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Urban Skillet: Bold Vision Brings Halal Burger Spot To Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The uncertainty surrounding the Minneapolis restaurant scene hasn't dissuaded two businessmen from bringing a unique diner to Uptown next month.

MJ Mohammed quit his job in 2020 to get to work franchising the third location of Urban Skillet, a fast-casual halal restaurant with two locations in southern California. Halal means the food is permissible under Islamic law.

"I was like, 'I'm not doing [my job] anymore. I'm gonna work for myself and I'm gonna create something,'" Mohammed said.

A relative had taken Mohammed to Urban Skillet in Los Angeles. The burger blew Mohammed away enough to approach the owner, Azeem Farooq.

"He tried my food and was like, 'Dude, I got to figure out how to open this in Minnesota,'" Farooq said.

Azeem Farooq and MJ Mohammed -- Urban Skillet Uptown Minneapolis
Azeem Farooq and MJ Mohammed (credit: CBS)

The two men, both Muslim, have been working together since then to get the Uptown location ready on Hennepin Avenue.

"This used to be a coffee shop," Farooq said. "He got all the permits during COVID. He had to have all the hood inspections during COVID. There were times when … the inspectors had COVID themselves."

They have concerns about the city's new vaccine-or-testing requirements for diners, but they feel takeout and delivery will be their more popular options. They also believe in the people of Minneapolis to support them.

"Raised in Minneapolis, from Minneapolis, all about Minneapolis," Mohammed said. "I like the food and this is home. What else?"

Mohammed says he chose Uptown because he loves the neighborhood and people are friendly. Concerns about crime weren't a major factor in the decision.

Urban Skillet opens Valentine's Day. There are still job openings available to fill out the 10-person staff.

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