St. Charles' The Finery expertly incorporates farm-to-table philosophy
The Finery & Blacksmith Bar's opening in late July has reinforced St. Charles' growing reputation as a serious restaurant town.
Its co-owners and chefs, David Reyes and his wife, Juliette, bring knowledge, passion and a thoroughly professional approach to their new establishment on Main Street.
While a number of restaurants publicly endorse the farm-to-table concept and claim to adjust their menu to reflect seasonality, the follow-through isn't always there. But the Reyes seem to have incorporated these elements as essential to their operating philosophy.
The intimate Finery is housed in a beautifully maintained turn-of-the-century historic building that once served as the area's first blacksmith shop. Exposed brickwork, soft lighting and rustic distressed-wood tables and paintings of hunting scenes all harmoniously create a timeless vibe. This also extends to The Finery's small bar, which only seats six. Even so, the bartenders turn out specialty cocktails and craft beers, and the restaurant stocks an accessible wine cellar bearing domestic and international labels.
The 75-seat restaurant calls its fare -- with regionally sourced ingredients where possible -- "an ode to the American table with its diversity and global influence." Those influences reflect David Reyes' Italian, Spanish and Mexican heritage and background working in France for a two-star Michelin-rated restaurant and at multiple U.S. eateries.
Diners will not want for choices given The Finery's creative menu, which includes an appealing appetizer of tasty fried artichoke hearts served with a tomato jam, a lively paprika aioli and a sprinkling of herbs.
Among other starter possibilities are shrimp ceviche with jicama, cilantro, mango and coconut froth; grilled Malpeque oysters charred with Creole sauce, aged Parmesan and onion marmalade; and a cheese and charcuterie offering that changes every day.
Country pheasant, a signature dish worth getting to know, featured flavorful breast meat marinated in fresh truffle and pesto. This delicious main course was plated with a creamy risotto topped with sliced pheasant and a savory confit purse in which some of the meat was baked in a thin pastry.
Fish options change regularly, and during a recent visit my dining companion opted for the sea bass, which came perfectly seasoned and cooked with crisp skin and juicy flesh. Accompaniments included a leek-potato puree, sauteed spinach and homemade waffle chips.
Flat iron steak, braised pork belly and a couple of vegetarian dishes (ratatouille and chive gnocchi) also were available.
To finish our meal, we tried the chef-recommended apple tart, which came with a flaky lemon-butter crust and a scoop of salted-caramel vanilla ice cream. The apples in this luscious course came from the Reyes' own tree.
Buttermilk panna cotta, almond pound cake and a chocolate brownie rounded out the dessert offerings on our visit.
If you prefer to stop by earlier, say from 3 to 5 p.m. during the daily happy hour, you'll find discounts on beers and select appetizers, plus the ever-changing burger of the month -- from Illinois-sourced, grass-fed cows -- goes for half-price. Or stop by from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays for live acoustic music. And check The Finery's website for details on plans to initiate brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
The Finery & Blacksmith Bar305 W. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 940-2380, thefineryrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Globally influenced American fare
Setting: The decor preserves the flavor of the historic one-time village smithy
Prices: Entrees range from the midteens to the mid-$30s; desserts: $7
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday
Reservations: Recommended, especially on weekends
Parking: Street and free lot