Since its 2011 debut, The Bachelor Farmer has been among Minnesota’s most ambitious restaurants, combining a loose Scandinavian aesthetic with a farm-to-table mandate. In the years since opening, the restaurant has settled into a comfortable niche: a polished, reliable, Scandi-cute fixture of the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis. Even with the presence of the co-located and relentlessly interesting Marvel Bar, it became an easy place to take for granted.
But with the recent appointments of a new head chef (Jonathan Gans, who ran Seattle’s excellent Basque-inspired Harvest Vine and was executive chef at Kitchen Window) and a dedicated forager (the locally renowned Alan Bergo), the restaurant feels as though it has been lifted up to a lofty new altitude. Gone are some of the whimsical Scandinavian touches; they’ve been replaced with a renewed dedication to the power of seasonal produce and the skillfully applied accents of foraged ingredients ranging from familiar wild greens to rarer fare such as birch syrup and dried galium.
We started our meal with a tame-sounding carrot appetizer ($10)—a dish of baby carrots, a creamy housemade cow’s milk cheese, carrot-top pesto, and candied pecans. It was outrageously good. The crunch and sweetness of the pecans complemented the creaminess and mellow milkiness of the cheese, and the carrots (cooked al dente, a refreshing change from the paste-like carrots you often find in this sort of appetizer) were naturally earthy and full of depth.
The charred golden beets ($14) looked intriguing on the menu with their sexy cacao nibs and mysterious birch syrup (to say nothing of the cashew butter and pickled greens) and they were in fact quite balanced and enjoyable. That said: It’s hard to shine when you’re back-to-back with the carrot dish of the year, and it would have been nice to have gotten more than three-quarters of a beet at that price tag.
Starters aside, our Groaning Board ($29) was easily the highlight of our meal. It’s been a good dozen years since the local embrace of the fancy charcuterie board and it would be easy to say that this particular wave has made its impact and retreated back to sea. But rather than deliver shopworn favorites or retire the board entirely, The Bachelor Farmer has instead advanced the dish. Our Groaning Board was populated with more things than we could easily count (a quick revisit of our phone photo suggests about 14), but what was far more impressive than the number of items on the board was how vividly distinct they were. Yes, there were pickled ramps, chard greens, and golden beets, but all of them had their own points of view, pickled with different blends of acid, herbs, and spice. With additional items like lamb’s tongue, a deliciously earthy lamb pate, and a kimchi-like pickled cabbage, we were in flavor heaven—everything complemented just about everything else, and mixing and matching the selections was as much fun as we’ve had dining in quite some time.
Our Walleye ($31) entree came with pancetta, foraged greens, baby potatoes, lemon, and a sumptuous watercress cream. More interestingly: It came in pieces with perfectly crisped skin still on, and possessed a truly nutty flavor that was as delicious as it was distinct. Equally nice was a perfectly bold and pleasantly earthy dish of Lamb Sausage ($29) that was bolstered by glazed baby turnips, caramelized whey, toasted almonds, and wild oregano.
And the Chilled Tomato Soup ($10) made with olive oil and rooftop herbs reminded us of salmorejo—gazpacho’s beefier, more convivial cousin. The addition of a bit of lavender was a surprising and welcome twist on this Spanish classic.
A brief note on service: Our waitress was truly welcoming and knew the menu backward and forward; beyond that, she was remarkably comfortable with the restaurant’s ambitious wine list and helped us navigate our way to a number of memorable and delicious glasses.
Neither service nor wine felt like an afterthought at The Bachelor Farmer—they were hardwired into the experience. Likewise, the team that waited on us seemed tuned into the rhythms of the kitchen—confidently recalling which of the many ingredients were foraged, for example, or how individual items were processed, or cured, or cooked. The Bachelor Farmer is a complex stack of interwoven systems; our servers, the diners’ primary point of contact with all that delicious infrastructure, seemed to be completely at home.
And that made us feel at home, too. A cheerful greeting and warm smile are always appreciated, but when a celebratory meal is on the line, you want a team that knows its stuff and can bring that knowledge to the table in a way that’s cheerful, timely, and humble.
The Bachelor Farmer (and its Marvel Bar sister establishment) is known as a craft cocktail haven, and all’s still well on that front. A Jungle Bird ($14) blended five brandies, pineapple, Campari, and lime to make a cocktail that was sour, tart, and sweet without being in any way unbalanced. The gin and house grenadine-driven Have a Heart ($12) was pleasingly assertive, and the Matador ($12) used tequila, triple sec, Cynar, and dry vermouth to effortlessly convey a feeling of summer in Cordoba. And we appreciated the crisp, clean, classic impact of our Dampfwerk Gin Martini ($14), which provided a boozy punch via a velvet glove.
If you haven’t been to The Bachelor Farmer in a while, now’s the time to go: the harvest is underway, the woods are bursting with forageable goodies, and the restaurant has hit a brilliant new stride. If someone asks, “What, exactly, does ‘Minnesota fine dining’ mean?” you now have a simple and incredibly tasty way to illustrate your answer.
The Bachelor Farmer
50 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55401
Mon–Thu: 5:30–9:30pm; Fri & Sat: 5:30–10:30pm; Sun: 5–9:30pm