Things to Do Around Minneapolis Convention Center

The Minneapolis Convention Center, sitting on the south side of downtown, hosts meetings, conferences, sporting events, shows, expos and more in its 475,000 feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms. Unlike many convention centers, often located in a dead area on the edge of town, the MCC is only a few blocks from all manner of activities and food during your lunches, breaks and hard-earned dinners.

Snack Attack

When hunger strikes and you can get away from your event, there are several eating options to race to. If you literally have minutes to spare, or just want to get off your feet, Craft Bar and Lounge, conveniently located inside the MCC, has a wide variety of family-friendly dishes, like chicken tenders, braised pork nachos, spicy bacon sliders, angus Cuban sliders, a variety of naan pizzas and house fries. Minnesota-made beers rotate through the lounge, including Surly, Lift Bridge, Big Wood and numerous seasonal options. Caffeine spikes and snacks can be picked up at the MCC’s Dunn Brothers outpost.

Outside the MCC, there are several eating options within a 10 minute walk. For snacks and emergency shopping, the two-level, flagship Target Store at 9th Street and Nicollet has become the one-stop destination for downtown workers and residents to satisfy virtually any need. The grocery section has grown to stock a variety of items to fuel a quick family lunch or hotel room breakfast.

For fast and fast-casual food, there are tons of options. Within 10 minutes walk, there is Chipotle, QDOBA, OneTwoThree Sushi, La Belle Crepe, Panera Bread, Jimmy John’s, Lee’s Express, Mama’s Bakery Pizza & Salad Bar, Subway, Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, Caribou and Starbucks and many others.

Market Bar-B-Que has been serving pit-smoked ribs, beef, pulled pork and chicken dishes for more than 70 years. If smoky, spicy sauce isn’t your deal, they also serve sandwiches, seafood and other alternatives. Popular Minneapolis staple, Lotus sells budget-friendly, counter service Vietnamese, like fried rice, noodles, egg rolls and pho that you can eat in or eat on the run. Open 24 hours and always serving the full menu, Nicollet Diner has breakfast, burgers, sandwiches, shakes (spiked and unspiked) and other family-friendly food. Warning: the portions are large.  Pings – is a long standing institution untouched since the 80s that serves (and delivers!) Szechuan, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hunan dishes. They have a full-service bar and a buffet for lunch.

Key’s Café is a Twin Cities institution, housed in a funky art-deco space just off Nicollet Mall. They serve the usual American fare, but breakfast is where they really kick out the jams, with their giant omelets and in-house bakery. They also have a great happy hour. Hen House also boasts an amazing breakfast and bakery. They do lunch and a limited small plate/happy hour menu till 8pm. Weekend breakfasts and game days are packed here, but if you don’t mind sitting at the great, winding bar, just skip the line at the host podium, waltz over and plop yourself down.

Downtown’s most (in)famous spot for food and drink is Hell’s Kitchen, an eclectically decorated, basement joint, serving “damn good food” all day. On weekends, they have a renowned brunch menu, a spectacular Bloody Mary bar and live music.

Fondue chain, The Melting Pot, offers the interactive experience of dipping food into a variety of cheeses and broth, such as beef, lobster, duck, shrimp, chicken, and mushrooms. There are, of course, chocolate dipping options for dessert. The menu caters to all budgets. Latin American tapas, tacos and quesadillas are on hand at Barrio, best known for their large happy hour menu. If you’re in the mood for steak and chops, Ruth’s Chris Steak House never disappoints.  Even promising that at Ruth's Chris, your last bite is just as good as your first!

Closing in on 30 years of business, Brit’s Pub has evolved into a kind of English Pub attraction as much as a place to get a bite and a pint. Soccer and rugby games bring in a specialized audience of passionate sports fans and the massive rooftop English Garden Park has a 10,000 square foot lawn bowling green, as well as being a pleasant place to sun oneself. Be warned that nice days and big events mean frantic demands on the service staff. Don’t arrive hungry. Just a few steps down Nicollet is the Irish answer to Brit’s, The Local. The long, mahogany bar that greets you is the first sign you’ve hit Irish pub paydirt. The menu is a treat of traditional Irish food and the bar staff must be doing something right, as they have repeatedly been recognized as the top sellers of Jamison Whiskey in the world. That includes Ireland. All that Jamison is frequently sold in the form of the bar’s signature drink, The Big Ginger (Jamison and ginger ale). Televised soccer games bring in lively crowds. 

Zelo’s serves upscale, contemporary Italian food with style. The atmosphere is largely business meals, date nights and special occasions, though the patio is less formal. Their bar is cozy place for post-work drinks. Monello serves wondrously refined Italian dishes, exceptional seafood and craft cocktails. Weekend brunch includes unlimited mimosas. Finally, there is Manny’s Steakhouse, located on the ground floor of the iconic Foshay Tower, home to the W Hotel. This place is mainly for special occasions, round numbered birthdays and anniversaries or when someone else is paying, but it’s absolutely worth the money. Many reliable sources agree about Manny’s excellence, including Men’s Journal who rated Manny’s among the “10 Best Steakhouses in the World” in 2015. Eye-watering cuts of beef (and their prices) are joined on the menu by lobster, king crab, salmon and, yes, even chicken if you want to ruin your server’s day.  

Stretch Your Legs

While walking a few loops inside the MCC itself would probably get you to 10,000 steps, you can also get out for a little fresh air and greenery. One of the better strolls from the MCC is down the Loring Greenway, a landscaped walkway with places to sit or art and fountains to Instagram. The Greenway starts just a block west of the MCC, leading to Loring Park and the Sculpture Garden and Walker Art Center beyond. 

In less inviting weather, the MCC is connected to the marvelous Minneapolis Skyway System, the largest, contiguous system of enclosed, second level bridges in the world. It stretches for roughly 11 miles and connects 80 city blocks of downtown. The system connects the MCC to innumerable hotels and places to eat, shop and drink. To get anywhere for food through the skyway will take a bit longer (or a lot longer if you lose your way), but if staying warm and dry is a priority, it’s worth it.

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