PICTURED: Sweet potato fries, Western burger and cucumber sour beer Photo by Dane Edmondson

Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen
494 East Main St., Ventura

When I first settled in Ventura County, several of my newly made friends informed me that on Tuesday I could hit up downtown and take in a movie, mai tai and some tacos for roughly what a pint of Pabst Blue Ribbon costs in L.A. This “local day” extravaganza truly is a gem to experience, and now a tradition of mine. Until recently, I would meander along on my “pub crawl,” pass by the vacant building on the corner of California and Main and wonder why the hell it was unoccupied. After a brief flirting session with a certain art institute, the idyllic location is now pulsing with a vibrant atmosphere in the form of Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen.

Wisely utilizing the natural light of the space, Finney’s has a duplicitous layout, using a strategically placed brick wall as a partition which separates the main dining area and bar. I chose the bar side as it was the only available seating, an encouraging sign considering it was 3 o’clock. Many of the patrons were (I assumed) partaking in the excellent offerings at happy hour (Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.).

With over 30 beers on tap and a boastful selection of wine and craft cocktails, Finney’s

Buffalo cauliflower Photo by Dane Edmondson

libation game is on point. I went with the cucumber sour beer, which was light and refreshing, punctuated with a tart bite. I also decided to pick a few appetizers from the happy hour menu to kick off my culinary quest.

The first dish I entertained is a favorite of mine, Buffalo cauliflower. This buzz dish has been seen on many menus lately, and the iterations aren’t always up to standard. Thankfully this was not the case here, as Finney’s delivered a heaping portion of crunchy and spicy delight. Accented with crumbles of blue cheese, Italian parsley and one of the most unique Buffalo sauces I’ve had, the plate was evenly balanced and fantastic.

My second choice, however, was the real show stealer: the fried chicken and waffle bites. Served on a pillowy Belgian waffle and glistening with honey butter glaze, the crispy chicken tenders and their partner danced a ballet of bliss. Amalgamating sweet, salty and just enough pepper in the breading for spice, the bites were a treasure trove of tasteful tones. The only knock I had is that there wasn’t a 20-piece serving, because I would’ve demolished them all!

The next plate was the runner-up of the afternoon, the mushroom and truffle flatbread. Thin and delicate, the crust was first rate, and provided a lavish bed for the mushrooms, fontina, black garlic, arugula and truffle cream. The combined flavor spectrum of the mushroom medley was rich and decadent, allowing the light nip of the arugula to present itself every

Mushroom and truffle flatbread Photo by Dane Edmondson

so often. It was all I could do to not eat the whole thing, but I decided to save room for my final item.

I have always been drawn to a classic Western burger, and the hickory BBQ burger was more than enticing. A combination of ground chuck, brisket and hangar steak, the patty was a hearty portion of charbroiled deliciousness. Married with bacon, American cheese, house-made barbecue sauce and an onion ring to boot, the burger’s focus was concise and well executed. It is served a la carte, and I highly recommend an add on of sweet potato fries, which were magnificent.

Finney’s has accomplished what many restaurants have merely mused about, and should be applauded for its manifestation. I encourage everyone to go and enjoy a welcomed addition to the burgeoning downtown scene.