First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The motto at Finnegan’s Public House is “Laughter is brightest where food is best.” If that’s true, then customers should be rolling in the aisles as this mighty mite flexes its home-cookin’ muscles. The template: big portions of reasonably priced food, imaginatively made to order.
Chef co-owner (with wife Mary) John Finnegan grew up on a farm in the Delta town of Clarksburg. “The concept of farm-to-fork isn’t new to me,” he said. “I’m sourcing as many local ingredients as I can.”
Finnegan ran the Cajun Wagon food truck in 2013. The couple opened the restaurant on April 1 in the former A&K BBQ dining room, with Mary Finnegan engineering touches of cozy comfort, including fresh flowers on the tables and art-for-sale on the walls.
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Menu: Substantial standards on the breakfast and lunch menus, with some nice surprises. Scrambled eggs take on new luster when mingled with smoked salmon, and pancakes have been reimagined (corn-cheddar, cinnamon-apple, banana-pecan). Lunch includes po’ boy sandwiches (blackened chicken and tri-tip, hot link, cornmeal-crusted catfish) and a “veggie melt” of roasted mushrooms and red bell peppers with Gruyere and basil-pesto aoli.
More interesting are the chalkboard specials: Nutella-banana-strawberry french toast sandwich, bacon-apple-gorgonzola omelet, from-scratch soups, jalapeño-cheddar crab cake, grilled artichoke with tarragon aioli and avocado vinaigrette, and the like.
Price point: Almost all the dishes are under $10, which seems fair.
Ambiance: Close quarters, but pleasant. A five-stool counter complements seven tables.
Drinks: Smoothies (mango-coconut, honey-blueberry), Vietnamese-style iced coffee, almond milk and sodas will be joined by beer and wine. “The licensing is in the process. We’ll open for dinner hopefully in a month,” Finnegan said.
Service: The lone server was courteous and as prompt as possible.
First impressions: At a recent breakfast, a trio of giant pancakes filled a plate, along with an open-face frittata of oyster mushrooms, spinach, tomato, garlic and Gruyere. The pancakes were fluffy and light, spiked with sweet fresh blackberries and slightly salty Brie cheese, a combination of flavor bursts that wed well.
A pile of tender red-skin potatoes paired with the egg dish, along with thick slices of sourdough toast from the estimable Truckee Sourdough Co. We agreed the split-and-grilled hot link had just the right heat. We tasted a pair of buttermilk biscuits which had been split, run through a convection oven and lightly buttered. The crispy-tender morsels were a revelation.
On a solo lunch another day, the chalkboard-special mushroom soup held more sliced mushrooms than seemed possible to cram into a bowl, along with crisp bits of smoky bacon.
The daily-special oyster po’ boy was a soft roll stuffed with lettuce, tomato, fried fresh oysters and a whole lot of from-scratch spicy remoulade, the French sauce that marries so well with seafood. However, there was so much going on in the po’ boy that the point of the sandwich – the fried oysters – got waylaid.
Try it if: You like skillful home cookin’ with flair and strive to be among the first to line up at new restaurants.
Forget it if: Your breakfast-lunch go-to’s are IHOP or Denny’s.
FINNEGAN’S PUBLIC HOUSE
- Where: 3751 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento
- Hours: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays; live music is played 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays. Get breakfast any time.
- Information: (916) 822-4713, www.facebook.com