Footfalls on wooden planks led to the front door of the Bachelor Farmer, a new restaurant that softly opened last week. It was before business hours, and a knock on a locked door was answered by two immaculately dressed young men. "Hello, I'm Eric," said one as he extended his hand.
"And I'm Andrew. Welcome."
The interior of their new North Loop restaurant was decidedly lacking in bachelor decor; there was nary a tattered poster nor busted neon beer sign. Instead, a careful mix of art, industrial elements, and warm design touches rendered the room warm and chic with a dash of country modesty (that note coming mainly from the white wallpaper with country blue heart-shaped pattern.) At the behest of the restaurant's PR firm, the Hot Dish had agreed not to photograph the interior. They are still making adjustments and fine-tuning the space. Instead they agreed to a tour by partners and restaurant founders the Dayton brothers. "Let's head downstairs to the Marvel Bar," offered Eric.
[jump] We returned to the bright sunshine, skirting the building to a back entrance. Through a side door that doubles as the service entry, we stepped into the bar. The central floor is a mass of random tiles. Eric explained that the company they worked with had a collection of tiles left over from other projects. The purposely random placement is a jolt of color and elegance. One wall is enclosed in glass, allowing the natural limestone walls to act as a wine cellar without allowing the damp air into the bar interior. There is a collection of banquettes, a central homey furnished area with stuffed chairs and couches, and then the bar.
Liquor mix-master Pip Hanson has created a custom drink menu as well as a collection of classics. The first drink he served the brothers was an Old Fashioned, and it was beautifully executed. There's a pegboard behind the bar adorned with all the barkeep's utilities. "It's Pip's workshop," offered Andrew. The Marvel Bar is a hip place to while away the hours, or wait for your table upstairs. Currently the only food offered here are Cheetos, for $1, soon to be served with wet naps, before all the furniture is stained incandescent orange.
Returning to the upstairs restaurant space, awash in morning light, we happened upon the chefs, Paul Berglund and Kelsey Bergstrom, sharing a family meal of what appeared to be gravlax on rye bread.
Their domain, the kitchen, is also filled with sunshine and even features a window that perfectly frames a railroad bridge stretching across the Mississippi.
At every turn there are views, including the Alec Soth picture of a small Minnesota ghost town. The restaurant is filled with artistic touches, from the industrial light fixture that looks like tinker toys adorned with friendship bracelets to the custom art in the upstairs bar (serving a full menu) that so realistically appears to be painter's tape, people have been observed attempting to pick at the edges.
Another small but seemingly genius idea is that the general manager suggested that they sell some of their higher-end bottles of wine by the half bottle. Once it's open, they add the name to a blackboard in the dining room. Customers then have the opportunity to order the other, attractively priced half.
As far as the room goes, it seems no detail was too small to miss, from the tables with adjustable feet (so that they never wobble) to the first crops just coming in off their rooftop garden. "We just picked our first turnips yesterday. It was pretty exciting," reported Andrew.
When asked where the name came from, the brothers explained that their mother coined the term. She lives near a gentleman whom she called the Bachelor Farmer. The term fit with what they were doing, along with a little nod and wink to Wobegon humorist Garrison Keillor.
We asked them, "What is the best thing about getting to work with your brother?" They laughed uneasily, like brothers who have properly annoyed the crap out of each other in a young lifetime.
"I think the worst thing is that we have to call each other and check what the other is going to wear. Our first night, we both wore plaid shirts and someone said, 'Oh, you dressed up like farmers!' It wasn't like, a farmer plaid shirt--it was a nice shirt!" explained Eric. "I'd say the best thing is that, growing up, we were very different, but now we have a lot of commonality. Like, with the design, I'd say 80 percent we were in agreement on, and the other 20 percent we disagreed about, until we found something that made [the restaurant] better."
"It's a lot of fun, too. It's 18-hour days. It helps to be brothers," says Andrew.
The Bachelor Farmer, 50 N. Second Ave., Minneapolis; 612.206.3920; The Bachelor Farmer website