I’m not quite sure that it matters that the kids behind The Bachelor Farmer are the governor’s kids. I mean, it matters in that Eric and Andrew Dayton are first-time restaurateurs, and it matters in that they understand a smidge about public scrutiny. It also may matter to people who go to hot restaurants for glammy reasons, but that will wear off anyway as the flock heads to the next hot restaurant for other glammy reasons. But to the diner seeking a good meal, I think it doesn’t matter. So after we get beyond the names and move on to the actual restaurant, I can say that you should check it out, because it is doing something old and yet something new.
Bachelor Farmer is all about celebrating the foods of our collective Nordic heritage. Chef Paul Berglund is creating plates that are honed with a modern eye but recall flavors and memories from the past. He’s not sticking to strict lines of Swedish or Danish cuisine, but instead he’s calling on local tastes and both classic and current techniques to create plates of uncomplicated, fresh, and tasty food.
It begins at the beginning when you are greeted not with a bread basket but a plate of radishes with salt and cold butter, my mother’s snack if ever there was one. Then go to the lovely pink slices of cured salmon underneath a mound of mellifluous scrambled eggs, lifted by the lemony herbs dotted about the plate. Toasts, which come in a charming silver caddy, are an homage to the Nordic open-faced sandwich tradition that is smorrebrod (a bunch on the Swedish table would be a smorgasbord). Take the rich and creamy rabbit liver pâté and spread it on the dark, hearty bread with a few bits of dried cherry, a crunch of hazelnut, and a tinge of mustard for the perfect bite.
For the main course, you’ll be drawn to the meatballs with lingonberries and mashed potatoes, and it’s a worthy version: Berglund smartly amps the flavor but respects tradition and keeps it clean. I loved the grilled rabbit, but the second time it was venison in the same preparation and was an even better, earthier dish. Poached eggs first accompanied tomatoes, but later the dish starred Brussels sprouts, which would have been a nice match had the sauce not carried an overwhelming vinegary bite.
There were little things—service lags, undelivered popovers, a wrong dish to our table—that dotted the evenings, but those seemed normal kinks and completely expected for first-time restaurateurs. And the sweet Swedish pancakes and tart frozen yogurt go a long way toward making up for such things.
I’ve already called the room quirky Scandinavian, and I’m sticking to it. The seats are hard and the pillows grandmotherly, but the feeling is edgy and fun. The wine program is notable in that they’ll open any bottle for a few glasses, then chalk the name on the board for anyone else who might want to order the remainder. The cocktails are classic but, like the food, are prepared with a modern eye.
Speaking of cocktails, even though they would like to keep the worlds separate, you just can’t talk about Bachelor Farmer without chatting up the Marvel Bar below. With its hidden entrance and daringly teenage-girl cloud wallpaper, it is a mixologist’s universe unto itself. Run by local master Pip Hanson, the drinks downstairs are creative and taste-bending. The fascination with matching the proper ice technique to the proper drink is admirable. The Oakenshield, with woodsy sweet flavors, is a must for brown liquor types.
As of press time, no food beyond Cheetos was available in the Marvel Bar, but there were hints of change in that area (a good thing, as drinks are strong). For now, drinkers have to pop upstairs into the new Nordic, where the past is being reshaped. 502 2nd Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com, marvelbar.com
GETTING THERE, GETTING IN: Metered street parking. Weekend reservations recommended.
HOURS: The Bachelor Farmer: Su–Th 5:30–9:30 pm, F–Sa 5:30–10:30 pm. Marvel: Su–Th 5–midnight, F–Sa 5 pm–1 am
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
KIDS: Beyond the meatballs, not much for kids.
CARDS: Discover, MC, Visa, Amex
ENTRÉE PRICES: $18–$25