Mar 28, 2022 - Food and Drink

8 international grocery stores to shop in the Twin Cities

Illustration of a shopping cart with the earth inside

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Twin Cities cooks looking to add some variety to their fridge after years of pandemic cooking can turn to the metro's thriving international grocery store scene.

Why it matters: International grocery stores reflect (and serve) the diversity of our community and allow us all to expand dining horizons.

  • "It's a way to feel kinship and solidarity with their fellow people," United Noodles co-owner Eric Fung tells Axios. "Food reminds us of home."

State of shelves: The metro has long boasted many options for international foods and retail, including Karmel Mall, the nation's first Somali shopping center, and Hmong malls like Hmong Village and Hmongtown Marketplace.

  • More are in the works: Eden Prairie's anticipated Asia Mall is opening this spring, anchored by a 38,000-square-foot grocery store.

What they offer: In addition to grab-and-go, some stores have full-service restaurants to attract more customers who wouldn't regularly stop by.

  • SogaMochi Donuts recently set up shop in St. Paul's Dragon Star Oriental Foods and is set to reopen soon after renovations.
  • Plus: Fresh India has been a combination restaurant and grocery store since it launched last year.

Between the lines: United Noodles' ramen restaurant Unideli was its biggest marketing tool before closing due to COVID-19, Fung said.

  • He saw an increase in more non-Asian patrons after launching the counter-service eatery and a follow-up beverage stand called Machi Machi Drinks.
  • "It was a gateway to Asian groceries," he said.

What to watch: Demand for specialty ingredients has pushed some traditional supermarkets to expand international offerings, which have typically been confined to a small section in one aisle, Minnesota Grocers Association president Jamie Pfuhl tells Axios.

  • "People have found home cooking again, and grocers are seeing more interest from consumers in different cultures and bringing new foods into the household," she said.

Want to try something new? Here are a few places to shop in the metro.

El Burrito Mercado: A West St. Paul staple, this Mexican market has expanded into a large grocery store and added a bakery, deli, full-service restaurant and live music space.

πŸ“ 175 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul.

Minsk Market: The south metro store specializes in Russian, Polish and Israeli fare, from traditional breads and meats to cultural items like Eastern and Western European newspapers.

πŸ“ 3920 Cedar Grove Pkwy, Eagan.

Fresh India: The new South-Asian supermarket in the east metro exclusively carries vegetarian goods, and offers a daily hot bar.

πŸ“ 441 Commerce Dr., Woodbury.

Shuang Hur: The Asian supermarket has two Twin Cities locations and is a popular place for hard-to-find fresh produce, meat and seafood.

πŸ“654 University Ave W, St. Paul; 2712 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

Hmong Village: The East St. Paul indoor bazaar has multiple farmers markets, a slew of food vendors and a variety of goods from Hmong-owned businesses.

πŸ“1001 Johnson Pkwy, St. Paul.

Holy Land: Known for its fresh hummus and restaurants throughout the Cities, the Middle Eastern market has Mediterranean grocery staples and a large butcher shop.

πŸ“ 2513 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis.

United Noodles: This Minneapolis staple has produce, seafood, meat and packaged products from over a dozen East Asian countries.

  • Of note: The Taiwanese tea shop is indefinitely closed.

πŸ“ 2015 E 24th St., Minneapolis; 7730 Hudson Rd. Suite 60, Woodbury.

Caspian Bistro & Gourmet Marketplace: Find Persian and Iranian cuisine, imported foods and halal meat at the specialty market.

πŸ“ 2418 University Ave SE, Minneapolis.


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