By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities plant-based fast casual restaurant is announcing plans to expand all over the country. Stalk & Spade will have 12 restaurants in Minnesota, Des Moines and Miami by the end of 2022, according to owner Steele Smiley, after finding success with restaurant number one in Wayzata.

Blaine natives Kelly and David Backes are the first to sign on as franchise owners, opening their first restaurant at 50th & France in Edina on Friday, April 29.

“I think this is something we never thought we’d be getting into and the reason we’re into it is that it’s plant-based,” said Kelly Backes, a non-practicing nurse who’s been vegetarian for fifteen years. Her husband, David, is a former Olympic hockey player and NHL star for St. Louis, Boston and Anaheim.

“It started with a passion, the way we ate, then we found a way we could further the cause,” said David Backes.

After their first meal at the original Wayzata Stalk and Spade, they said they were hooked in the idea of offering plant-based foods in a familiar, fun, and tasty format.

“Oh my gosh, this is the best faux chicken sandwich,” Kelly said she was “blown away.”

Kelly said her plant-based life is largely about ethical treatment of animals. David came later to vegetarianism, after a health scare.

“It was a colon re-section after being diagnosed with diverticulitis. When you’re 33 and having a major surgery, you start to look for any way you can tilt the odds in your favor, and I looked at changing my diet,” David explained.

“We’ve got one life, when David had that major surgery, it was terrifying for both of us,” Kelly added.

Now both say they’re passionate about a plant-based diet, especially a delicious plant-based diet.

“I think plant based eating for awhile was kind of a fad and now it’s become more of a lifestyle,” said Kelly.

Stalk & Spade is designed for true-believers and casual dabblers: it features familiar flavors like a spicy sriracha “chicken sandwich,” and a pepper jack mushroom “burger.” The goal is for it to be good for the environment, your health and for animals.

“We see Stalk and Spades everywhere. I really think this is something that’s only going to continue to grow. I think as consumers we want more of these options,” said Kelly.

David noted being a restaurant owner is a long way from the Olympic and NHL ice.

“Truthfully it’s a lot more stressful, as an athlete I showed up, performed, I was in control. This is out of comfort zone. We’re just kinda rolling with it,” he said.

Jason DeRusha