Meet Eat Street Crossing, the newest reason to explore this storied stretch of Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.
The latest entry into the Twin Cities food hall scene is the work of two culinary power couples: Lina Goh and John Ng of Zen Box Izakaya, and Gabriella Grant-Spangler and Ben Spangler of Bebe Zito. The two couples operate five of the seven stands in the historic building, and a central bar serves cocktails and affordable wine picks that are available for sipping throughout the space.
So far, it's been a massive hit with diners. "The ramen broth we sell daily is how much John would make for an entire week at Zen Box," Goh said on a recent visit. Here's what you'll want to know before you visit.
Where you're going
2819 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., eatstreetcrossing.com. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
There are several ways to go about getting food. Each stand has a cashier, so in-person ordering is an option. At the front of the building, there is a kiosk dedicated to different stands, ideal for introverts and if one wanted to order simultaneously from different places. Finally, pizza is available for order via a QR code on the tables. Look for procedures to evolve as the restaurants find their groove.
The seven vendors in order of where they appear in the building:
Sushi Dori: Guests can post up on the sushi counter and watch food being made or order and find communal seating. The menu features fun twists on familiar rolls and the Instagram food of the moment: sushi sandwiches. A sheet of nori is lined with rice and then stuffed with various toppings. A spicy tuna variety has a fried sheet on wonton wrapper tucked in among the raw tuna and toppings for a surprising crunch. Prices: sushi sandos, $10-$11; maki rolls, $10-$16.
ESC Bar: The centralized bar serves everything a drinker would hope to find, along with a few surprises. The current bar menu from Trish Gavin is based on astrological signs. There also are classic cocktails, beer and an entire wall of wines priced at $25 a bottle. Drinks can be enjoyed anywhere in the space, but have to be ordered at the bar. There is no food served at the bar seats, but you can order and retrieve food yourself without losing your perch. Prices: $11 for cocktails, but all can be made nonalcoholic for $8.
Chatime: The national bubble tea chain has sweet beverage options like Thai tea or boba specialties that are made to order, with add-ins and varying sweetness levels available. There are also coffee drinks made with locally roasted Dogwood Coffee. Prices: $4.99-6.99.
Bebe Zito Ice Cream: The ice cream hits are being scooped here as well as a new offering of boozy ice creams — and these are significantly spiked. The negroni spagliato with prosecco carries the heft of the drink with plenty of bitter Campari, gin and bubbly flavors mixed into a nondairy base. It's one of several nondairy options. Prices: $6.50 to $18 for a flight of ice cream.
Ouro Pizzeria : The Spanglers are bringing a taste of Gabriella's familial roots to the cities with Brazilian pizza. The crust has a goldenrod-colored interior and the edges are sprinkled with crusty little cheese bits. The inventive flavors include the Brasilia, with chile-spiked tomato sauce, fire-roasted chicken and a soft swirl of white Catupiry cheese that looks, but doesn't taste, like mayo. Pizza is also offered as dessert, with a banana-doce de leite sauce as one of the options. To balance all that decadence, there is also a small selection of salads. Prices: $8-$22.95.
Bebe Zito Burgers and Chicken: The skinny-rich, smashed burgers and honey-kissed fried chicken that have been drawing in fans to the original Bebe location are on full display here. Plus, skinny fries come on the side with an optional Bebe upgrade: a special sauce and teeny chopped pickles, kind of like a Big Mac sauce. Snacks also include cheddar tots, fried pickles and honey butter chips. Prices: $5-$12.95.
Ramen Shoten: Chef John Ng is a ramen obsessive and evangelist. (His Instagram is Ramen Architect — also a nod to his pre-chef career.) At Zen Box, Ng's ramen has always been a menu highlight, and over the years he's studied many styles and broth techniques. This is his first opportunity to fully dive into all the ways this soup can dazzle the senses. Menu items are made with either vegan or poultry broth, making it a great option for those avoiding pork. Ramen Shoten is at the back of the building, in its own space with a sunny courtyard-facing row of counter seats. Prices: $5-$16.
To call the project ambitious would be an understatement. The longtime home of Twin City Scenic Co., the building with soaring ceilings was gutted down to the bricks. The decor is a mix of modern and industrial, and stays true to the building's historic bones. Designed by Christian Dean Architecture, many of the building's original elements are still visible. Murals from artist Cheyenne Randall, who specializes in work that depicts celebrities with tattoo embellishments, appear on walls throughout.
The acoustics are surprisingly mitigated. During a midday visit, conversations were easy to hear. On the accessibility front, guests using mobility aids were able to easily navigate the room with wheelchairs. There is an elevator to access the subterranean bathrooms and an upstairs private event space.
Don't forget the booze for home
At the back of the building is the Liquor Exchange, accessible through a short hallway or from a separate outside entrance. The fully outfitted liquor store and bottle shop is stocked with craft beer, interesting wines, an impressive selection of specialty spirits and a corner of nonalcoholic options.
It's a situation. There isn't much available street parking, and finding a spot nearby relies on a certain amount of luck. Better to pony up the $5 for curbside valet. They accept cash and Venmo as payment.