Food Court Survival Guide

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Anyone who says malls are dead hasn’t endured the Mall of America food court on a Saturday.

Seriously—the holidays are over. WHY IS IT SO BUSY? Like, insanely, have to push through people in the Long John Silver’s line to get by, busy. I look around, at the lines, 15 deep for fried rice and two dozen for Happy Meals, and wonder what everyone is doing here at the mall. But then, I’m here too.

And as much as the lack of elbow room nearly—nearly—negates my nacho craving, there’s something reassuring about this crowd. Our phones and Amazon have not replaced that basic human desire to gather with friends and family in a communal setting, at sticky tables with uncomfortable chairs and a view of the Gap, and eat really bad food. Together.

Food Court Tips + Alternatives: 

Mall of America’s South Food Court tends to be busiest, but adjacent to it are several stand-alone fast casual restaurants, including Chipotle, Noodles & Co., the Pizza Studio, and Bruegger’s, which also get busy, but remain shielded, and less chaotic than the central food court.

Chipotle and Noodles are first in that fast casual row to get long lines. Bruegger’s is usually one of the fastest.

If you’re closer to the North Food Court and there’s no table in sight, consider Nordstrom Cafe, which will be a bit spendier, but worth it for the moments of zen, fresh ingredients, and table service.

Nordstrom‘s first floor snack bar is another fast and more affordable option, with salads, bagels, smoothies, and more, and plenty of tables in Nordstrom Court, which is also adjacent to Tiger Sushi, Orange Julius, and Caribou Coffee.

Speaking of Caribou, our favorite is the new one in the skyway to Radisson Blu—an oasis of serenity that serves a decent grilled cheese.

The Starbucks within Barnes & Noble is one of those hidden gems where you can usually find a table, even when the mall is crazy. There’s enough on the menu to put together lunch with your latte, and kids love it because it’s right next to the children’s department—and bathrooms.

Consider the lunch of shopping champions, always on the go: Doc Popcorn + Jamba Juice.

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