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Bourbon Butcher hopes to open before Christmas

Owner Tony Donatell of Bourbon Butcher stands (right) at the end of his new restaurant (the former Ground Round). He hopes to open in December. (Deanna Weniger | Independent Town Pages)

No doubt Twin Cities food critics will be surprised to see some of their favorite flavors and styles popping up in semi-rural Farmington. They'll probably be just as surprised as Farmington residents who'll find themselves feeling right at home in Bourbon Butcher, a new restaurant opening before Christmas on Chippendale Ave.

Owner Tony Donatell, 36, of Savage, said the secret is finding great people to staff the restaurant, such as a general manager who has run a Hard Rock Cafe in the Mall of America, a pastry chef hailing from Hell's Kitchen, and a bartender extraordinaire who's worked in several Minneapolis restaurants and has designed her own cocktail menu.

Donatell and his family, wife Rheata and two young sons, have been working around the clock to transform the former Ground Round into the southern plantation style restaurant that has so many creative nuances, it will never be mistaken for another burger and beer chain.

And while Donatell says his style is southern, the decor feels more like the plantation's winery or barn with its expansive use of dark wood, rustic chandeliers, wooden bourbon barrels, and actual beams from an old farmhouse in Elko-New Market.

"We did the build-out ourselves," he said. "These are all our ideas and our concepts. We wanted to create a concept that belongs to Farmington."

He's also interested in getting involved with the community and already has plans to put a "fire" burger on the menu from which he'll donate a dollar per order to the Farmington Fire Department.

Speaking of fire, he's extending the outdoor patio and plans to install a fire table that he hopes will be used year round.

Anyone too curious to wait until December to see what the finished product might look like should visit Donatell's other two restaurant bars in Eagan — Burgers and Bottles, and the speakeasy next door, Volstead House Whiskey Bar. Eater Minneapolis rated Volstead House in the top twelve best bars for bourbon and whiskey snobs in the Twin Cities area.

Donatell carries the main themes of fire and wood and meat and specialty drinks over to Bourbon Butcher, with a few tweaks to make the restaurant unique, such as a smoker for the meat and southern-style drinks and dishes that complement that flavor.

A family man, Donatell says kids are welcome at his establishment too. He's got a burger menu and a bottle wall the kids will flip for. He does not serve any pop with high fructose corn syrup. Instead, he offers Whistler Classic Sodas in an array of colors and flavors such as Cheerwine, Orange Cream, Blue Raspberry and Rootbeer.

He's not worried that the other two restaurants to fill this space didn't make it. He says his Eagan restaurants prove he's got staying power.

Burgers and Bottles was an Oasis Market gas station in a strip mall. He remodeled it and then expanded into other empty stores in the mall. In fact, he's already got his eye on the empty store next to Bourbon Butcher.

"It's not cursed," he said. "You just have to come up with the right thing people want."

The restaurant can seat about 150 people, has a price range of $9 to $18 and will likely be open from 11 a.m. to midnight. The menu has something for the foodies like roasted beet salad and salmon gravlax as well as comfort food like steak and flame-grilled burgers.

"We're for anybody from a beer drinker to a wine drinker to kids," he said. "We'll appease the foodies, but we'll also have burgers and fries."

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