I Hope There Are 90’s Malls & Food Court Phillys In Heaven

On Thursday I toasted my mom with a Burnsville Center food court Philly.

We grew up roaming the Burnsville Center, long before the advent of online shopping and Amazon Prime.


The mall wasn’t just a place we shopped. We wandered it in packs of friends as we searched for products that would bring us peer acceptance and spaghetti strap tank tops. Of course, I had to wear my tanks over a white tee-shirt (at least, when my parents weren’t looking)

Things meant more back when I was growing up in the 90’s. I’d blow my babysitting money on a plain white shirt because it said Guess. Now, I’m happiest rotating between my two favorite t-shirts. We 90’s kids smelled like a Country Apples, Cucumber Melons, Freesia or Sweet Peas at any given time. These gateway scents led to Victoria’s Secret, to our parent’s dismay, and eventually Clinique Happy. And we probably always glittered.

We prowled for boys at the mall and met them for movies back when a theater was inside the mall. We asked each other out through friends and broke up by handwritten notes. “Going out” meant going wherever our parents were willing to drop us off and pick us up. It involved making a show of awkwardly hugging each other in the school hallways and pairing up for the square dance unit in gym class. And God forbid, if you mixed up a meeting time or place, you had to call your friend’s home phone from a mall pay phone.

90’s kids also liked froyo, but we didn’t have fancy, self-serve yogurt bars like Cherryberry. We got ours from Dayton’s, long before it became Marshall Fields and before it became a Macy’s.

Strolling through the Burnsville Mall brought back memories of my family: Mother-daughter shopping trips, back to school shopping and Christmas and birthday present shopping. We used to pick up my grandma up from Ebeneezer Ridges and stroll around the mall, always treating ourselves to soft pretzels. When my mom was in the last stages of hospice, we were known to spontaneously forgo a casserole and eat together in the food court.

Mom always chose a cheesesteak from that place near the corner. I was tickled to find that it’s still there last week when I stopped for lunch on the way to an appointment. The Philly Steak Grill’s name and ownership may have changed since 2008, but the sandwich tasted the same and it’s still called a “Philly Bomb.”


The bread’s a little squishy and I wouldn’t know how it compares to a real Philly cheesesteak. Nevertheless, it sure tasted like I remembered, which is not to say “authentic’ or “perfect.” That’s not what I was looking for, anyway.

These days, the Burnsville Center seems a little quieter. Kay Bee Toys is long gone, along with Mervyn’s California and the Chinese buffet. I’m not longer interested in collecting cheap jewelry in a mesh basket at Claire’s and there isn’t anyone to lecture me about avoiding the back aisles of Spencer’s Gifts anymore.

It’s funny how places and food can awaken so many memories. I enjoyed a quiet moment of reflection with my cheesesteak in the mall’s food court. For my mom’s sake, I hope there are mall cheesesteaks in heaven.


  1. Katy Flint

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post! I love the memories and can relate soooo much! You turkey captured what it meant to be a kid in the 90s!

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you Katy!

  2. Beth Ann Chiles

    Love, love, love this post. I am older but right there with you with the gateway scents and I still love Clinque’s Happy. True confession. The memories that food stir up are amazing and you have some great memories of a mom who left this world far too early but who will always be in your heart . Here’s hoping she is lifting her cheesesteak high today to toast you back.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thanks Beth-this warms my heart. I kind of want to get Clinique’s Happy again. . .

  3. Feisty Eats

    What a sweet tribute to your Mom! A lovely post.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you so much

  4. Monica Jertson Cateron

    So well written, and while I’m a generation older (my mall days ours spent fixing our hair and makeup just to walk the mall. Life was simpler, and I miss that. Thanks for the memories 🙂

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you Monica. That means a lot.

  5. Briahna

    I remember a lot from my Burnsville Center days. That theater you were talking about……that was my first job and I loved it. It’s Old Navy now. I am still friends with many of the people I worked with there. I remember Gloria Jean’s coffee shop, and B.Dalton Bookseller. I’m pretty sure I spent most of my paychecks between those two stores and the little gas station style store that was two doors down for the theater. I remember the Mrs. Fields cookie store. When the all would close, the evening manager would hook us theater folk up with a couple cookies. The food court was awesome. I think 1 Potato 2 and the little gyro shop next to where Arby’s used to be are the only remaining original food court places left from the 90’s. Thanks for sparking memories though!

    • Jeni Flaa

      Briahna, thank you for taking the time to comment. You brought back so many memories! I totally remember that gas station store and Gloria Jean’s and B. Dalton. My dad would always stop at 1 Potato 2 for a chicken teriyaki potato. We all had our favorite meals and he went there so often I’ll never forget.

  6. Katie @ On the Banks of Squaw Creek

    Aw, I love this post!

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thanks Katie:)

  7. Sara Broers

    I remember going on a day shopping trip with the 4-H Club to Burnsville Center, that was a HUGE deal! Yeah, it had to be around 1980 or somewhere in there. Life sure seemed simpler then, yet it was a BIG mall at the time.

    • Jeni Flaa

      That’s fun to hear! I suppose it was the big south suburban mall before the MOA. The MOA still seems to be busy-Burnsvile Mall is quiet these days.

  8. Barbara

    I have fond memories of shopping at Southdale with my parents, long before Burnsville Center existed. I was excited when the mall in Burnsville was built, it was 55 minutes door to door, and that was with a 55 mph speed limit! Soon after I got my license my parents would let me drive to Burnsville Center to shop, but not over the river to Southdale. I felt so grown up!

    • Jeni Flaa

      I didn’t know the Southdale existed before Burnsville. That’s fun to hear it was also one of the first places you were allowed to drive. I remember going there right after I JUST got my license and I got pulled over for speeding. The officer let me go, but I was terrified and still have never told them (sorry mom and dad!).

  9. NancyM

    Very moving post. I don’t have a mall food court memory with my Mom but seeing mother daughter duos Christmas shopping always brings a lump to my throat.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thank you Nancy. It was really fun to write even though it pulled on my heartstrings. I agree with seeing mother-daughter duos Christmas shopping. Brings back fond memories.

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