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ON THE MENU - COLD STONE OPENING NEXT MONTH: Cold Stone Creamery will join Chipotle and Panera at the new Rochester Crossing development near Super Target in northwest Rochester around April 1 if construction proceeds on schedule, according to franchisees

The Rochester location is part of an ambitious nationwide expansion for the Arizona-based ice cream chain, which has 16 locations either open or planned to open soon in Minnesota, almost entirely in the Twin Cities area. Cold Stone offers "smooth and creamy" ice cream rather than traditional hard-packed ice cream. For more information, visit www.coldstonecreamery.com.

MACARONI GRILL PLANS OCTOBER OPENING AT APACHE MALL: Romano's Macaroni Grill expects to open its first Rochester location around mid-October at Apache Mall unless weather slows construction, said spokesman Louis Adams of Texas-based Brinker International, which owns the Italian restaurant chain. The free-standing, 6,822-square-feet restaurant will be able to seat 273 people, he added.

Macaroni Grill will be located in a on the west side of Apache Mall facing U.S Highway 52, the former site of the Montgomery Wards tire, battery and auto shop.

WEB SITE LOCATES TWIN CITIES RESTAURANTS: Visitors can view complete menus, find restaurant locations and even search for restaurants that serve for specific entrees in the Twin Cities area at www.twincitiesrestaurants.com. The site also searches for restaurants by cuisine, location and keyword while spotlighting daily specials at selected restaurants. Visitors can also make online reservations through the site.

CHAINS OF THE FUTURE? You may not see them in Rochester right away, but two small restaurant chains are starting ambitious nationwide expansions that could make both of them well-known names.

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The first is the New York-based Famous Famiglia, a pizza chain that opened its first Minnesota location in October at Ridgedale Mall in Minnetonka. The chain has 25 locations and hopes to open 150 more locations in the next five years, including five or six locations in Minnesota.

A little further away landing in Minnesota is El Pollo Loco, a Mexican food chain based mainly in California and the Southwest. The chain reportedly has plans to open 20 locations this year and 130 new locations within five years. In the Midwest, El Pollo Loco plans to open locations in the Chicago area and then branch out from there, possibly into Minnesota.

-- Matt Russell

On the Menu is a weekly report of restaurant news. If you have news or tips, call Matt Russell at 285-7712 or send e-mail to mrussell@postbulletin.com.

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