Interview with Bar Hygge

Bar Hygge is a charming restaurant and bar on Fairmount Street. They are known for the comfortable atmosphere as well as their brewery (seen here behind vintage windows). I talked with two of the owners and bar manager to see how they pull it all off.

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What is your backstory, what made you decide to open a restaurant?

Julie: This is actually our second restaurant. This place is owned by two couples, Stew and I have a bar in West Conshohocken called “Baggataway Tavern,” it’s more of a sports bar / neighborhood pub. Our partners Tom and Peggy have a brew pub in Mt. Airy and the four of us just became friends over the years and decided we needed to do something together and Bar Hygge was born.

Stew: Basically, all four of us at one point or another were in the corporate world. We decided we wanted to work 80 hours a week instead of 40.

What does Hygge actually mean?

Julie: The essence of hygge is about coziness but it’s more of an emotional coziness so being able to connect to the moment.

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Whether it’s a moment with yourself or a moment with friends and family. It’s kind of like a warm, fuzzy, “I love you man” type of feeling.

Stew: I always like to recreate the ability for people to come and connect with each other. In Denmark they don’t say “Let’s go have a beer,” they say “Let’s go have hygge.” It means “Let’s commit to committing ourselves to each other for the next couple hours.”

Where did you get all of the furniture in the restaurant?

Julie: We wanted to have a room that was really about getting cozy and a little bit more intimate than being in the bustle of a dining room. When we opened we started populating this room piece-by-piece with vintage furniture off Craigslist or estate sales. It’s become really popular in here, especially with families, not having to confine your small child to a table and let them move their bodies a little bit makes it easier for the dining experience for mom and dad.

Stew: This was an empty space, we had to kind of create hygge from scratch so we used a ton of repurposed material. The doors on the wall are from an old building in center city. The windows are from Craigslist. We wanted a space that really captured the warmth of what hygge is all about. That’s why there are not tvs anywhere. It’s amazing how many people thank us for that as opposed to complain.

What are some of your most popular drinks and dishes?

Stew: Well, we brew on site, so Tom, our partner has been brewing for 27 years now I think, so he actually has a little bit of a following. We brew a little bit non-traditionally, not so many IPAs, a few more lagers, stuff like that. Julie has some wine certifications so we actually care a lot about the wine list. She tries make it approachable but not all the same stuff you’ve seen before. We have a super talented bar manager, Nicole.

Julie: She’s a cocktail whiz so we let her kind of run the show back there. We carry a lot of local spirits and we are choosy about who we add to our wine list or put on the back bar. We like people who kind of get their hands dirty making the product and not so much corporate distilleries. She really has a knack for creating things that really let those spirits shine.

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Menu-wise we really tried to create a menu that was easily shared. We have our Hygge Boards which are kind of mix-and-match options; you have cheeses, veggies, proteins. One of the things that was really important to us was to have a lot of vegetarian options. We like to eat healthy most of the time and our partners are vegetarians. There just aren’t a lot of restaurants like that, you either go to an all vegetarian restaurant or a regular restaurant with maybe two or three vegetarian options for people. We want to make sure that whether you’re vegetarian or gluten-free or whatever, that you come in here and have a well-rounded menu to choose from and not just the one pasta dish that doesn’t have meat in it.

Stew: We want the vegetarian options to not just look like an afterthought. Our executive chef is Julie Kline, she’s pretty awesome. If you couldn’t tell already, this place is pretty much female-ran and it’s not by accident either.

What sustainability measures has Bar Hygge taken?

Stew: We’re part of the Sustainable Business Network and all of our spent food is composted and all of our wasted oil is recycled. Our waste from the brewery all goes to a local agricultural high school for supplemental feed for the grass-fed cows.

Julie: We make choices to use only compostable take-out containers and we love that everyone is adopting the paper straw movement. We try to use cleaning products that won’t contaminate the water stream. We do everything we can to have a very small footprint as a business.

Visit them online at http://www.barhygge.com

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