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Chili cook-off connects Lake Street neighbors at the Midtown Global Market

The competition has been a tradition going on 16 years, but this year is special, with customers back in the market off Lake Street for a hopeful pandemic rebound.

MINNEAPOLIS — Lake Street has seen its fair share of turbulence over the last few years.

You could say every neighborhood was hit hard with COVID, but Lake Street was one of the worst hit due to COVID and the damage caused to businesses after the murder of George Floyd.

It’s now been two years, and a lot has changed. But something familiar hasn’t changed for the restaurants off Lake Street inside the Midtown Global Market.

In fact, it may even be traditional now, going on 16 years of competition between the restaurants. Each one competing every year by cooking the same thing.

Name the region and this market has a restaurant with the food of that culture. You have Moroccan, South American, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Greek, Southern, even regional Midwest food.

This year, those restaurants are competing with their own bowl of chili.

“This is the only time we have to see the different vendors… it’s fun,” said Lorenzo Ariza, owner of Salsa a la Salsa inside the Midtown Market.

He’s competed in the competition every year, and is doing a vegan chili for this competition.

Each restaurant is doing chili their own way. Lorenzo’s vegan chili comes with jackfruit to imitate meat, along with chiles de arbol, guajillo chiles, and Serrano peppers. He said he leans on his Mexican influence in his cooking, after moving to the United States when he was 18 years old.

“The recipes that we use here at the restaurant are my mom, my wife, and yeah we basically use the same recipes and then we are creative with the different ways of cooking… grilling, boiling, slow cooking.” Lorenzo said.

What Lorenzo won’t tell you is that he has won the cookout competitions most years. But with many restaurants inside the midtown market competing, who knows who will win this year?

“My girlfriend has been trying to get me to do this chili cookout since they brought it up,” said Jewuan Marshall, co-owner of Soul to Soul in the market. “We came up with the idea of doing a smoked chili with a smoked brisket.”

Jewuan said he’s only been in business for a year but believes the friendly competition is good for the market’s recovery and for the comradery of the area.

“I’m going to give it my best shot… we will see,” He said when asked if he believes his chili will win.

Manny’s Tortas is also competing, with a chili also drawing on Mexican influences.

“I put tequila in the chili,” said Manny Gonzalez from Manny’s Torta’s, adding that he’s proud of the chili’s track record in the market.

Hassan Ziadi from Moroccan Flavors is doing a chili with Moroccan Spices and said it's his usual choice for the competition.

“We make it every year and it’s one of our best selling,” said Ziadi.

The chili competition takes place on March 26 at noon in the Midtown Global Market. You can find a link to for tickets here, and proceeds will go toward the further recovery of Lake Street businesses.

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