Common sense tells you to start with impressive facts: Two-time James Beard award semifinalist, operator of eight successful Minneapolis restaurants. That’s the facts, and it’s pretty phenomenal. But the facts don’t tell you everything. The good that’s been done. The fun that’s been had. Here’s the rest of the story:
Bartmann grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, going to her first Supper Club in a Baby Bjorn, with a mom named Pat (this is all foreshadowing). Drawn to the Twin Cities’ culture and diversity at a young age, she went to the University of Minnesota, working a variety of restaurant jobs to pay her way through school.
Encouraged by a friend to open her own coffee shop, she borrowed some money from the aforementioned Pat and bootstrapping the project, opened neighborhood favorite Café Wyrd in 1991. She hasn’t stopped since then.
Today, she’s gone from making neighborhoods better with restaurants to being a national leader in sustainability and the ‘greening’ of restaurant operations, focusing on agriculture, energy use, waste reduction, use of tap water and elimination of plastic bottles, air quality, and serving healthy food. She’s been buying local and organic since the early 90’s, supporting dozens of regional family farms- and today, is dedicated to urban farming. Her team cultivated half of an acre of land near Tiny Diner,. and leases three plots on Garden Farme, Minnesota's first organic farm, distributing the produce to all of her restaurants during the summer months. Two farmers are on the payroll, living on site, tending to the crops full time, creating a farm-to-table framework that's scalable.
Currently, Bartmann is the President emeritus on the board of International Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, working to advance the careers of women across the culinary industry through education, promotion, connection and inspiration. She was formerly the Vice Chair on the board of the Land Stewardship Project, a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 that fosters an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promotes sustainable agriculture, and works to develop healthy communities, and also served on the board of the Minnesota Fringe Festival.
History of Making Change Real
1993: A commitment to the community and arts was manifested with Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater. Anarchists? A stage for performances? Bison Burgers? Balls? Beers? All under one roof? Yup- and it’s still going strong.
2001: The coffeeshop morphed into a French-ish Brasserie after a couple weeks of third shifts and baristas tiling, painting, and building. A friend returned from NYC after manning Grey Kunz's Garde Manger stations, and built a menu. Chef Lisa Carlson's food was more than Bartmann had bargained for, and Barbette has been going strong ever since, with others at the helm, but still voted Best French Restaurant just recently.
2007: Minnesota’s first LEED-CI certified restaurant, Red Stag Supperclub, a nod to her youth. (And Wisconsin) (Go Pack!) (Go Fish Fries and Grasshoppers.)
2011: Bread & Pickle; a concession stand on Lake Harriet, offering elevated picnic fare like grass-fed burgers and organic ice cream. Here, the sale of plastic bottles was outlawed in a Minneapolis public park- instead selling reusable stainless bottles. Through her insistence that the park concession compost, other Minneapolis park system operators began composting as well. Later that year Pat’s Tap opened, a gastro pub with skee ball that pays tribute to the foreshadowed Pat- Kim’s mom- that got a LEED Platinum rating level as well.
2014: Tiny Diner was born- allowing her to take the company’s core values even further with its “whole-system design” framework. A translucent 22kw solar panel roof rises over an 88-seat patio, generating 80 percent of its electricity. Biointensive urban farming methods and efficient water use strategies are showcased through edible gardens, pollinator habitats, and rainwater catchment systems. Kid’s love it and it boasts a killer kale salad.
Call her nuts, but during the same year, she opened The Third Bird, a contemporary American restaurant with a wood-fired grill while simultaneously mentoring a young entrepreneur to concept Kyatchi, the 11th sustainable-only sushi restaurant in the country. (Bartmann likes to be busy.)