August 16, 2009 - Mankato, MN
The Happy Chef restaurant in Mankato was the very first Happy Chef. It opened in 1963. At one point the Happy Chef chain grew to 56 restaurants in the Midwest. Today only 16 restaurants remain.
The giant Happy Chef statue was, and still is, an icon for the restaurants. Most of the restaurants had one. But, as I chronicled before, these statues are disappearing. The Mankato restaurant is the only one that still has a statue. Restaurant owners were instructed to destroy the statues rather than sell them, but some managed to survive. Regardless, the Happy Chef statue in any form is a rare commodity.
5 hours ago