Well the wait is almost over, friends. Eat Street Crossing will finally open to the public on Saturday morning, March 4th at 11am! The former Old Arizona Studios on Nicollet has been overhauled, painted, primed, and boosted with neon and plants to bring a seriously fun vibe barley containable within the old brick walls.
We have a power-duo situation here. John Ng and Lina Goh from Zen Box Izakaya plus Ben Spangler and Gabriella Grant-Spangler from Bebe Zito make up the masterminds behind the project. They’ve created a soaring space with six counter concepts, a full bar area, and a mezzanine event area that should rightly pack them in, until we can all spill out onto the frost-free patio.
But is it a food hall? When all of the eateries are owned and operated by two families instead of operating on independent leases as with Malcolm Yards or Graze? After a bit of discussion with the owners, I think we can say that eaters will use this like a food hall, but the owners will be operating it like a multi-concept restaurant. That may mean cross training and offering more options to workers, but it will also mean a smoother connection between the varying concepts and a potential for more creative flow between them. Brazilian pizza tech and flavors may find their way on to the burger and ramen menus as the food hall evolves. Less competition, more collaboration.
As far as operations go, you can order at each individual counter, or you can order from the kiosks near the front doors. They were keen on mentioning that you can sit anywhere to eat whatever you’ve ordered. If you’re up for ramen but your date wants a burger, you can both still sit at the ramen counter.
This is not the land of the tuna/salmon combo roll, which has become a bit overwhelmingly common. “This is where we get to be really creative, to play and stretch our minds and skills,” Ng told me. He and Goh travel to Japan often and seem to return with great inspirations. “We’re going to do things here that you don’t find at Zen Box, but also not at other sushi spots.” I’m here for the sushi sandwiches. Onigirazu, or Sushi Sandos for fun, is the name for these layered hand-helds that are constructed out of all the best ingredients from your favorite sushi rolls. Nori sheets act as the outer wrap, sushi rice buffers, and then layered between find Spam and dashi egg in the Spamich, tuna poke with avocado and a wonton chip in the Mahalo, or pork belly with kimchi slaw in the Kimchi Bara. Spam and that cool dashi egg are all over this business.
Not to say there aren’t more familiar maki rolls on the menu. There are, but don’t expect the same old rolls you find around town. The Sassy Tuna bring a little heat with Gochujang mayo and jalapeno, and the Greenway is a way better alternative to a Cali roll, largely due to the marinated mushrooms that provide that umami. And yes, there’s a Holy Grail roll with Spam and dashi egg here too.
Bebe Zito and Chatime
The Chatime counter is there to bring you bubble tea. It’s a solid international brand and the only operator outside of the owners. It shares an area with the BZ ice cream counter, and that’s where the fun starts. Like the sister shops in Uptown and Malcolm Yards, you’ll find creative ice cream flavors here available in scoops, flights which you can bedazzle with toppings, and shakes. Like the other locations, you can also pick up a pint from the cooler if you want. But this spot also comes with a full liquor license, which means a level up. There’s a dark and smoky mezcal chocolate ice cream that is a very boozy affair you have to try, and a pink and light Negroni Sbagliato that is remarkably close to the actual drink. The booze is not cooked off kids, I repeat: full octane.
The BZ team’s newest concept is their take on the Brazilian pizzeria tradition. “It kind of naturally evolved, because the representation of Brazilian food here has been such a one-note experience, like Mexican food isn’t just tacos. We’ve been thinking about how to make it more nuanced,” Gabby explained, “and it just came out of my favorite comfort food experiences from home.” The Spanglers are importing special cheeses and other ingredients from Brazil and that will inform much of what gets put on the crust. This one was a Cachaça cured salmon that was then cold smoked, on top of a special herbed sour cream for a brunch pizza. The crust is not photo filtered, it is supposed to be golden as Ouro means gold. “It’s more of a mentality than anything, most Brazilians you meet are pretty happy people and golden can mean the perfect sunset, or like a perfectly ripe mango, it’s more about appreciating the small moments of greatness than any riches.” They use science and secret spices to bring about that hue.
Brazilian pizza is also known for their dessert pies, so be on the look out for this banana and dulce de leche beauty among others. Ben was quick to point out that with a pop. of 12.3 million, Sao Paulo has more pizza places than New York City, so cred is validated.
The BZ burger bar is set up and ready for the superfans. The OG Bebe burger is here, and the Not a Bebe burger where they play around a bit is also here. Have you had their birria burger version when it pops up at Malcolm Yards? Yes. Find chicken sandwiches too, the honey butter fried chicken and the spicy honey butter fried chicken may be new to you if you’ve not been eating at the Uptown location, where they’ve been mastering the recipe in the cold truck out back. They’ll also have a honey butter chicken tendie basket along with sides of curds, fries, tots, and fried pickles. Feels like we need a shake.
Like the stand-up ramen shops in Japan, this one is supposed to be simple and easy with everything you need within reach. The walls have a fun anime mural much like the back hall at Zen Box, but the ramen offerings are totally new. “All of them are made with a chicken-based broth, unlike the pork base at Zen Box,” Ng explained, “Everyone knows I can do pork ramen, so this is a challenge to me. Again this is where I get to stretch my creative muscles, to bring out more flavors in new ways.” I have to say that I was really impressed with the seasoned chicken chashu, like a traditional slice of pork (but chicken), that’s made in-house. It’s one of six toppings that you can add on your bowl, along with chili corn and of course ajitama, soft boiled soy eggs. On this menu, you’ll also find gyoza dumplings, beef or mushroom bao buns, and yuzu fried chicken snacks.
Trish Gavin’s cocktail menu at the bar is, in her own words, “supposed to be fun. I want to do fun!” Instead of a drinks list based on the seasons, or the current holiday, or a specific spirit, Gavin is debuting the ESC central bar with a list of drinks based on your zodiac. “My mom’s been an astrologer for 50 years, she’s retired. She does readings for people. Now that’s her thing and I was like: that’s really fun. Everybody knows their zodiac sign. Whether they fully believe in it or even just like to read a horoscope now and again, they know what they are. Now they can have a drink that is their drink.” Are you an Aquarius? Then you’ll love this unique and non-conforming purple drink. Are you a Pisces? You get a deceptively not-super sweet blue drink with fish. Gavin plans to keep it off kilter, “Maybe we’ll do Disney villains next, or national parks, mythological creatures, we’ll see.” There are other elements to the menu, like a great Old Fashioned and a standard setting Espresso Martini to start.
By the way, it’s not all cocktails. You really can’t miss the huge two story wall stacked with wine bottles chosen by Gavin. All are under $25.
Upstairs, you’ll find some extra seating overlooking the main room. But there’s also a mezzanine/private event space known as The Sewing Room, which was historically the costume shop for the theater. It features great natural light, comfy lounge seating, and a mural of The Girl from Ipanema.
Feels like this one is going to be busy, yes? With all the unique-to-here foods, I’m betting it will be jamming on opening weekend. Eat Street Crossing food hall opens officially on Saturday at 11am following a ribbon cutting ceremony. They’ll be open 7 days a week starting at 11am each day.