This past year certainly brought its series of challenges for the restaurant industry in particular. With COVID restrictions halting indoor dining, many restaurants had to pivot to meet new safety measures, including delivery and curbside pick-up options. Our team is filled with foodies who love exploring the vibrant culinary scene here in the Twin Cities, so we are grateful that so many restaurants were able to adapt and survive 2020. One new trend that we’ve seen taking off thanks to the pandemic is ghost kitchens.
If you’re not familiar with this concept, ghost kitchens are small pop-up-style restaurants that operate out of another restaurant or commercial kitchen. This model created a unique opportunity for small business owners to collaborate to ride out the pandemic - which was no easy feat. It allows for the brick-and-mortar location to leverage their kitchen during down times, while also giving rising restaurants the chance to begin serving customers without taking on the full overhead of a physical location. Truly a win-win-win, since we get to have some vibrant new additions to the MSP food scene!
Here are our favorite ghost kitchens that should be on your radar:
Jabà Noodles is a Taiwanese street food pop-up founded by three foodie friends, Ryan, Sakina, and Karen. With a shared passion for global flavors, they launched Jabà in April to bring flavorful noodles to the Twin Cities. They recently launched a new online ordering system, and went back live with weekly drops on July 18th. Be sure to follow them on Instagram for the all of the updates and tasty offerings:
Charley Cat Chicken
Located in their sister restaurants, Mallards, this little ghost kitchen takes Southern-inspired comfort foods to a whole new level. With menu items like The Ghost, Nashville Hot Chicken, and Korean BBQ Chicken, they pack heat - in the good way - each day from 11 AM to 9 PM. We recommend checking out their Forest Lake location then making a day trip to Taylors Falls, or head to their New Richmond spot then enjoy some beach time on the St. Croix River!
Owner, Martha “Marty” Polacek, launched Marty’s Deli upon returning to her hometown of Minneapolis after 10 years on the East Coast. Using the delis of New York City as her inspiration, she creates delicious sandwiches using unique flavor combinations and fresh focaccia bread. She is currently selling through weekly pop-ups at various locations in Minneapolis. The best part? She donates 5% of the proceeds to a different local philanthropic organization each month, so you can feast and fund a great cause.
The hole-y grail of bagels and smear, this bakery is currently operating out of the Black Forest Inn and open for ordering on Thursdays and Saturdays. If you feel like noshing in your pajamas - have no fear! They also offer delivery service for a small fee. Leore and Sasha’s goods go quickly, so be sure to order well in advance and keep up with their social accounts for sell-out notices and specials.
Pollo Pollo al Carbon
A new venture by award-winning chef Jorge Guzmán, Pollo Pollo al Carbon brings the taste of his hometown Merida, Yucatán to Minneapolis. Though Guzmán began developing recipes for Pollo Pollo in 2019, the roadblocks that COVID brought forced him to adjust plans with both the pop-up and his new European-inspired restaurant, Petite León. Since he couldn’t open to full capacity at his new location at the corner of 38th Street and Nicollet, he and his team decided to utilize the space to operate Pollo Pollo. With the state reopening this spring, he and his team have shifted focus to in-person dining for Petite León, but you can thankfully still score some delicious dishes from the pop-up on their takeout menu.
Saturday Dumpling Club
Without realizing it, Founder Peter Dian launched the business during the pandemic. What started as a fun passion project to bring his favorite family recipes to friends and family turned into something much bigger once they started asking where they could order them. Months later and with a new website for simplified ordering, Peter continues to bring his doughy fixes to people around the Twin Cities each weekend from different pop-up locations. The order window opens on Wednesdays at 10 AM, and be sure to place your order early, as these little delights can sell out quickly!
Saturday Dumpling Club Instagram
Sugary treats ordered directly through DMs? Say no more! This little bakery operates out of Uptown and under the namesake of the owner’s mega-influencer cat, Pudge. With imaginative flavors like Brown Buttered Salted Chocolate Chunk and Cereal Milk + White Chocolate, it’s no surprise that these cookies sell out within 20 minutes most months. Founder and Baker, Kady Lone, is working on securing a commercial kitchen space to expand her operations to meet demand, but in the interim you can snag her delicious goods by checking her Instagram Stories the 1st of each month.
These next three restaurants are currently on a break for business, but be sure to follow their social media accounts so you can order some of their creations once they’re back up-and-running!
Serving up gourmet sandwich staples from Cuba, this scratch-made kitchen is a must-try in St. Paul. Founder and chef, AJ Louismet, is currently taking a break, but we are anxiously awaiting the return of his unforgettable carnitas.
Lake City Sandwiches
Founded by the team behind Nightingale, this little shop brings tasty sandwiches right to your doorstep and donates $50 from every sandwich sale to charity! We love being able to dine and do a little good all at the same time. While you patiently wait for their return, be sure to admire their hilariously-styled shots featuring assorted dollhouse props.
Lake City Sandwiches Instagram
Slurp Noodle Shop
Local chef, Yia Vang, has been operating various critically-acclaimed pop-ups for years, including his most recent business: Slurp Noodles. While we haven’t seen much activity from this awesome spot in the last few months, we know it is because he and his team are hard at work preparing to open his long-awaited permanent restaurant, Vinai. We cannot wait to visit in 2022, and thankfully you can order Vinai takeout in the interim:
Now that my stomach is rumbling, I’ll wrap this up. Thanks so much for reading our round-up of favorites; we hope you enjoy these awesome ghost kitchens!