With Irish tradition mixed with a splash of invention, The Bull and Finch Gastropub is standing tall in Excelsior. The new establishment comes as the latest entry to Water Street’s bar and restaurant lineup, backed by co-owners Zach Brown and Victor Claffey.
Beyond the new name, Brown and Claffey put forth a healthy dose of elbow grease and performed some of the site’s renovations, including removing stained glass windows from the first level to reveal more natural light. The space strives for a warmer vibe and a touch of Ireland with leather seating, deep-toned wood and local signage. The lower level cellar was transformed, as well, as a draw for whiskey enthusiasts, both for dining and group events. Outdoor seating along the sidewalk, as weather permits, allows for easier adherence to social distancing.
Not only will the entire space showcase the energy of Ireland, the food also reflects European innovation. Diners should consider tucking into shepherd’s pie, Scotch eggs or fish and chips right alongside a bright Chilean sea bass, hand-cut steaks, mussels, classic burgers, pork belly or scallops.
The bar serves “contemporary twists on old classics,” Brown says. Beer lovers (or those who just love cool stuff arriving at the table) will likely take a shine to the venue’s beer towers. Think 88 ounces of your favorite brew arriving in a brass and glass vessel, equipped with a pull spigot.
After growing up in his family’s pub, Claffey opened both a pub and a daytime cafe in Ireland before moving to the U.S. in 2015. Brown attended the Culinary Institute of America and brings experience from the European gastropub scene and at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. The duo met while working at Claddagh Irish Pub in Maple Grove and since then decided to venture into a new business together. “[It has] always been a personal goal of mine to be a chef owner as I grew up in the industry,” Brown says. Claffey has always wanted to open a gastropub in America, so the two decided to create The Bull and Finch.
Though 2020 was an uncertain time for many business owners, Brown and Claffey weren’t swayed. “We have the same worries and concerns as everyone in the restaurant industry moving forward,” Brown says. “However, we felt the town of Excelsior and the space itself was too good of an opportunity to turn down.”
As this issue went to press, indoor dining was temporarily paused. Please support local restaurants by ordering takeout whenever you cannot dine in.