salads, toppings and starch.
The Market has more to offer than just fresh food. At Llakta, visitors can buy South American and Indigenous style textiles while Dar Medina offers hand-crafted Moroccan rugs, jewelry and other home goods. Over at Leila’s Brow Art, you can even stop in to get your eyebrows threaded in a relaxing space with all-natural tools. The Market also boasts two grocery-style shops, Oasis Market and Deli and the Produce Exchange. Oasis has a wide array of East African and Middle Eastern grocery items as well as fresh food. Produce Exchange claims a range of specialty ingredients and a host of sweet treats to its name. We each snagged a serving of mochi for dessert.
The Market is also a hub of socialization. The atmosphere is saturated with sounds of laughter, half-finished conversations and greetings. With 45 businesses spanning over 22 cultures from around the world, its 1.5 million annual patrons create and experience a memorable experience.
While it wasn’t the first time we had visited the Midtown Global Market, we left full of good food and energy from the bustling space. Until next time!