Bringing back an 'institution': The Gnome Craft Pub to open at former Happy Gnome spot

The St. Paul gastropub closed in December after 14 years.
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A new restaurant is expected to open in August in the former home of The Happy Gnome, with its name and feel reminiscent of the restaurant's heyday. 

Restauranteurs Brian Ingram, of Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul, and Justin Sutherland of, Top Chef and Handsome Hog, are working together on The Gnome Craft Pub at 498 Selby Ave. in St. Paul.

"We're really excited about doing it, opening up The Gnome and really welcome people back to an old friend," Ingram told Bring Me The News on Friday, May 8. "The Gnome was an institution for a long time and we're really excited to bring it back."

The Happy Gnome closed its doors in December 2019 after deciding not to renew its lease. The gastropub was a hot spot for the burgeoning craft beer movement, with 90-plus taps, during its 14-year run.

Ingram said the new restaurant will be a "great supper club" that kind of goes back to what the Happy Gnome "was really known for in its heyday – great food and a great beer program."

"If everything comes back to normal, we're hoping to have it open no later than August," Ingram said, noting that during a global pandemic "you either run for the fences or you swing for the fences."

"We're swinging for it," he added. "When we come out on the other side of this, we think a lot of folks are going to want to get out and go back to restaurants and really have fun."

Plus, since they're doing most of the work themselves, the downtime has allowed them to get more done.

What to expect

For libations, the new Gnome will have 120-150 beverages on tap, including craft beer, wine, cocktails, coffee and nitros, Ingram said.

On the food menu, expect giant shaved meat sandwiches carved from one of the restaurant's four giant upright spindle rotisseries, as well as a charcuterie display when you walk in and tableside options ranging from classics like beer can chicken that can be shared among four to six people to hot boiling cheeses. There will also be steaks, chops and fish on the menu.

They're making changes to the space itself, too. They'll be doubling the size of the patio and adding an outdoor bar, opening up the main floor so it flows better and turning the upstairs, which was used as event space, into a beer hall with games and other things to do, Ingram said.

They've been in talks to open something in the former Happy Gnome spot since it closed, with Ingram noting he's familiar with The Happy Gnome's legacy because when he created New Bohemia he looked to it for its craft beer program.

The space, a former 19th-century firehouse, was "natural" for him to open a restaurant because he's done it before – Hope Breakfast Bar is also in a former St. Paul fire station, Ingram said.

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