Minnesota Is Home to the Only Happy Chef Restaurant Left Standing
The big statue out front is The Happy Chef. Named after the original owner, the giant statue has been around since 1963 and grew to a big mid-west chain.
"The first Happy Chef Restaurant opened in 1963 in Mankato, Minnesota, and still operates today as the only location. At one time, the chain had 65 restaurants in the Midwest." (Source)
The restaurant, and then 7-state chain, was started by Sal Frederick, known before the restaurant bearing his nickname, as The Happy Chef. Always smiling and happy.
According to Minnesota State University - Mankato, Sal and Rose (his late wife) started in the hospitality industry back in 1946, when he got out of the army. They had a few places before Happy Chef came along.
- The "Hidden Inn" a café with 22 stools.
- The Corner Café
- The Brett's Grill
- The Newman Center Café, which was on the college campus.
In 2006 there were still a few Happy Chef restaurants in the Midwest, but in 2021, just one. The first, and now the last Happy Chef in Mankato, MN.
Are there any Happy Chef statues left?
Not really. Except for the Mankato statue, the rest are gone or changed to look like a chimney sweep, a clown, a baseball player, that sort of thing. Check out this awesome video, where you learn about Sal's time in the army.
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The Happy Chef Restaurant Needed New Things to Say
Earlier this month my co-worker Paul Shea wrote up this story...
The Happy Chef restaurant posted on its Facebook page back in June that it was looking for some 'G-Rated' one-liners that could be added to its talking database. The statue right now as it stands rotates through some fun sayings and of course welcomes the guests and patrons as they walk by the spoon-wielding statue out front.
I've combed through some of the submissions that have been made and here are a few of the ones I think have a chance for making the final cut.
Of course, restaurants aren't the only things that go from small to big to gone or almost gone...