Order this... The new Finn’s is a ‘delight’

Fri, 06/22/2018 - 8:45am
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When my husband and I had kids, Finn’s was the only restaurant we’d take them to. They’d order a cabinet (a Rhode Island classic dating back to WWII — coffee syrup, ice cream and milk), hot dog and french fries, drink half the cabinet, eat six fries and fight over the ketchup. The kids could watch the ferries come and go and my husband and I would enjoy a dinner of fresh fish for as long as the french fries lasted.

Finn’s has been around for a long, long time. So I was surprised to see this notice on Facebook in March: “For all who have been asking, we, Fred and Debbie, are retiring after 40 years! But Finn's will go on. Jessica Wronowski who owns and operates Dead Eye Dick's will be running Finn's beginning this year. We are excited to see what she will do, what will change, what will stay the same. Come by in May to enjoy the new Finn’s!!!”

I’m here to report the “new Finn’s” is delightful. The interior is entirely renovated, from top to bottom and side to side. Fresh paint, new furniture, modern lighting, high tables, a comfortable lounge with an oversized couch—those are just some of the notable changes to the interior.  The food and beverage menu have also been reimagined in a fresh and interesting way. A newly edited wine list accompanies a whimsical craft beer and cocktail selection, notable for their names as well as ingredients in each.  A beer called the 21st Amendment consists of an El Sully lager in a Michelada — which Jess told me is beer over ice with a base made from sangrita, a house-made Bloody Mary Mix with a chili salt rim.  As you read through the drink menu, be sure to look for a secret cocktail with a description including glazed donuts. 

Jess hopes that customers to Finn’s, both first-time and long-time, will see that it still retains the casual “clamshack” feeling while also allowing for new additions such as a raw bar, new salads, and new recipes that showcase Finn’s fresh fish right off the boat. 

Because Jessica runs both Deadeye Dicks and Finn’s, I interviewed the two chefs who head up both restaurants — and happen to be brothers — Scott Ferguson and Chad Lovett.

What made you want to be a chef?

Ferg: My mom wasn’t a good cook at all, so my brothers and I took over cooking. Growing up in Mobile Bay, Alabama, there was always fresh seafood — crawfish, catfish, we’d have crab boils —

Chad: — we had fun doing it, there’s this Jubilee every year where all the flounder, crabs, and big fish just beach themselves and we’d go and cook it all up. 

How did you end up on Block Island?

Chad: I came up with some friends in 2005, liked it, and worked the next season as a sous chef at Dead Yye’s.  Then I was the head chef at The Narragansett and got my brother Ferg up here, he went to The Manisses and worked with Ross Audino, then went over to Poor People’s with him as a sous, and… 

Ferg:…now I’m the executive chef for Finn’s and Deadeye’s and we work together, even though we hardly see each other.  Sometimes we air high-five each other if we’re passing on the road driving between these two places.

What food do you never want to eat again?

Chad: Haggis — it was just too much, too earthy for me.

Ferg: New England Clam Chowder! (Both laugh). I am the only one who makes it at Dead Eye’s and here and even though it’s good, it’s just a lot of chowder. 

What’s your favorite food to cook with? 

Ferg: I like anything that reminds me of home and the food I grew up cooking.  Our scallawag burger is served on buttered Texas Toast, just like you’d get at home.  And anything seafood, like red snapper.

Chad: Seafood for me, or surf and turf.  I like the challenge of it.

Who was your most memorable customer?

Ferg: I served Jimmy Buffet when I was working at The Manisses and he offered to take me surfing off his yacht the next day.  I’m still waiting!

Chad: I love the Race Week crowd — they all come in and the captains order for the whole table, so you’ll get a waitperson saying “The captain wants this or that.”

If you go out to eat on the island, where do you go and what do you order?

Chad: I like the noodle bowl at TigerFish, and the Tuna Nachos at Eli’s. For bar food, I go to Poor People’s.

Ferg: I get the prawns at TigerFish, the scallops at Eli’s, and Berke’s pork chops at Winfield’s for finer dining.

What do you like about working at Finn’s?

Both: Having the fish market right there. Now that we’re official fishmongers, we can buy fish directly from the day boats and guys like Matt King (a Block Island fisherman). Our scallops come from a local, our lobsters are from Ocean State Lobster.

Chad: We also get real fresh bluefish — the other day we smoked it along with some mackerel and salmon for our sampler platter. It’s served with pickled grapes and its really, really good.

What’s your favorite dish at Finn’s?

Ferg: The Ole Miss Oyster because it’s like food from home for me.  It’s a broiled oyster with homemade pimento cheese — that recipe’s from the Mississippi Delta, and we also use it in our Fried Chicken Sandwich. 

Chad: Yea, that sandwich is my favorite—it’s got that pimento cheese, coleslaw, and a Martin’s potato roll which is buttery, airy, and tastes like home.

What would you eat for your last meal? 

Chad: A thick porterhouse with crawfish white sauce.

Ferg: My dad’s fried venison.

I had the pleasure of trying one item from each of Finn’s new menu headings: Tuna Poke Tacos from “On The Plate,” Ole Miss Oysters from “On the Shell,” and Fried Chicken from “On The Bun.” The tacos were a wonderful blend of fish, kimchi and herb rice served in a fried nori taco shell and topped with cucumber yogurt. The crunch of the shell was a nice contrast with the fresh tuna poke inside, with the kimchi, rice and sauce tempering the soy sauce and sesame flavor of the poke.  The oysters were just as good as Ferg described, both the pimento cheese and oyster held equal billing in terms of taste. 

We had no room for dessert but watched a few amazing sorbets nestled in a half-pineapple pass our table on their way to lucky patrons. 

I asked Jess if  they still carry cabinets. She replied that they now have fancy milkshakes — such as a S’more’s milkshake with German chocolate ice cream, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker crumbles. I know what I’ll be having next time I come to Finn’s… with or without my kids.