Over the years, I’ve relished any opportunity to work in downtown Minneapolis, which is always such a dynamic, ever changing environment. There are those who dislike the skyway systems as “suburban” eyesores that detract from the life of the streets and contribute to a feeling of disconnection and uniformity in the city, calling them glorified hamster tubes. I can see some of those points, but, to be honest, personally, I’ve always loved the maze of indoor tunnels and the secrets that can be found in them. I find them such an idiosyncratic, quirky solution to our frigid winters and some that gives our urban scene its own character and personality. Small businesses and even art museums hide out in the skyways, as people scurry from highrise to highrise heading to business and avoiding the extreme temperatures of the outside world. The skyways do also provide quick access to street level as well, for those looking to get some fresh air on the urban sidewalks downtown.
While other cities have used the idea, Minneapolis still has the largest continuous skyway system in the world, and I have gotten a bit lost in it on several occasions. It is true, though, that their semi-private, business owned status does make them less friendly for strolling than the streets and at night, are often closed and locked at inopportune times. Still, for those drones working downtown, it allows for some interesting lunchtime explorations.
Especially in the dead of winter, when winds drop the windchill into the double digits below zero or the temperatures warm up and start dumping wet, clinging snow onto the streets, it can be reassuring to have a dry, warm place to have a bite. Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a quick bite in the skyway, whether you are just passing through downtown on the way from your home in the suburbs to campus, or you find yourself among the many workers downtown who crave something to eat. This is just for the Minneapolis skyways, by the way, as the St. Paul skyway (owned by the city as it is!) remain an unknown to me.
I discovered this one some years ago, hidden inside an unassuming office block, the International Centre, which I know mostly as being just under that blue crystally looking high rise, the AT&T Tower. Serving great coffee and tea (from Mrs. Kelly’s Tea), the freshly baked breakfast items are the best here. In a hurry and need a quick breakfast before you start work or class? Pop in and grab some delicious scones (seriously, I think some of the best in the city), some quiche, banana bread, or other tasty treats fresh from the oven. They even use seasonal ingredients- in the summer, be sure to have the rhubarb scones, but it’s best to get there early, things sell out pretty quickly in the morning. Also, they only take cash, so be prepared!
The downtown Minneapolis location of this great place for tamales and other authentic Mexican dishes can be found- it, too, is a popular place for the lunch crowd to snatch up a quick, tasty lunch. The combos are great, though for this one too, you should probably get there earlier rather than later, for the tamale specials in particular can sell out!
They offer some great vegetarian offers, too!
While not technically in the skyways, La Belle Crepe, a fun little creperie on Nicollet Avenue, in the Medical Arts Building, is easily accessible by skyway and it may be one of my favorite locations for lunch in downtown Minneapolis. Specializing in French and Vietnamese cusine, it has many varieties of cheap and delicious crepes and pho, and even gelato in the summer. Always a good choice for a quick meal. I’ve been meaning to try out their bahn mi as well! The punch card they have is a pretty good deal as well.
One of the newer lunch spots in the skyway, simpls specializes in sandwiches, soups, oatmeals, kombucha, and other natural treats made fresh daily . They present themselves as kind of a farmers market vibe in a convenience store format, which seems to be just what it appears. Everything I’ve had here has been delicious, if not the cheapest option. Still, now that they are open until 6:00, it makes a great option for those times when I’m working later in the afternoon and need to score some dinner. I will definitely have to try the oatmeal.
My family would often make bets with each other, like, was it that one guy who was in that one movie who showed up in that show that we just watched? After finding out that, no, it was not that guy, payment was needed and the currency of these bets was cupcakes. Often, I would be on the receiving end of these contracts, and if I was downtown, I could fulfill them by popping into Cocoa and Fig, in the Gaviidae Common, the skyway mall right off of Nicollet named after the Latin nomenclature of the common loon. They have great pastries, often rotating based on the season but my favorite is always the salted caramel cupcakes, or anything pumpkin. Needless to say, I would sometimes make bets I knew I would lose just to have an excuse to bring back cupcakes! Hey, why should I need an excuse, anyway!