finn town...hooking ryan scott's last stand
Finn Town in the Castro opened to much fanfare and has gotten quite the following with it's cocktails, happy hour, brunch and down home like food offerings. But like many things in the SF restaurant scene, nothing truly stays the same forever and that includes popular spots like Finn Town.
Originally started and helmed by Ryan Scott, a past Top Chef alum, it seems he has decided to move on and concentrate on his own "brand" which means a new chef moved into his spot and has put his own spin on the menu changing up it with new dishes, removal of some past dishes, while still holding onto some of the most popular menu options. But before all that went down, me and Ms. O decided to finally give the place a try as we got in on some of the of Chef Scott's originals before they disappeared from the menu. Thus, while two of these are still available, the rest are not, but since we sent, I thought I'd still do a wrap up because that is my blog, Places I've Eaten, not, Places I've Eaten and This Is What They Are Still Serving.
As it was the last time around, or close to it, for the past menu we felt it was necessary to try as many things as possible. Not because we are gluttons, we are, there is no argument on that. But because we didn't want to miss out on something good which may go away. (At the time we really didn't know most of them would.)
Ah, crab croquettes, kind of old school and a variation of crab cakes. They were full of Dungeness crab without too much filler and then nicely deep fried golden brown and crunchy. Not greasy at all and you could taste the the delicate lumpy pieces of crab inside. Served with a side of tartar sauce which didn't have much going on. Could have used a little dill or something other herb to brighten it up. The radish side really seemed just for color and crunch, though can't say it was necessary. These are no longer on the menu which is too bad. Maybe next crab season they will come back?
Here's another diner, Southern food staple that seems to pop up on menus everywhere in this town including bars. On the menu these get their own shout out and are one of the two things still available. They are three for $6 or six for $10. They are pretty standard creamed egg filling with a sprinkle of paprika and chives served with a side of their house made hot sauce. While these tasted exactly like what they were, neither I nor Ms. O found them very exciting. They are really very basic as far as the filling goes. No special herbs or additions like relish or bacon or jalapeños. The house hot sauce, however, is really where all the action is for these. It is hot and does give a real kick to the eggs, though it will overwhelm any flavor you might get from the egg. Fortunately there isn't much to hide so the hot sauce can shine. If you don't like heat, skip it. And unless you just like creamy egg flavor, you could skip these too.
This is the seared lamb meatloaf with mint pesto, Swiss chard, fingering potatoes on a bed of mashed potatoes with lamb au jus. A very interesting take on meatloaf by using lamb and while we both liked it, I will say it came across as more of a lamb gyro type meat as opposed to your mother's meatloaf. Still, it had some great spice and was tender and juicy, no ketchup needed here! It was very much an upscaled diner food dish with the chard adding a little bitter off set to the mildly sweet mint pesto and potatoes. A hearty dish which has also faded from the everyday menu and is now just part of their daily specials menu and served only on Saturday.
Much like the deviled egg, a fried chicken sandwich seems de rigueur for menus in town and Finn Town has their own. The version I had was a cornflake encrusted and deep fried served on a toasted brioche bun with cole slaw and spiced aioli. The chicken breast I got was quite big and hung way over the edges of the bun. The cornflake definitely helps add just a little extra bit of crispiness to it. However, the one I got was fried just a minute or two too long. Parts of the crust had a bit of a burnt taste and the chicken breast bordered on dry. It helped that there was excess aioli and the slaw also had mayo, but the burnt and dry were still there in the background.
With so many versions of fried chicken sandwiches in this town you'd think places would take extra care to make theirs stand out, but I've had better. Not surprisingly this sandwich is still on the menu though in a different form. They don't list it as cornflake crusted but as something that comes with black garlic bbq, slaw and pickles. But the cornflake crusted fried chicken is available on their brunch menu as part of their chicken and waffles so there is that.
The fries were pretty good. Thin, crispy, nicely salted and as you can see, a more than plentiful portion to get your carb on with.
All right then, as if the previous weren't enough, we got dessert too!!! Well, it is me and Ms. O and we do love our desserts. I was interested to try their take on a deconstructed hummingbird cake, a Southern specialty. Here it is a mini spiced pecan bundt cake with roasted pineapple, a banana underneath that big dried pineapple and topped with cream cheese ice cream and a buttered rum sauce. It was surely interesting, sticky and sweet. They served it warm which was nice. Overall it had some nice flavors in the pineapple and sauce but I am more inclined to the original version as you know I do so love my cream cheese icing. While the ice cream had a mild flavor of it, for me, it doesn't really substitute for the real thing. Nice try though. It is also no longer on the menu.
Not to be outdone, Ms. O ordered up another item no longer available, a blondie topped coffee ice cream, caramel sauce and toffee. Holy craps and I thought the hummingbird cake was sweet, my teeth still ache just thinking about this one. Ooey gooey blondie bar, buttery toffee, thick caramel sauce and rich ice cream, yikes! Two small bites of this and I was done. Good, but one, I'm not the biggest fan of ice cream, coffee flavor or toffee and eating all that rich blondie and caramel sauce would send me right into sugar coma nap time. Between the two of us we couldn't finish it but don't fret, it made its way to a doggie box for her BF to nosh on.
Ultimately, while several of these dishes are no longer on the menu, Finn Town was/is still worth a visit. They seem to be trying hard to be one of those neighborhood restaurants offering a mix of dishes with broad appeal and moderately inventive takes on new foods. The fact they seem to have caught on with folks (place got crowded when we were there) is encouraging as there are many empty store fronts in the Castro area. Perusing their re-vamped menu I'm looking forward to a return visit, I might even hit them up to see what they are offering for that most venerable of SF institutions--brunch. At least here you don't have to wait in line (another less favorite SF institution) as you can make reservations, which are highly encouraged.