Totally worth the wait.
Our reservation was early – 5:30, right when they opened. The upstairs dining room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so we headed to the back of the building and the entrance to the basement Marvel Bar (“Libations behind the purple door,” said the doorman).
Food critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl wrote that bartender Pip Hanson is a genius, so we were glad we had to wait at Marvel first. Our friendly and knowledgable server recommended drinks for us and said she’d call upstairs to check us in. I had a lemony cognac and bourbon-based cocktail called Strongwater, while Colleen ordered a drink that actually had pickle brine in it. She loved it, but ewww…
The basement contains the wine cellar, several booths, an eclectic selection of chairs and a very nice looking bar. I just read a good story on the whole operation written by Minnesota Monthly magazine that has some additional insights into the bar – worth a read.
We gathered our drinks and headed up the first set of stairs on the right, which leads through another purple door and deposits you right at the front check-in desk. We were led to a table for two right in the middle of the room, which we decided could be described as “IKEA barn” – comfortable, welcoming and not pretentious in the least. All of the servers were dressed casually and as their nice web site says, the dress code is “Come as you are.”
It was training night, so we had two servers. The primary one doing the training, Joel, was energetic and very knowledgable. He explained the unique wine options, which include a chalkboard that changes frequently as bottles are opened (you can order a half bottle, then others can sample glasses from those bottles). The trainee brought us complimentary flat bread with butter, summer radishes and a small bowl of salt.
The only off-menu item last night was Alaskan Cooper River salmon with fingerling potatoes. Since it’s only in season for two weeks a year, I ordered that (along with a lot of the dining room, apparently). Colleen ordered cod and we decided to share an order of their salt cured salmon toast, with sweet mustard sauce and pickled cucumber.
For sides, we ordered a warm popover with honeyed butter and crispy potatoes with cider vinegar. The latter arrived on a bed of crumbled bacon, which would stick to the potatoes when dipped in the cider vinegar – so good!
Service throughout the meal by all staffers was superb – when I had to step outside for the parking meters and to return a call, I returned to fresh, folded napkins both times. We were never rushed and the entire meal took just under two hours. The room was loud, but not overly so for a full house.
We finished up the evening with two desserts – Colleen was directed to a non-dairy selection of coconut panna cotta with candied tarragon and sweetened grapefruit, while I just had to try the frozen popcorn custard with chocolate ganache, salted caramel and shortbread. Both were excellent, but I was also intrigued by the last entry on the menu, simply called “Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.”
Colleen mentioned that it’s rare when a restaurant does everything right, but I think you can see in the reviews of The Bachelor Farmer that the experience isn’t by accident – everything is planned and managed. Paul Berglund and the Dayton Brothers have really earned their success at TBF and we will be back (Saturday reservation now booked for early August).
It took a while, but we now have a new favorite Twin Cities restaurant. Skål!