The backstory: Former investment banker Dan Rice fell in love with natural wine—minimal intervention, no additives—during his days in New York City. When the Apple Valley native moved back to Minneapolis in late 2017, he was surprised to see its adventurous dining scene lacked a spot devoted to progressive shared plates and unconventional wine. Chef Nick Anderson was eager to embrace a similar ethos once he, too, got settled in the Twin Cities. The pair crossed paths and bonded over their burgeoning natural wine obsession. Ergo: Bar Brava.
The dish: Anderson first mastered the art of market-driven bar food in San Francisco (ABV, Over Proof). His menu at Bar Brava nods to his own R&D trips, ending up like a cross between California, Spain, and Brooklyn. Expect a few elevated classics (sardines splayed across a baguette with ricotta and shiso; a big ol’ dry-aged burger draped in sharp cheddar) alongside dynamic seasonal dishes, like a light ramen gussied up with Swiss chard, wild rice, and fermented jalapeños, and crowned with lump crab and grilled squash. As for its drink program, sommelier Jill Mott is a walking encyclopedia of bold natural bottles, leading trained and tentative palates toward what’ll seem “most delicious to you.”
The location: Aside from bleak industrial buildings, Meteor Bar, and a cactus shop (Mother Co.), there’s not a whole lot near Bar Brava’s North Minneapolis location. (The space is back open after a pandemic pause.) That works to its advantage, though, making its long zinc countertop and wide-open kitchen feel like a secret club for pét-nat fiends. You don’t need to know the difference between spontaneous fermentation and biodynamic farming to have a good time, though; the raucous room’s tight-knit team keeps everything casual and comforting. “Natural wine was the starting point for this project,” explains Anderson, “so our philosophy on the space, vibe, and food stems from the culture around it.” Or, as one of the playful Gianluca Cannizzo posters on the walls puts it, this is one restaurant where “wine rocks.”
1914 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis, barbravamn.com