Five Spots to Eat at in the Minneapolis Skyway

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Visitors to Minneapolis often wonder why many businesses (restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores) are located on the second floor of downtown buildings. The explanation is easy — the Minneapolis skyways are located on the second floor, covering eight miles and connecting sixty-nine blocks of downtown.

During the cold winter months, downtown workers and dwellers find the skyways a convenient method of transportation. Leaving their coats behind, they easily navigate the downtown area from the warmth and comfort of the indoors. With this in mind, it is easy to understand why the variety and convenience of restaurant and service locations is essential to the skyway community.

At lunch you can find just about any type of food you desire in Minneapolis’s skyway system. Hungry for a burger? No problem. Looking for a soup and sandwich combo? You have a choice of at least a dozen spots. The difficult task, however, is finding a quality food experience.

Below, we list our favorite Minneapolis skyway eateries, differentiated by their dedication to providing a quality, yet fast, dining experience amid the hectic skyway system. For those unfamiliar with downtown Minneapolis, you’ll find most skyway lunch spots open Monday through Friday for lunch only.

Sorrento Cucina

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

When it comes to Italian, you won’t get a more comforting meal in the skyway than at Sorrento Cucina. Located in the Soo Line building and co-owned by Martino Virgillo and his mother Rose, Sorrento has served Italian cuisine to hungry skyway diners for more than 18 years.

What makes skyway diners keep coming back for more? Virgillo’s family recipes, including his maternal grandmother’s tomato sauce, and homemade dishes made fresh onsite daily. Pizza, pasta and tender chicken dishes make up the menu. Lunch specials are also featured daily.

Our favorite is the meat lasagna, made with ground beef (as are the meatballs and bolognese) rather than the traditional combination of beef and pork. The full order of lasagna ($6.49), a dauntingly large portion served with choice of breadstick or cheesebread and a simple (albeit iceberg) lettuce salad easily fed two for dinner. The picture above is a full order. For a smaller portion, try the half order ($5.49), which is also a generous serving along with bread and salad.

Sorrento Cucina, 105 S. 5th St., Minneapolis, MN

Zen Box

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

A relative newcomer to the skyway, Zen Box moved into the Quebec Six building four years ago and hasn’t slowed down since. Attracting the on-the-go lunchtime crowd is the authentic, fast and affordable food that this tiny Japanese eatery serves.

Entrees range in price from $4 to $7.20 and come in either a Bento Set (served with steamed rice, gyoza and cabbage salad) or Donburi (served with steamed rice only). We recommend ordering a Bento Set (like the popular grilled chicken teriyaki for $6.29) as it includes Zen Box’s signature cabbage salad, a crisp serving of shredded cabbage with a drizzle of their tangy, homemade apple and ginger dressing.

Zen Box601 Marquette Ave., #204, Minneapolis, MN

Classic Cookie Co.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

When John Lundgren started the Classic Cookie Co. over 25 years ago, he didn’t know how to bake. Through trial and error and working from family and church recipes, Lundgren soon came up with his recipe for success, which includes a location in the Qwest building of the Minneapolis skyway. He explains that people go to restaurants as destinations but they stop for cookies more spontaneously. With constant foot traffic in the skyway, Lundgren feels it is the ideal location.

Lundgren’s son and sister-in-law arrive to begin the daily baking at 4am, which includes 13 varieties of cookies (an additional five more with frosting), muffins, brownies and Lundgren’s personal speciality – peanut butter rice crispy bars with chocolate. All baked goods are made with fresh eggs, real butter and real vanilla, says Lundgren.

Despite the varieties of sugary goodness, our favorites are the classic cookies ($1.50/each or $15/dozen) in flavors such as ginger, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, and coconut date nut oatmeal (pictured above and listed from bottom to top).

Classic Cookie Co., 200 S. 5th St., Minneapolis, MN

The Brothers Deli

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The evolution of The Brothers Deli, located in the Dorsey Building, was a long time in the making. Prior to owner Jeff Bernstein opening the current Brothers Deli in 1993, the Twin Cities was home to over sixteen Brothers Deli locations operated by the original brothers — Bernstein’s father and uncle, Len and Sam.

The current Brothers Deli upholds the original family business values of quality ingredients and homemade food. Bernstein sources his ingredients carefully and individually — examples of this are the pastrami and corned beef which come from Chicago and New York, the rye and pumpernickel breads from New York, and the egg and wheat breads from a bakery in Edina. Homemade food means the deli cures their pastrami and corned beef, roasts their turkey, and makes all soups and salad dressings (except ranch).

The menu is varied, including salads, deli sandwiches, and combinations. All sandwiches come with a trip to their deli buffet, featuring housemade salads (coleslaw, potato salad, pickled beets and bulgogi green beans), pickles, and bread pudding. Deli sandwich prices are $5.54 for a regular (1/4 pound) or $9.09 for New York style (8 oz).

We love the combination sandwiches like the Dina’s Delight (pictured above), which is served on rye with the choice of pastrami or corned beef (we like to order both) and featuring their homemade coleslaw and Russian dressing. Also popular are the soups ($3.04 for a cup and $4.04 for a bowl), which come with a homemade popover served with honey butter. New this winter is a carving station, which changes daily and includes varieties like brisket in wine sauce and peppered prime rib.

The Brothers Deli, 50 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis, MN

Kabobs Indian Grill

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The newest addition to downtown eating is Kabobs Indian Grill located in Gavidae’s 4th floor State Fair food court. Despite its recent opening, Kabobs is quickly becoming a skyway favorite due to its winning combination of value and quality.

For $5, diners purchase a one-time trip through Kabob’s extensive buffet featuring over thirty dishes. Buffet offerings change daily (curries, rice dishes and vegetable offerings) but always include rice, poori (a puffed dough bread) and naan. Don’t miss the chicken and rice dish, lightly flavored with cinnamon, or the tender tandoori chicken. Restaurant servers dish up your selections and the process goes quickly, but don’t hesitate to ask what something is or to refuse something you don’t prefer — with so many choices you’re bound to end up with a heaping plate to enjoy.

Kabobs Indian Grill, 555 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN

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  1. Great article, I will have to check out Sorrento Cucina.

    My top 5:
    1) Andrea Pizza – Highland Bank Building
    2) Salad de Fusion – they don’t advertise this, but they make Bahn Mi sandwiches by request, Baker Building
    3) Greek Grill – City Center
    4) Restaurant Together – made to order sushi at take out prices, Highland Bank Building
    5) Turtle Bread Company – One Financial Plaza

  2. Jason Walker01/04/2010Reply

    Not on skyway level but accessible by a stairway, Peter’s Grill at 8th St. and 2nd Ave S. is my downtown favorite. And great call on Brothers Deli. The deli buffet alone is worth the trip.

  3. Great read, thanks for posting it! Those are all quality establishments no matter where you are!
    Thankfully they’re right in our skyway!

  4. Nick, I think the Greek Grill and the entire food court is gone from City Center. Sadly. But thank you for saying what building things are in, b/c streets mean nothing to me when I’m trying to find something in the skyway.

    So, where is this Sorrento Cucina? What building is it in, and also helpful is what buildings are on either side?

    Trieste is on the street level, but accessible via skyway. It’s in the Lumber Exchange building.

    I’ll have to check out the secret bahn mi sandwiches at Salad de Fusion.

  5. Greek Grill is definitely still open in City Center. It’s next to Baja Sol on the way to the Dorsey building (where Brothers and Chipotle are).

    I went to Sorrento today for the first time and was not that impressed. Sure the portions are huge, but I thought the lasagna was rather bland and the cheese bread downright awful.

  6. Jane, while the City Center’s food court is long gone, there are some food options on the Nicollet end of the second floor there. Greek Gril, Baja Sol, Au Bon Pain and Leeann Chin are your options there.

    And while it’s not a skyway joint, the Skyroom on the 12th floor of the Macy’s building is an oft-overlooked lunch spot. Great options (giant salad bar, grill, deli, Mexican, Pasta) great prices and the best and brightest lunchtime view of downtown.

  7. Go To Go is also not to be missed. It’s in the 5th street towers building I think, what used to be the Pilsbury building I think. Awesome kabob wraps – the lamb in particular is awesome. I’ll also second the Turtle Bread recommendation, great made to order sandwiches and the soup, of course, is also outstanding.

  8. Go To Go is also not to be missed. It’s in the 5th street towers building I think, what used to be one of the Pilsbury buildings? Awesome kabob wraps – the lamb in particular is awesome. I’ll also second the Turtle Bread recommendation, great made to order sandwiches and the soup, of course, is also outstanding.

  9. Author

    Nick – I’ll have to give Greek Grill another go. It wasn’t my favorite when I went – any recommendations? And I’ll definitely have to hit Salad de Fusion for a bahn mi.

    Jane – Sorrento is in the Soo Line Building (5th St. and Marquette). It’s hard to explain how to get there (aren’t all skyway spots that way…), but from One Financial Plaza go northeast (turn into the skyway at the Caribou and keep going straight – don’t take the skyway on the left to Gavidae). Soo Line is the next building in the skyway between One Financial and the Qwest building. Don’t forget to stop at the Classic Cookie Co. while you’re over by the Qwest building.

    Declan – Good To Go is another good option, as you said. Their hand tossed salads are really nice. It’s actually in the US Bank Plaza (former Pillsbury Center). The owners are the same as Atlas Grill owners.

  10. Good picks. The faux bahn mi at Fusion is decent but hard to pony up $5 when I can ge the real thing for $2.50-3.50. Randa’s Deli on Lasalle makes a good gyro and Italian beef. Tea House by Kieran’s makes decent dumbed down Sichuan dishes to go. Taste of Thailand in the Warehouse has decent Thai.

  11. Good to Go has nice salads & kabobs, slightly overpriced.
    Greek Grill has some nice
    Asian Gourmet in the Tri-Metro building on 2nd ave & 5th street does a passable version of Bi-Bim-Bap and some nice healthy-ish chinese entrees.
    Sorrento is bleh.
    Turtle Bread is a nice soup option.

  12. Allie’s in the Rand Tower is fantastic. Soup, salads, sandwiches, packaged veggie trays, etc. All soup is from scratch, the owners are service-minded and the prices are right.

    Good to Go has nice salads & kabobs, slightly overpriced.
    Greek Grill is VG.
    Asian Gourmet in the Tri-Metro building on 2nd ave & 5th street does a passable version of Bi-Bim-Bap and some nice healthy-ish chinese entrees.
    Sorrento is bleh.
    Turtle Bread is a nice soup option.

  13. @Katie: I’ve always just had the Gyro with salad at Greek Grill. I really like their pita, but it’s by no means the best gyro I’ve ever had. I think it’s interesting that all of your suggestions are north of 7th Street. Do you work towards that end of downtown? Although it does seem to me that the quality and uniqueness of skyway lunch options does degrade as you go south towards Target HQ.

    @dave: I’ll have to try the one at Randa’s — that’s the convenience store in the Highland Bank building, right? Agreed about $5 being too much for a Banh Mi, but what else is edible downtown for less than $5?

    @geoff: I haven’t had Allie’s for lunch, but their scones are amazing for breakfast. They have dozens of kinds made fresh.

    I also have enjoyed the Mock Duck Pad Thai at Sawatdee’s skyway location.

  14. if you really want your Minneapolis workplace street/skyway lunch options to look inadequate, check this:

    http://midtownlunch.com/2010/01/04/best-midtown-lunches-as-voted-on-by-you-2009-edition/

  15. morchella01/04/2010Reply

    Good picks! Royal Orchid at 6th & Marquette: service is great and food is better I think than Satwatdee. There is an odd odor that you need to confront in the waiting line, but once you’re on the other side it’s not an issue.

    For the Scandihoovians: Brother’s Deli has pickled herring at the salad bar : )

  16. Funny you mention the odor.

    I brought some Royal Orchid back to the office one day and my boss asked, “is that from the place in the North Star building skyway that smells like fried asshole?”, and I haven’t gone back since.

  17. Where is Salad De Fusion- I can’t find any evidence of them online.

  18. downtowner01/05/2010Reply

    I’ll never eat at “au bon pain” aka “au bon mouse” ever again after the pictures that I saw circulate via email through all of the major compaines downtwon earlier this summer. nasty!

    The German Hot Dog Company in the TCF building is an interesting place – I’m also a HUGE fan of the walkin’ dog in the secret food cout in Highland Bank Court – that place is legit!

  19. NordeastB01/05/2010Reply

    @artsy, Salad De Fusion is in the Baker Bldg. between Caribou and Sawadee.

    Always walk by; never been. They have pictures on Banh Mi in their window. Also, they need a better menu board (font, color size of type) e.g., Zen Box.

  20. downtowner01/05/2010Reply

    @downtowner – before I get reemed a new one – Walkin Dog is in Norhstar Center!

  21. Walking Dog smells like the americanized version of royal orchid. If you stand in the right spot by the escalator in North Star, you can smell both.

  22. Walking Dog smells like the americanized version of royal orchid. If you stand in the right spot by the escalator in North Star, you can smell both.

    Also, I think it’s spelled Salade de Fusion, which may be troubling your search. Their Bahn Mi isn’t inedible, but it makes me wish I worked closer to University or Eat Street.

    German Hot Dog Company? Is that a new place? Sounds like a must.

  23. downtowner01/05/2010Reply

    the German Hot Dog Company is sweet – although the team that runs the place is clearly not of German descent.

    The german hot dog itself is a hot dog sized brat – topped with sauerkraut.

    They alos have a solid breakfast.

    It’s across the hall from Ah Sa Wan (Oh So Good)

  24. geoff. I am a long supporter of Royal Orchid so are a lot of others. I think your comment is down right destructive and nasty. I always happy with my meal there. If you bought something you think is bad, you should have called them for a refund. They are cheerful to give you a refund if you would bring the food back.

    We should all be constructive rather than being the opposite.
    All vendors are trying hard to gain our business, so a little kindness to them would help them to provide us with a better foods and without destructive comments. I am sure they would appreciate a good deal from all of us.

  25. While not “fine dining” of any sort, the German Hotdog Stand certainly does rock! While not a top lunch spot for me, it serves quite possibly the best breakfast burrito in the Skyway. That’s right folks, burritos and dogs from the Germans. Wie Gehts! If anyone knows it by it’s pseudonym, the Shanty, then we’re probably friends. Located in TCF, you all should go tomorrow AM.

  26. morchella01/05/2010Reply

    Thanks, Pat Smith! If I recall correctly, Royal Orchid was one of the very first Thai places in Mpls (used to be on Nicollet by 15th), and deserves the tip of a hat for the herculean effort of getting Minnesotans to eat green curry or fish sauce. My guess is the smell is something more akin to shrimp paste than anything related to ones backside.

  27. morchella’s correct. The Royal Orchid was indeed one of the first Thai restaurants to introduce the wonderful flavors of Thailand to the Twin Cities. RO paved the way for current Thai darlings like True Thai, Roat Ocha, Raum Mit. Owners/siblings Nida and Pat are two of the hardest working people in this highly competitive, low margin niche. They may not be as splashy as other local restauranteurs, but they are more committed to the authenticity of their food than most.

    http://www.thebestthaifood.com/RO_home.htm

  28. I think I will have to disagree with the authenticity on Royal Orchid. Go order their Green Papaya Salad and tell me what you think. The one I ordered was the opposite of authentic. Too bad as this dish defines what is unique in Thai cuisine. The guy behind the counter actually admitted they use lime juice concentrate squeezed from a bottle. The Indian crowd seems to love their fried rice though…but now that good Indian food is available at Kabobs I think Royal Orchid is going to have a tough time.

  29. ate at sorrento cucina today (quite by accident), had the spinach lasagne, which was ok, but holy portion size! i tend to get lunch and then pick away at it, and it took me over 2 hours to finish. probably won’t be a regular there. i’ve eaten at the german hot dog a few times, good breakfast sandwich (plus, no styrofoam box!). i do like zen box, avoid the noodles and get a bento skinny (shredded cabbage). the curry is quite good as well, as are the rolls (2 or 3 for $1.60, always very fresh). i sometimes hit leanne chins (fried rice and sesame chicken or potstickers), but that gets a bit too heavy to have every day. potbelly sometimes (but more for dinner).

    anyone tried that sushi place across from salad de fusion? they used to be good, but i had some rolls there recently that must’ve been days old. sad. (the people were still very friendly, which makes me even more sad when i walk by there with my lunch from somewhere else…)

  30. massageon03/11/2010Reply

    I love eating down town. I went for a long walk today throught the skyway and discovered a BUNCH of places I had never seen before. I am going to try India Express tomorrow, as it looked and smelled awesome!

    I love brothers deli for their bulgogi sandwich mmmmmm

    Not in the skyway, but right on 9th & Nicollet is an great Crepe place that has really reasonable prices and delicious food.

    In the U.S. Bank building there is a little convinience store that sells gyros which are REALLY GOOD!

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