“I’ve been dreaming about this for the past 30 years,” says Hassan Ziadi, owner and executive chef of Ziadi’s Mediterranean Cuisine.
His full-service restaurant recently took over the former Rabbit Hole space in Midtown Global Market, where Ziadi is already a familiar face: With his wife Raja, he’s been operating the counter-service Moroccan Flavors stall since 2016.
“But I found out from my experience, I need a challenge. I need a real restaurant,” he explains, outlining a career that’s taken him from Morocco to Washington D.C. to Minneapolis, then to five-star hotels in the the Middle East, and finally back to Minneapolis to raise his family. Locally, his resume includes stints at Aquavit, Loring Pasta Bar, Sanctuary, Vincent, and Tony’s Diner—he intentionally sought out experience in as many different restaurants as possible to train in various cuisines, at one point holding down four positions simultaneously and putting in 100-hour weeks.
Ziadi’s Mediterranean Cuisine is culmination of those efforts. “We’ve made it traditional and unique,” Ziadi says. “We have a good atmosphere, good quality food, reasonable prices, excellent service…” His voice trails off, a look of pride on his face as he surveys his restaurant.
The space has been completely transformed from the Rabbit Hole’s warren-like aesthetic. Soft salmon walls are a backdrop for traditional Moroccan benches, lined with plump blue velvet cushions. The atmosphere manages to feel both elegant and comfortable, the kind of place where you could impress a date or grab lunch with a co-worker.
“We tried to bring the whole story into the project,” says interior designer Karen Severson. She points out a door knocker the Ziadis brought from Morocco, repurposed as a wall-mounted work of art. A rug from Raja’s mother hangs on the wall. Pottery and other decorations were also imported from Morocco.
“But they also wanted American elements,” explains Severson, pointing out the concrete floor and the wooden farmhouse-style tables that have become de rigueur in modern restaurant design.
Like the decor, the menu blends traditional and contemporary influences from across the globe. The dinner menu includes a handful of Moroccan specialties like beef kofta meatballs, beef tagine, and chicken a la charmoula marinated in Moroccan spices. Mediterranean-inspired dishes include vegetable risotto and a chicken ballotine stuffed with lobster and spinach.
The antipasti counter features a rotating selection of chilled items like olives, roasted tomatoes, marinated peppers, and salads; many are vegan and gluten-free. At $10 for all-you-can-eat, it’s one of the Midtown Global Market’s best budget-friendly meals—we couldn’t resist a second helping of the heart of palm salad.
Our favorite dish of those we sampled from the menu was the beef tagine royal. The meat is carefully cooked to coax out a tender texture and an intensely beefy flavor that mingles with the accompanying prunes and dried apricots. The scallops were another standout, perfectly prepared and served with a chunky bed of mashed potatoes and spinach. We never thought we would describe scallops as “comfort food,” but that’s what these are—the sort of thing your grandmother would make if she just happened to be a chef who’s cooked in fine restaurants around the world.
The drink menu features what bar manager Lauren Dickover describes as “classic cocktails with a Mediterranean twist—fresh citrus, fresh herbs.” For example, the Marrakesh is a riff on the French 75, with gin, aperol, fresh lemon, rosemary sugar, and prosecco; the Mint Casablanca pairs bourbon with Moroccan mint tea and cardamom simple syrup. Rim’s Basil Lemonade features a housemade limoncello.
Right now, the restaurant serves lunch Tuesday through Friday, with dinner service and happy hour Tuesday through Saturday. “I’m still trying different things,” says Ziadi. “I want to do brunches, a lunch buffet.”
“When I came to America, I had $500 in my pocket,” he reflects. “I wasn’t planning on having something like this. It’s a dream come true."
Ziadi’s Mediterranean Cuisine
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis