It's hard to go to Porzana, restaurateur Daniel del Prado's newest entry into his local restaurant empire, without thinking about the Bachelor Farmer. Del Prado's destination Argentinian steakhouse takes over the long-vacant North Loop corner spot that was once home to the groundbreaking contemporary Nordic restaurant, a Twin Cities icon.
When Bachelor Farmer closed — one of the very first casualties of the pandemic — it left a hole in the neighborhood and the hearts of many diners who had celebrated special occasions there or had simply enjoyed a relatively affordable Sunday supper, complete with a piece of toast and a glass of whatever was scrawled on the chalkboard list of open wine bottles.
The wall that once held that wine list is still there — one of the few interior walls still standing — and old regulars might find they have a reflex to peek at it whenever their glass empties at the new Porzana. But there's plenty of room for old and new in the radically reconfigured stage for del Prado's most personal restaurant yet.
Location: 200 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-489-6174, porzanampls.com. Open 5-11 p.m. daily for dinner, lounge open until midnight daily.
The vibe: Porzana takes up the entire northeast corner of 1st Street and 2nd Avenue N., merging the snug old restaurant and its neighboring cafe, and brings an endlessly charming patio into the fold. Near the entrance you will find a lounge area with some tables. A long, tiled bar connects that area with the main dining room, which is open and airy, yet with a lived-in feeling from touches of exposed brick and weathered wood.
It's vibrant inside, and the volume might have you straining to hear your server and companions. For more hushed conversations, head out to the patio — a previously unutilized gem that runs the length of the building tucked between brick facades, with plenty of seating under twinkle lights. It's a magical spot.
The food: As with his first flagship Martina, del Prado reaches into his Argentinian and Italian roots. Here, the emphasis is on beef and chilled seafood, but there are several more sections of the menu from which to create a multicourse feast — plus an entirely separate sheet for steaks. Cheery servers, under general manager Paul Hennessy, are glad to guide guests through the many-pronged menu.
One could craft a filling dinner entirely out of selections from the Oysters, Cold Bar, Snacks and Garden categories. And if that's your plan, don't skip the bone marrow flambadou preparation of the oysters; chefs employ a cast iron cone to melt down bone marrow, which then dribbles down onto the bivalve into a puddle of meaty goodness (oysters $4, bone marrow flambadou is an extra $6). Other favorites: the spicy scallop tartare ($16), which means what it says, and the blissfully briny pa am tomaquet, or tomato bread with anchovy ($13).
Next comes Pasta, and if you follow Porzana on Instagram, you already know about the sweet corn agnolotto ($29) — "the viral pasta," as my server called it. One long rope of pasta is filled with sweet corn purée and coiled over chicken jus and brown butter.
The Plates section of mostly non-beef entrees is easy to overlook when the next page is all about steak. Divided into five categories, the steak menu offers many cuts and sizes at varying price points, allowing eaters to sample lesser-known steaks, such as the Argentinian cuts, without going broke. (An 8-ounce tapa de vacio, or flank steak, is $26; the 6-ounce entraña, or skirt, is $24.) The Limited list is what one server called "the chef's playground." One beefy experiment is the koji-inoculated flank ($50 for 8 ounces), which moves along the aging process by injecting the meat with a funk-making fungus that alters the taste and texture. It's an adventure. (Potato sides live here on the menu, and the papas alpastadas [$14] — crispy hunks of potato in beurre blanc with Parmesan and bacon, is a must-have.)
The drinks: While that Bachelor Farmer policy of opening any bottle for a glass is gone, Porzana comes close by allowing pours in 3, 6 or 9 ounces. The smaller pours are perfect for pairing your way through the menu. Bill Summerville is the sommelier, and if you're fortunate enough to spot him there, ask for a recommendation.
Bar director Megan Luedtke is behind the cocktail menu, with bar manager Keith Mrotek — and that applies to the plant-filled Flora Room downstairs, too. (The Flora Room takes over the former Marvel Bar.) Both bars offer lists of Classics and Originals, and each bar has its own menu — which means you'll want to build in time for an aperitif or a nightcap at the subterranean speakeasy. Cocktails begin at $11 and go as far as $29 for a smoking snake-themed drink at the Flora Room.
Getting there: Parking is typical of the North Loop (aka hard), but there are metered street spots and ramps in the area. The restaurant offers valet for $15. But this being a highly walkable neighborhood, getting to the restaurant on foot might be the way to make the most of your visit.