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.
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
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 Box, 601 Marquette Ave., #204, Minneapolis, MN
Classic Cookie Co.
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).
The Brothers Deli
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
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