Hays Take On is a blog series where we explore the Twin Cities (and more) in order to find the best and most interesting food and drink stops. Check for updates every Wednesday and follow along to see what we find!
This week we switch things up to Japanese cuisine at downtown Minneapolis’ Zen Box. If you work downtown and you’re looking for somewhere to mix up your lunch options, look no further, this place has plenty of combinations and new items to try no matter if you’re a Japanese food lover or a newbie!
Zen Box is located on Washington Ave, just steps away from the Mississippi River and a few blocks from the home of the Minnesota Vikings, US Bank Stadium. This place is fully immersed in Japanese culture, from the decor to the little anime figurines on the shelves. Zen Box has plenty of tables to sit at for lunch or dinner, but also features a super cool Japanese style bar that lets you look into the kitchen. You can also sit outside of the restaurant and enjoy the busy life of downtown during your meal. They’re open and serving their lunch menu from 11:30-2 during the week and open until 10, however they don’t feature lunch on the weekends and aren’t open on Sundays, so make sure you go during the week to catch lunch!
Zen Box is real authentic Japanese food, starting with the fact that you only get chopsticks when you sit down (the key is to hold the top like a pencil…) and no forks or knives. There are tons of options on this menu if you’re a big fan of this style of food, from edamame, to ramen, to poke and more. For those who are more unfamiliar, we’ll let you in on our favorite menu items and explain what you’re getting. One of the best deals on the menu is the Lunch Bento options, which is basically a full meal with a little of everything. You get edamame (young soybeans, cooked), age gyoza (deep fried dumplings), some greens, a side of brown or white rice and your choice of meat or tofu as well as a starter bowl of miso soup. There’s Yakiniku (think beef short ribs), Maguro Poke (Tuna), Salmon and Chicken Teriyaki, and Chicken Karaage (think popcorn chicken but asian style) as well as a tofu option for vegetarians. There are so many great options here you can come back and try something different, without ever feeling like you’ve missed out on something. Zen Box also has phenomenal ramen, and our favorite is the Kimchi Ramen. With a pork bone broth, kimchi, pork chashu, the usual ramen fixings, and full of noodles, this spicy ramen is enough to get your nose a little runny but not send you into tears, which is just the way we like it. They also do a great mixture of rice bowls with your choice of meat on top as well if you want to with something a little more familiar.
One of our favorite lunch spots when we’re in the downtown area, Zen Box is the perfect meal to satisfy an asian food craving. If it’s your first time, don’t be afraid to give it a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
For more on Zen Box check them out here: https://www.zenbox.com/
Or try for yourself here: 602 South Washington Ave Minneapolis, MN 55415