Well, now we can see why it took so very long for the new Bradstreet cocktail bar to finally open its doors. The place is stunning. We mean really, really beautiful. Like a cocktail bar for the ages beautiful. They spared no expense with the remodel of the former Rye Deli space and the craftsmanship therein, and they’ve even trotted out a muse: John Scott Bradstreet, a turn-of-the-century interior designer who they call “Minister of the Beautiful, Apostle of Good Taste.” Otherwise known as a world traveler and artist who brought global influence to some of the stateliest edifices in Minnesota.
So, they got the aesthetics right — how do the food and drink stack up?
True to form, they knocked the cocktail program out of the park, with a bigger, better, badder drink program. As promised, it takes some of the pretense out of the business of having a proper cocktail, but none of the flavor or delight. We love it that they've divided the cocktail offerings up by hooch, because no matter who you are, or where you come from, you know what poison your constitution can tolerate, and what it can't. Unless it's your 21st birthday and you're approaching your barman with the foolhardy inquiry: "What should I order?" you should damn well know if you are a brandy man or a tequila gal or if you're not, and so now you can avoid all that you are not and focus in on what you are!
While the space still maintains a dark, sort of speakeasy vibe with craftsman detailing like carved wooden panels over the windows and filigree detailing of natural elements like winding trees, the drinks are a refreshing blast of summer color and light. Take for instance a Soak the Sin, a gin-based drink using Becherovka, an herbal bitters, plus mint and tonic — at lesser places this might have arrived as medicinal as castor oil. But with the addition of lime, watermelon and a little simple syrup, it was pink as cotton candy and just as devourable, with an herbaceous edge for contrast. Delightful. All of the cocktails we tried were just as deft ly prepared, but wildly disparate from the one before, with great intrigue and depth.
So you've found your new summer sipping place, especially because there is a sweet little patio with rattan furniture where you can simultaneously soak in sun and sauce.
Initially, the menu seems like a melee of fusion flavors, but then we realize that the inspiration, again, is Mr. Bradstreet, and an attempt to follow his travel trajectory from the Mediterranean and North Africa to Japan and all the way back to little old Minnesota. We liked the food best when it was acting as bar accompaniment to the luscious drinks, rather than trying to stand up to true dinnertime dining expectations. (Though it should be noted that the dining room is indeed vast and beautiful, and many folks will probably want to use it as such).
We loved the generous portions of vegetarian-friendly starters like shishito peppers in chile lime gremolata and Chinese long beans in oyster vinaigrette and toasted cashew with garlic. Both came in copiously shareable portions and I can't currently think of a better way to spend a summer evening than just passing around big plates of these nicely done apps and begging sips off your friend's drink.
Entrees were a little less winning. While technically sound, a seared yellowtail with soba noodles, shiitake, ramps and Napa cabbage was one-dimensional and played like a greatest hits of Asian flavors — too predictable.
A salmon "panzanella" was a take on that favorite rustic Italian salad but with avocado hummus, Moroccan spices, chermoula, and dry-cured olives, this one went too far in the other direction, like taking a baseball bat to the globe and shaking the pieces up in a bag.
All of this said, the cooking is solid, and after only 48 hours open, they're doing great work. If he were here today, Mr. Bradstreet may just give them his own endorsement of beauty and good taste.
1930 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis