The first impression I had of Finn’s Southern Kitchen is that, as I walked into the space for the first time, it didn’t look like any Southern-style restaurant I’d ever seen. My second impression was the aroma of fried chicken that wafted in my direction, and I knew all was well.
You see, Finn’s looks and feels like a modern, upscale restaurant where you’d expect to find plenty of duck and sea bass and small plates; but at its core, it is focused on hearty, fresh food and friendly service, at least based on the experience I had.
My girlfriend, Cynthia, and I met our friends Judy and Fred for dinner — they were first-timers as well — and our friendly server quickly brought us waters and took drink orders.
I peered about the restaurant, with its modern lighting and decor, finished wood floors and backlit bar, and had no idea quite what to expect.
Our menus consisted of layered paper on small clipboards and featured items like fried chicken, a hot brown and country fried steak, and I was certain we’d be trying small-ish, stylized versions of such Southern staples. Turns out, I was wrong.
Judy ordered the veggie burger with a side of Kentucky collard greens, while Fred chose barbecued pulled chicken and a side of potato salad. I ordered slow-braised pot roast, while Cynthia, after much consternation and debate, went for a house special in the Ultimate Biscuit.
It was around this time our server first called one of us “darlin’,” and I knew we were most assuredly about to have a laid-back Southern-style dining experience.
Meanwhile, a large party was seated next to us, complete with a toddler, making me realize just why Finn’s has a kids’ menu. The place looks like a cocktail bar, but it’s family-friendly all the way.
Our food came relatively quickly in two waves — Fred and Judy got their sandwiches first, and about two minutes later, the entrees arrived. Everything came in ample portions, especially for the reasonable pricing.
Judy’s veggie burger came out on a brioche bun and was made with black-eyed peas (a nice, Southern twist) and topped with avocado puree. She raved about it. I sampled the greens and found them to be some of the most flavorful I’ve had in recent memory.
(It also was a nice touch that our server warned Judy the greens were seasoned with pork — just in case she was vegan.)
Fred made easy work of his sizable chicken sandwich, which he also was quite pleased with.
“I inhaled that thing,” he said after he finished.
A sample of the “classic” potato salad gave me memories of family cookouts of the past — fluffy and flavorful.
Cynthia’s dinner was quite a sight: a huge Finn’s biscuit (we were served some before dinner, and they were wonderful) topped with delicious sausage gravy, a pair of fried chicken tenders, cheese, a fried egg, and two strips of bacon.
I managed to sample most of the contents, and I have to agree that she scored on that one; the chicken tenders tasted like true fried chicken, and the bacon was, well, bacon. She was happy she decided to venture away from her usual restaurant choice of pulled pork.
My meal was one I’d love to revisit one day, anchored by a bigger-than-expected portion of tender beef roast, a medium-sized dollop of fluffy mashed potatoes topped with brown gravy, and mixed vegetables cooked in veggie confit and served with a cornbread muffin.
I had some concern that vegetables might turn to mush (my mom’s usually did), but the carrots, which outdistanced the onions and celery in the blend, were cooked just right — soft but with a bit of snap left in them.
I was not surprised when I got full before my plate was empty. In fact, Fred was the only one at the table left with a clean plate once it was all said and done. But there were four happy bellies.
Our server used the term “darlin’” one last time as we paid our bills and thanked her for the service and meal. Of course, as we left, I still felt tempted to sidle up to the bar and order a manhattan. But don’t be fooled by the upscale feel — Finn’s is pure Southern hospitality.
Finn’s Southern Kitchen, located at 1318 McHenry St. in Schnitzelburg, is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday though Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday; and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sunday. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday.