“We don’t do things the easy way,” says Farm Bar co-owner Ferdia Doherty. When you get a look at the brand new Farm Bar, opening Monday in Lakeview, you see that sometimes, doing things the hard way pays off.
The “little sister” to Farmhouse (which has locations in River North and Evanston) is now open, complete with hand-drawn murals, reclaimed wood interiors and exteriors, and a local food menu that brings the best of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to Wellington Street.
Originally, Farm Bar was slated to be an all-cider bar. But Doherty decided to go in another direction, bringing a more informal version of Farmhouse’s local cuisine to a neighborhood tavern. The spot is the former Wellington Tavern, in a building from 1895 that’s been used as a bar for over 100 years. They’ve totally re-done the interior and exterior.
“The outside of the building is half a barn from Wisconsin that we bought, tore down and used as the siding,” explains Doherty. Murals inspired by old barn ads, by Farmhouse muralist Peter Hurley, cover the walls.
“It’s the original back bar—it was made from mahogany, and we carefully took it apart and put it back together,” he said. The main bar is made of a black walnut tree from co-owner T.J. Callahan’s farm.
The menu, created by chef Eric Mansavage, has some touches of the Farmhouse menu, and fits with their ethos – everything is made from scratch and, as far as possible, sourced from their four-state range. Some dishes, like the Wisconsin cheese curds, will look familiar to Farmhouse fans. But others are unique, including a burger program that takes center stage on the menu. There’s a burger inspired by each of the four states Farm Bar sources from, with meat grinds custom-made by Butcher & Larder. The Illinois “Three Sisters” burger is made with 10 bean relish, marinated squash, popcorn and barbecue, while the Indiana “Barnyard” burger is made with pulled pork, a sunnyside farm egg and beer mustard.
“It’s the bar version of Farmhouse, with a supper club twist,” explains Mansavage. He’s incorporated Midwestern supper club classics, like a beer battered Trout melt sandwich and a grilled cheese made with pimento cheese.
The beer program is all local, just like Farmhouse, with 24 taps. But Doherty says what will set Farm Bar apart is an elevated cocktail program. “We’re going to ramp up heavily on our cocktails, which we haven’t really pushed at Farmhouse.”
How do they set themselves apart from all the other spots doing “local” food? Well, according to Doherty, they’re doing it for real. “We know all of our farmers, we know where everything comes from. That sets us apart from the other places here that may or may not get their Sysco delivery every day. Our guy is coming from Wisconsin with his van.”
Farm Bar opens tonight at 5 p.m. at 1300 W. Wellington Ave. Their website isn’t ready yet, so call 773-281-2599 for more information.
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