MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Michelle Courtright’s dream is as atypical as her path to becoming a Minneapolis restaurant owner.

“It was my dream in life to own a vegetarian restaurant,” she said.

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A passionate vegetarian, she owned the branding agency MADE, sold it, and then was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It lights a fire under you and you realize how short life is, and this was a dream of mine and it pushed me into it,” Courtright said.

While undergoing chemotherapy, she opened Fig + Farro in Calhoun Square.

“I sat in bed every day with my bald head, dreamed about this, what was the menu going to look like, where are we going to source,” she said.

Two years later, her restaurant is really hitting its stride. Chef Rhett Roberts last worked for Surly Brewing, now he’s leaving meat behind.

“I was doing charcuterie for them. It’s been a learning curve going from that to entirely vegan,” Roberts said.

For a couple years, chefs in the Twin Cities have been experimenting more with vegetables on their menu — more than just an afterthought, it’s a focus.

“We’re really finding chefs that are diving into it and being more creative. Chefs are finding it’s the new frontier,” Courtright said.

For the vegan ravioli made from scratch, Roberts makes the ravioli noodle with flour and water, no egg. There is no cheese in the filling: it’s whipped tofu, with lots of fresh herbs. Served in a puttanesca sauce, it’s bold flavor, where you wouldn’t even know it’s vegan.

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“We’re not a preachy vegan. You come in here and you’re treated to amazing food,” she said.

In fact, according to Courtright, only about 10% of customers are vegan or vegetarian.

“The rest are environmental, progressive meat-eaters. We want the omnivores, who try this and say, ‘I can do this once a week.’”

“We bring a lot of our vegan haters in here,” said regular guest Jen Abalan. “They are surprised how amazing the food is, and they come back.”

“Amazing foods, the flavors are the best in town. You don’t miss the meat,” said her friend Kara Witherspoon.

The menu includes four different pizzas cooked in the same brick oven that powered Figlio, Il Gatto, and Parella. They have a full cocktail program too, all vegan and largely local.

Originally a vegetarian restaurant, Fig + Farro changed about a year ago to be totally vegan. Courtright was concerned at first.

“Business went up 10% when we went vegan. That was really interesting. I was a little nervous, I wondered if people would stay with us,” she said.

Today, Michelle Courtright’s cancer is in remission. And her restaurant is firing on all cylinders too.

“I will not let this fail. This is my dream,” she said.

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Fig + Farro
3001 Hennepin Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(Free 90-minute parking validation in Calhoun Square Ramp with $30 purchase)
Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m-2 p.m. brunch, and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. dinner

Jason DeRusha