Big Thrill Factory offers fun, good food in Oakdale

By Jess Fleming

Pioneer Press | January 17, 2017

What to do with a vacant, 50,000-square-foot grocery space?

In Oakdale, the answer has been fill it with a giant arcade, ropes course, laser tag arena, go-kart track and restaurant.

Big Thrill Factory, which has operated in Minnetonka for three years, opened a second location in the former Rainbow Foods (and after that, Cub Foods) in Oakdale in December.

When the weather warms, the amusement venue will expand to include individual outdoor trampoline bays, wipeout trampolines, a giant inflatable slide and an 18-hole mini golf course.

The restaurant serves decent quality appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, build-your-own mac and cheese and pizzas, including a mega size that feeds 14 people. There’s craft beer on tap, including Surly, Lift Bridge, Goose Island and Fat Tire, and fun desserts like mini doughnuts and funnel cake fries.

“The menu is designed to avoid the veto vote,” said manager Darrel Blomberg. “If the parents are hungry, they tend to leave places like these to eat, but this menu is designed to appeal to both parents and kids. It’s not the usual kid-place food.”

In fact, Blomberg said a good portion of the clientele is adults and corporate groups who use the activities as team-building exercises. The event rooms include full audio-visual equipment for meetings after a turn on the ropes course or a spin around the go-kart track.

There’s also an Escape Room experience with live actors, one of whom plays a chained-up zombie whose chain lengthens every 10 minutes. Tickets to the escape room must be purchased in advance and are available online.

Packages are available for families, too, that include all-day and unlimited access to many of the feature attractions. All-day packages start at $27.99 per person, but it’s also possible to purchase game play individually or by the hour.

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Jess Fleming has been with the Pioneer Press since 1999, and has been covering the Eat beat since 2012. She is an adventurous eater, cook and gardener, but will only grow something she can eat. She is a graduate of the journalism school at the University of Minnesota and a native of Eastern Wisconsin, where she grew up eating good brats, good cheese and fresh vegetables from her dad’s garden.