FARGO — A healthier dining alternative is set to open this weekend in Fargo.

Crisp & Green, a Wayzata, Minn.-based, healthy restaurant, is scheduled to welcome patrons with a lunch-time soft opening from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 24, at 1690 45th St. S. Orders placed using the Crisp & Green app will receive a 50% discount.

A full opening will take place beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, when Crisp & Green will be hosting a no-cost exercise class with Fly Fitness. The restaurant will open at 10:30 a.m., offering free lunches until noon. Full information on Crisp & Green's opening weekend events can be found on their social media platforms.

Steele Smiley, the founder of Crisp & Green, explained that the restaurant’s menu features either customizable, build-your-own bowls or featured “chef-crafted” items.

The bowls feature two bases: warm grains such as brown rice and quinoa or greens like arugula, kale, mixed greens, romaine, spinach or butter lettuce. Menu items feature big portions and are designed to make eating healthy both easy and satisfying, he said. “We make it very easy to eat healthy,” Smiley told The Forum. “That doesn’t mean it tastes like health food, it certainly doesn’t, it tastes like a culinary treat. It just happens to be a really healthy option.”

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

The menu also includes smoothies and one of Smiley’s favorite items, all-vegan rice crispy bars. For newcomers, Smiley recommended the Fiesta Bowl, which features brown rice, roasted chicken, avocado, black beans and more.

Smiley, who had previously founded Steele Fitness, decided to enter the restaurant industry after finding a lack of options for healthy eating.

“I realized that as many outlets as there were for fitness, there were very few for healthy eating,” he said. “I was going back and forth to the grocery store, trying to either make something myself or buy something in the grab-and-go section that was healthy. I just couldn’t believe how difficult that was to do.”

Smiley founded Crisp & Green in 2016, first opening in Wayzata and expanding rapidly since then. “Crisp & Green was essentially built out of this idea that every neighborhood should have a healthy, affordable option, customizable to their liking,” he said.

Smiley explained that his objective was for Crisp & Green to have two differentiating factors.

The first was that he wanted the food to taste different, so much so that someone could eat it every day if desired. “I wanted there to be enough options and be culinary-driven where I could eat something unique every single day.”

The second was an emphasis on wellness, which is why Crisp & Green offers classes and work-outs for the community at all of its locations. “Obviously we’re serving food, but we consider ourselves really a wellness company,” he said.

Crisp & Green, which currently has locations in Minnesota, South Dakota and the Dallas metro area in addition to the soon-to-open Fargo location, has grown at a rapid pace since 2016. More locations are currently planned for Crisp & Green’s current geographic footprint as well as in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee. “We’ve got stores open or in development now in 14 states and we’re well over 100 stores,” Smiley said. “That’s not bad for a brand from the Midwest.”

As for North Dakota, Smiley said more locations are “absolutely” on the horizon for Fargo and elsewhere. “We obviously need to find the right spot and we tend to go where the development is ready for us, but we’re always looking. We’re excited to make North Dakota a big part of our brand strategy,” he remarked. “I don’t think a brand coming from the coasts would say the same thing.”

An East Coast native himself, Smiley said he takes pride in having launched the health-conscious brand from the Midwest. “It’s really exciting to be a Midwest brand that’s growing because typically it’s the other way around. It’s a coastal brand that comes into the Midwest and tries to fit in with our Midwestern values,” he said. “We’re doing it the right way and growing the right way and in the right order, so I think it’s just a lot more authentic.”

It’s why after realizing that the coasts tended to have a greater variety of brands than the Midwest, he wanted Crisp & Green to set its roots in Minnesota. “A town like Fargo might not get a brand like this for six or seven years,” he said. “We’re growing into a lot of these towns where people appreciate that we’re there, and we appreciate that we’re there.”

The response from customers has been strong ever since, as evidenced by the line out the door for over 10 hours when Crisp & Green’s Sioux Falls location opened, he said.

In Fargo, Smiley’s message to customers is to give Crisp & Green a shot. “I’m always humbled. I never know,” he commented when asked about his expectations for the Fargo location. “We don’t come into it with high expectations and say, ‘We’re going to do this or we’re going to be this.’ We just invite people to come and give it a try.”

Readers can reach InForum reporter Thomas Evanella at tevanella@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasEvanella