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"In 2019 we had 12 employees. After this we should have 500," said Brian Ingram.

Ingram, who owns Purpose Restaurants with wife Sarah Ingram, is about to launch into the busiest and most personal restaurant expansion of his long career. Already the owners of four Hope Breakfast Bars, Apostle Supper Club and the Gnome, within the next three months, the Ingrams will open Hope Breakfast Bars in Edina, Woodbury and Minneapolis' North Loop, along with a new pasta restaurant and fresh market that he likens to the small bodegas he remembers from living in New York City.

Salt & Flour will be part of the new North Loop Green development (360 N. 5th St., Mpls., that includes housing, work space, retail and a large amount of green space. "This is a total full circle moment for me," Ingram said of the restaurant. "When I'm at home, 99 percent of what we make is Italian food."

Earlier in his career, Ingram worked for Macaroni Grill, starting alongside founder Phil Romano and cooking his family's recipes. When he left, the company's impressive expansion was up to nearly 200 locations.

For the past 2 1/2 years, Ingram has been obsessing over every detail of Salt & Flour's menu, and all the other details, too: light fixtures, the largest kitchen he's ever worked in, plus a playlist he's created and deleted a few times over. The menu will be centered around fresh pastas and sauces, both of which will be for sale in the on-site market, along with a meat case featuring steaks and chicken cutlets.

The same complex will house the newest Hope Breakfast Bar, the concept that launched the Ingrams into public consciousness. The restaurant is known for its all-day breakfast menu, but its mission highlights the Ingrams' commitment to community involvement and charity. A small portion of Purpose Restaurants' profits goes to their Give Hope nonprofit, which during the pandemic gave away meals and hosted impromptu food banks.

Hope Breakfast Bar started in St. Paul, quickly expanded to St. Louis Park, Eagan and inside Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, and continues to gain steam. Ingram said he expects Hope Breakfast Bar Edina could open later this month, with the Woodbury location to follow a couple of weeks later. The North Loop businesses should open early this summer. Plans for a Maple Grove Hope Breakfast Bar were scrapped after the City Council rejected the proposal. That minor setback has done little to slow plans for more outposts; the Ingrams are shopping for at least two more suburban locations.

"For me, Hope changed our life. It changed everything," Ingram said. "I've worked for really large restaurant groups that did cool things, but that's nothing."

The two had looked at franchising Hope to Florida, but after explaining the nonprofit business model and the blank prayer cards available at every table, the investors ultimately didn't "get" the business model.

"They just look at you like you've got two heads," Ingram said. "Man, never mind. You don't get it. Hope's not for sale."

Bassett Hound bar opening in the North Loop

Salt & Flour and Hope Breakfast Bar will have a neighbor in North Loop Green: Bassett Hound. The concept is light on details so far, but there will be taps, beverages, pub grub and snack grab-and-go bites from Chicago-based Levy Restaurants. The company also runs concepts that include the American Girl Cafe and Michael Jordan's Steakhouse.

Mill District gets a new Mexican restaurant

La Madre will open later this summer in Minneapolis' Mill District neighborhood (205 Park Av.,, at the base of the Vicinity Apartments. The restaurant from the owners of La Tapatia will draw inspiration from the coastal culinary goods of Puerto Vallarta. In addition to tacos and entrees, La Madre will have an impressive bar menu with boutique tequilas, micheladas and more.

Picnic is open in Linden Hills

There's a new restaurant and bar open near Lake Harriet. Picnic, located at the former Clancey's Meats location (4307 Upton Av. S., Mpls.,, has an all-day menu with picnic boards, sandwiches (including an egg and sausage on brioche, $11) and heartier fare like a bowl of cheese/lasagna ($18), hot dogs and a few other kid-friendly dishes.

Since the pandemic, there's been a noticeable lack of lunch and late-night options, and Picnic offers both. From 9 p.m. until midnight there are cocktail-friendly bites, including shrimp salad, pimento cheese, butters and baguettes. Cocktails range from $6 to $16 and you'll find classics like gin martinis, negronis and a perfect Manhattan. Picnic is open Monday through Saturday.

Get your arepa fix at Arepa Bar at Crasqui in St. Paul from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Get your arepa fix at Arepa Bar at Crasqui in St. Paul from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Arepa Bar is back! With breakfast!

Soleil Ramirez moved Arepa Bar, her first restaurant, out of Midtown Global Market to an online venture, working out of the kitchen of her St. Paul fine-dining destination, Crasqui (84 S. Wabasha St.). Now, fans who miss her light, quick Venezuelan dishes can sit down and enjoy them inside that gorgeous dining room. Arepa Bar will open for breakfast and lunch starting April 15. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., diners can enjoy arepas and more on the patio and inside. Also look for a breakfast beverage menu.

Chef Shack Bay City ready for another season

A sure sign of spring: Chef Shack Bay City opens April 26. The destination restaurant from chefs Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson has always been inspired by their global travels, and this season will be no exception. The couple traveled to Peru for "a once-in-a-lifetime experience" that left them forever changed and inspired, they said. One highlight was visiting the salt mines in the Sacred Valley, where they witnessed the ancient salt extraction process that has been passed down through generations. The valley's salt ponds were particularly impactful, and they brought several pounds home for cooking. The two are eager to share their experiences with diners; reservations for the spring season are now available via Tock. Chef Shack is at W6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis.,

Fly Chix temporarily closes to relocate

Stadium Village's go-to for fried chicken, Fly Chix, has flown its coop at International Plaza. The restaurant is packing up to move to a new, undisclosed location that has a bigger kitchen and more space for more chicken fingers. Keep an eye on their social media for a new address announcement soon.