Our group of 11 gathered in the central hall of the Midtown Global Market. We shoved a few tables together and called that home base. Each of us was assigned a food vendor and given enough cash to order the specialty of the house along with something else that sounded interesting.
We returned with our offerings and set them down. Our table looked like a feast for a gluttonous king and his court. Soon the surface became strewn with the detritus of 11 people picking and poking at kolaches and pizza and lamb shanks and baba ghanouj. We used our grubby fingers and any available plastic utensil. We slurped and gnawed and grunted out our thoughts about the food. By the time we’d wiped away the drippings from our various tortas, tacos and dumplings, our thin, biodegradable napkins had pretty much biodegraded in our hands.
Then it was time for round two.
We loosened our belts, grabbed our cash, and did it all again. 17 different places, more than 40 menu items, all in a two-hour span.
If you’re unfamiliar with the setup of the Midtown Global Market, imagine a large indoor bazaar with merchants offering cuisines and other goods from around the globe. So yeah, it’s pretty much what it sounds like: a global market. It’s housed in a gorgeous Art Deco stone building that towers over Lake Street like a capitol. This place once housed a bustling Sears store and catalog center. But where there were once stacks of tools and blue jeans and children’s toys, there are now stacks of tamales and baked goods and, yes, still a few children’s toys.
Prior to its opening in 2006, the Midtown Global Market was nothing more than the noble idea of a few local business owners. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of doggedly pursuing a vision. It could have been just another anonymous development. Instead, the Midtown Global Market is one of those special places that helps define a city. We’re lucky to have it.
Pro tip: You can get an hour of free parking in the ramp on the east side of the market. Just try not to forget to get your ticket validated as you stuff your face with … good lord, take your pick. — M.C. Cronin
OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant, El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole, Midtown Global Market, Miramar to San Miguel Bakery, Mercado Central, Ingebretsen’s to Pasteleria Gama, La Alborada to Quruxlow, Midori’s Floating World to El Nuevo Rodeo, Urban Forage to Himalayan, Blue Moon Coffee Cafe to Merlin’s Rest, Hi Lo Diner to The Bungalow Club
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)
This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.
“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”
Andy’s Garage is boldly and proudly a burgers-and-fries kinda joint, so that’s the way we went. We tried the bacon- and barbecue-sauce-bedecked Rugged Burger ($9.50, with an order of fries) and found that it lived up to its name: a charred, appropriately salty umami bomb on a respectable bun. Whatever you order at Andy’s Garage, make sure fries are part of the equation. It’s a treat to watch an employee grab a whole potato from a crate, smash it through an old-school metal fry-cutter, and fry up the strips while you watch. Our fries were delicious — simple, robust, well-seasoned.
We weren’t as enthusiastic about our chocolate shake ($4), which suffered from anemic ice cream that was much more “ice” than “cream” and standard-issue pumps of Hershey’s Syrup (which always leans toward sugar as opposed to real chocolate flavor). The shake was, it should be said, nice and thick.