Out returning gifts? Here are your mall food options

The funny thing to do here would have been to leave this post blank below the headline, or post a photo of the Sahara or something. “There are no good options at the mall!” - The joke would go.

But while that IS generally true, and food courts across the land are home to either chain, bland, terrible-for-you or some combination of the three, we all end up there at least once or twice in awhile, so why not try and embrace it?

The selection at our mall, The Empire, is comprised of:

The chains you know:

Culver’s
Dairy Queen
DQ/Orange Julius (yes, that’s TWO Dairy Queen options for you in one location. How convenient!)
Subway
Burger King
Taco John’s
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Applebee’s

The chains you might not know are chains:

Great American Cookies
Teriyaki Express
Charley’s Grilled Subs
China Pantry
Villa Italian Kitchen
Peach Wave (Ok, we all knew this was a chain, but it’s certainly lesser-known)
Caribou Coffee

And the two local places:

Fuji Sushi Express (a partner of the Fuji on 41st Street)
Shenanigans Pub

Those that read this blog even somewhat regularly know I’m going to point you toward supporting the local guy, even when out and about in the mayhem of post-holiday return season.

I’ve not eaten at the food court version of Fuji, but have had more than a few dinners at their main location, and enjoyed them thoroughly. So if Japanese food is, or could be, your thing, why not hit them up instead of pounding the admittedly-delicious tub of Potato Oles?

As for Shenanigans, I ducked in there earlier last week while out finishing up some holiday shopping. Dark and largely unmemorable atmosphere, they did have a bar and the bowl game on.

It was exactly the refuge I was looking for.

I started with The Stadium. A monstrosity of a Bloody Mary with a hot dog slider, hamburger slider and a pretzel (w cheese, natch). I remembered it was suggested by a reader awhile back. It’s pictured here.

While culinarily sorta gross - the pretzel was deep-fried, dense, oily and largely inedible. Even the bucket of cheese couldn’t save it. The burger was fine and the hot dog actually good - the actual Bloody was pretty solid. And it was clearly fun. The surrounding tables all got a kick out of it, and more than one person asked me what I’d ordered. I’d recommend this based wholly on the novelty.

After that, Megan joined me (she has a higher mall shopping tolerance than mine!), and we ordered up some wings. I’d recommend the Shamrock Sauce. It’s a homemade mixture of sauces and spices that was a little smokey, a little sweet, bright with a little bit of citrus and garlic. I could not recommend the Citrus Chipotle. At least not to anyone that likes chipotle. If there were supposed to be roasted jalapenos in that sauce, they were clearly forgotten.

But the beer was cold, and the service nice and prompt. And I wasn’t out with the masses. Basically, I was winning.

So if you have to venture out with the hoards these next few days, remember you can duck into ‘Nannys for a break. It might not blow you away, but you won’t be assaulted by shopper after shopper after teen after stroller after misguided stroller either.