Bachelor Farmer is Restaurant of the Year

  • Article by: RICK NELSON
  • Updated: December 29, 2011 - 11:15 AM

In countless ways, our Restaurant of the Year more than exceeds the sum of its parts. The Bachelor Farmer has managed to capture the zeitgeist of modern-day Minneapolis.

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All restaurants are exercises in collaboration, but nowhere are the benefits of the Dream Team Effect more evident than at the Bachelor Farmer.

Owners and siblings Andrew and Eric Dayton are first-time restaurateurs, yet there isn't so much as a whiff of the novice in their work. They certainly have a flair for recruiting talent. Architect James Dayton and interior designer Janet Gridley transformed a derelict North Loop eyesore into an alluring, art-filled and neighborhood-defining destination.

General manager Nathan Rostance deftly presides over a front-of-house crew that genuinely embodies the warm and welcoming side of Minnesota Nice. Down in the Marvel Bar, the restaurant's basement-level mixology magnet, cocktail czar Pip Hanson and his squad of perfectionists shake up a peerless roster of refreshing and imaginative libations. The offbeat wine and beer choices are similarly compelling.

All of these attributes would only be so much well-upholstered window dressing if the kitchen were a weak link. It's not. Rising star chef Paul Berglund's approach to contemporary Nordic cooking delights at every turn: exquisitely smoked and cured fish, an obsession with eggs, clever meant-to-be-shared appetizers spread over sourdough toasts and, yes, the city's best meatballs.

Not only is Berglund's farmhouse-inspired fare impeccably sourced and scrupulously prepared, but it's also fun and approachable, yet different enough to stand out on the Twin Cities' ever-exploding culinary landscape.

No doubt about it, the Dayton brothers and their crew have managed to capture the zeitgeist of modern-day Minneapolis. To find such a fully realized enterprise in our midst is a rarity. And a joy.

Awards of excellence

Lighting up Linden Hills: After a career of producing inspired food while working for others, chef Steven Brown became his own boss in 2011 and opened -- with business partner Jörg Pierach -- what is easily the model for every neighborhood restaurant that has the unfortunate timing of following in its wake. At Tilia, Brown has become the local dining scene's leading neoclassicist, energizing and transforming the familiar while laboring within the parameters of approachable and affordable. Cool room, hip staff, stellar beer and wine lists and late-night offerings in sleepy Linden Hills; no wonder the restaurant is a constant mob scene.

Reborn at Lyn-Lake: January's highly anticipated reopening of Stewart and Heidi Woodman's restaurant -- relocated from southwest Minneapolis to Lyn-Lake -- did not disappoint. Playful new dining room? Check. Cozy little bar shaking up sexy cocktails? Yep. A welcome emphasis on service? Of course. Same $20-and-under menu format? Sure. What surprised was how the Woodmans' adventurous, idiosyncratic cooking -- he runs the savory side, she handles sweets -- only seemed to become more inspired, and even more satisfying, during the hiatus brought on by a devastating February 2010 fire. Truly, four-star food at two-star prices. Welcome back, Heidi's. You were missed.
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