Hope Breakfast Bar lives by its name in more ways than one. Located right off Grand Avenue, this St. Paul restaurant wasn’t even deemed to exist. But, there is always Hope.
The all-day breakfast joint resides in St. Paul’s oldest public building, the firehouse of Hope Engine Company No. 3. Built in 1872 and operating as a firehouse until1965. In 2016, plans were in the works to demolish the historic building to make way for a Marriot hotel. When word got out about the tear-down, local residents took the developers to court. The neighborhood prevailed and the building wasn’t razed. There is always Hope.
Community members found a developer who saw the building’s potential, and working with city officials repurposed the historic firehouse, keeping as much of the original elements as possible. Originally intended to be a wine bar, project managers obtained successful restauranteur Brian Ingram, who took over the cherished landmark, creating Hope Breakfast Bar.
Where there is Hope
2020 was a wrecking ball for our Twin Cities restaurants. Multiple closures, riots, and the horrific murder of George Floyd crippled St. Paul and the surrounding areas. When times are tough, it’s much easier to put your head in the sand. For Hope Breakfast Bar ignoring the hard times and their community wasn’t in their vocabulary.
After the first shutdown in the spring of 2020, Hope Breakfast Bar, along with numerous volunteers, started a free farmers market, a mobile community kitchen to serve those in need, and created Give Hope. Give Hope is “a nonprofit focused on helping other people every day – bringing the community together to provide support and serve those in need.”
By May 7th, 2020, Hope Breakfast Bar had served over 50,000 free meals.
School closures in St. Paul caused the cancellation of prom for high school students, many of whom look forward to this event all year. Hope Breakfast Bar hosted a free “Prom Drive-thru” for seniors who didn’t get to enjoy their prom.
And on May 31st, six days after the nation witnessed a man gasping for his last breath on our streets, Hope Breakfast Bar posted the following on their Facebook Page:
Everything Good in My life has always started with a meal. That was never more true then today. Today we fed the people. BLM, Civil Rights Groups, First Responders, The Minnesota National Guard. Members of the CDC. Saint Paul Police Officers. Saint Paul Firemen. Doctors. Nurses. EMTs. Reporters from Miami. Reporters from Philadelphia. Protestors. A crew of people who drove 20 hours straight from Birmingham, Alabama. Our neighbors. Our friends. The homeless. The privileged. Everybody. We served them all. No questions asked. Pancakes. Hash browns. Orange juice. Coffee. No charge. We are called to serve. We are called to feed our community. We are called to feed the people. Today and every day we will continue to Give Hope. We will continue to love our neighbors as ourselves. We will continue to be a force for good. Today was one of the worst and best days of our lives. Stay safe friends. Deliver some Hope today. The world needs it. The world needs you.
By June, 70,000 meals had been served in the community by Hope Breakfast Bar.
At the end of 2020, Hope Breakfast Bar started selling the “2021 Chefs Rebirth Calendar.” A cookbook and calendar featuring hilariously posed local chefs, honoring the city of St. Paul and the hospitality industry. 100% of the proceeds go to local restaurant families who are struggling. More than $40,000 has been raised so far. There is always Hope.
On to the Food
Walking into the Hope Breakfast Bar on a bitterly cold morning can instantly brighten your day. The sun pours through the large east-facing windows landing on the simple yet modern décor. The upper level pays homage to its firehouse roots. An American flag is humbly posted on the wall, a colorful fire hydrant sits in a corner, a firehose is situated above the stairwell, and a pair of fireman’s boots await your arrival at the top of the stairs. A comfy couch, a bookcase and tables don the space, and the open ceiling clearly states, I am historical, I don’t need opulence. It’s a welcoming area you could spend hours in.
The beverage menu has 13 morning-fun cocktails, like the Hope Bloody, West 7th Cereal Bowl (lots of rum and Captain Crunch anyone?), and Espresso Martini. They offer “Classic Sips,” Lemonades & Punch, and a Coffee Bar with 16 various hot or cold beverages to fulfill any sugary coffee-lover’s dreams, like the Banana Mile Coffee, S’more Mocha, or Sea Salt Caramel Toffee Latte.
Their food menu is what every brunch-foodie desires. Starters include the Donut Basket, Giant Pickle Pretzel, or their famous Loaded Hashbrowns. Split into two sections, Savory and Sweet, and packed with so many heavenly options, their breakfast menu will have you second-guessing your order up until the server sets down your plate. If you have a hard time making a decision, just close your eyes, point to a dish, and call it a day.
From the Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles (with jalapeno maple syrup!) to the Pork Belly and Biscuit or the Hemp Heart Waffle, there wasn’t one item that didn’t teasingly suggest “I belong in your mouth.” It was the sexiest breakfast menu I have ever seen.
However, my eyes veered straight to the Bourbon Smoked Salmon Toast. Bourbon and Salmon, ’nuff said. The phenomenal everything bagel sandwich greeted me with tomatoes, capers, pickles, Alaskan smoked Salmon, pimento cream cheese (that was oddly delicious), and pickled onions. Everything complemented everything else. Salty and savory, but not too overpowering. It paired well with my perfectly made latte. By the end of the meal, I was blissfully full and felt I just upped my brunch game.
I will definitely come back for the Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles. Where there is incredible food, there is always Hope.