This article is the first in a series by Mpls.St.Paul Magazine celebrating MOA’s 30th birthday. Join us as we ride through some of our favorite memories of the last 30 years.
They say taste and smell can be some of the biggest keys to unlocking your most potent memories. Slurp a milkshake and time-travel back to a childhood ice cream shop. Smell a cinnamon roll and be transported to your grandmother’s kitchen. Mall of America has its own unique tastes and smells that fill us with reminders of what we love about MOA and why. Join us on this sensory trip down memory lane as we recall 10 tasty treats from restaurants that hold a special place in our Mall-loving hearts. Be prepared to whet your palate, loosen your belt, and get hungry.
1. When the Rainforest Coffee came to Mall of America in 1994, it was the popular chain’s first ever location. Now on its second spot within the Mall, the lively restaurant is bedecked with animatronics like “Julius Squeezer,” a 25-foot boa constrictor, and a 14-foot Nile Crocodile. No journey to this jungle is complete without a volcano dessert. Think warm chocolate brownie cakes with gooey vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce—it’s an adventure you don’t want to miss. 306 South Avenue
2. Is there a more perfect combination than shopping with a side of cream puffs? We think not. Beard Papa’s is known for its world famous desserts—specifically its gooey and scrumptious cream puffs. Originally a small bakery in Osaka, Japan, its Mall of America location is the only spot in Minnesota where you can find the most perfect combination of a double-layered pie-crust puff and whipped, vanilla custard cream filling. Mouth-watering, indeed. 375 North Garden
3. When Masu Sushi & Robata opened at MOA in 2012, food-court dining got a serious upgrade. The Japanese restaurant has evolved into one of the most notable stops for the conscientious shopper with a discerning palate. It serves up an array of sushi and varieties of ramen, soba and udon noodles. We’re still dreaming about the short rib udon—see why for yourself. 344 South Avenue
4. everything about Baking Betty’s is sure to bring a smile to your face. First, there’s owner Emily Osterberg’s pleasant greeting that welcomes you. Then there’s the decadent scent that flits about, bringing dreams of sugar, Nutella, s’mores, and more. And finally, there’s the food itself. The only consternation you’ll face is choosing between Pug Chow, a peanut butter cookie dipped in chocolate, peanut butter, and rolled in Chex Mix and powdered sugar, or the Buckeye, a chocolate cookie filled with a creamy peanut butter mixture that’s topped with Guitard chocolate. Good luck! 392 West Market
5. When you combine two of the most brag-worthy parts of Minnesota—Mall of America and the State Fair—you know you have a recipe for success. The State Fair cheese curds at Twin City Grill (an MOA lifer), are a must-try on your foodventure. You’ll get the fried cheese wow-factor without shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. 130 North Garden
6. You won’t want to waste the day away—there’s far too much to do—but it’s fun to take a break from the abundance of shopping and entertainment at the Mall and chill out at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. As Minnesota’s only location, the family-friendly spot opened in 2016 and with each passing winter of sub-zero temperatures, we’ve been grateful for the tropical respite. It’s hard to pass up a Cheeseburger in Paradise, and even harder to avoid getting one of Buffet’s songs stuck in your head. 344 East Broadway
7. Willy Wonka has nothing on the sweet-laden escape otherwise known as the sugar factory. Kids and parents both flock to the brightly colored, whimsical candy land. Little ones can’t fight the sugar rush that accompanies rich drinks like the tie dye milkshake, but parents are usually too busy with their alcohol-infused candy smoking goblets to notice. It’s truly fun for the whole family—the only person who won’t love this sweet stop is your dentist. 206 South Avenue
8. Mall of America is no stranger to celebrities—but when Buddy Valastro from Cake Boss brought Carlo’s Bakery to Mall of America in 2017, it added not just a face but a taste of its famous roster. Known for its delicious lobster tails and cannoli treats, the bakery’s only Midwest location makes totally natural to put shopping second and Italian pastry-loving first. 60 East Broadway
9. Who remembers when Hollywood descended on our great Mall and Planet Hollywood opened in 1993? Though the restaurant closed in 2003, we’ll never forget the Cap’n Crunch-coated chicken fingers. The crunchy and slightly sweet breaded goodness will live in our culinary memory as chicken finger perfection forever.
10. It may be new to MOA’s line-up of deliciousness, but don’t discount the lasting impression duck donuts will make on your mouth. After announcing a new Mall of America location in 2019, the donut shop postponed opening until December of 2021. Thankfully, the build-your-own donut spot held true to its promise, bringing the breakfast of champions to your morning shopping spree. 382 West Market
Tucci Bennuch, one of the Mall’s original restaurants, may have closed after 25 years, but its memory lives on in our hearts and our taste buds. It’s tough to forget Tucci’s famous baked spaghetti, which used ricotta cheese and alfredo sauce to speak right to our-carb loving hearts. We also miss the faux Italian country-side décor and the phenomenal people watching that accompanied a meal on the restaurant’s “patio.”