ST. CHARLES – As the country continues to grow and evolve into the confluence of cultures that it is today, it poses the question: What does the American dinner table look like? The Finery & Blacksmith Bar in downtown St. Charles is setting out to answer that question, but on its own terms.
In July, married couple David and Juliette Reyes of West Chicago opened The Finery, sharing the culinary stage as owners and working the kitchen in tandem. Classically trained in French cooking, the duo has created a contemporary, American menu that focuses on seasonality, finesse with flavors and locally-sourced ingredients.
“We set out to put together a place that was an ode to the American table with a very diverse background,” David Reyes said, adding that his Italian and Spanish roots, as well as his Mexican parents contributed to the culturally-infused ingredients that go into the dishes gracing The Finery’s menu. “It’s a broad spectrum of different cultures that have influenced the way we cook and our menus.”
For David Reyes, cooking has always been a family affair. A zest for food was instilled in him as a child while working alongside his mother in the kitchen and in restaurants owned by his grandfather. One of his earliest childhood memories of restauranteering was when he would travel in a Ford pickup truck with his grandfather to Fulton Market in Chicago to select “hogs and produce for the restaurant.”
That’s where it started, he said.
After studying culinary arts at Kendall College, where he met Juliette, David Reyes worked in a two-Michelin-star-rated restaurant in France; soaked up the culinary know-how from about 20 other restaurants around Chicago; and traveled the U.S. helping others to fulfill their dreams of opening restaurants, before settling on St. Charles to open his own.
The restaurant’s name derives from the historical significance of the building. The location of The Finery & Blacksmith Bar, David Reyes said, was the first blacksmith shop in St. Charles.
“Once we learned the history of the building, we decided on the name,” he said. “We wanted something that denoted the finer approach on dining, and we thought of a name like The Finery, which is the oven that the blacksmith uses to finish off more detailed pieces of metal. I thought that was very suiting.”
The turn-of-the-century building’s rustic yet refined “1920s chic” interior makes way for an eclectic, farm-to-table dining concept in which the quality of ingredients reigns supreme.
“We’re very much about – not necessarily – local and organic, but the right ingredient, and – often – that’s local and organic,” said David Reyes, who sources menu items such as pheasant from MacFarlane farm, and trout from Rushing Waters Fisheries, both in Wisconsin.
Starters, salads, seafood, poultry, meat and pastas grace a seasonal and condensed menu. The chef favorites include the bistro’s staple dish, the Country Pheasant with summer truffle, creamy risotto, confit purse and pesto; Marinated Beets with buffalo mozzarella, spiced candied walnuts, celery puree and an orange reduction; and the American Bouillabaisse with gulf prawn, shrimp, scallop, mussels, whitefish, spinach, marble potatoes, saffron broth, crostini and rouille.
Juliette Reyes, 27, who has worked in Chicago restaurants, such as the upscale Italian eatery Spiaggia, said that with the world being so accessible, people are flocking toward the foreign- and traditional-infused flavors available at The Finery.
“Our generation has access to so much globally nowadays that I think that people have a taste for more than just meat and potatoes, and they want to feel like they are in a comfortable space in their house ... .” she said, while referencing the pairing of the bistro’s traditional Flat Iron Steak and its Argentinian-inspired ancho-chile and chimichurri marinade.
The same painstaking care that went into The Finery’s menu, also went into the restaurant’s list of libations. Chiefly Midwestern-centric brews, hand-crafted cocktails and eclectic wines detail the menu.
A self-proclaimed wine fanatic, David Reyes set out to offer wines that matched the food. The wine list, which was supposed to feature 10 wines by the glass and 25 bottles, has grown to 20 wines by the glass and is approaching 100 bottles, he said.
“All of them have been handpicked and tasted, and we made sure that it was a really good representation of what we were trying to do,” David Reyes said, adding that he sought flavors within various varietals, rather than solely focusing on brands.
The restaurant cellar houses “everything from Alsace Gewürztraminer to a South African chenin blanc,” David Reyes said, while honing in on two wines recently featured in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list – the Emeritus 2012 pinot noir from California and the O. Fournier 2010 malbec from Argentina.
So far, the Reyes’ are grateful for the reception they’ve had from the community, and are “cautiously optimistic” about the future of The Finery.
“We haven’t achieved anything yet,” David Reyes said. “We’ve seen there’s a market for what we’re trying to do, now let’s build on it. Let’s make it into a lot of people from the city coming out to the suburbs to dine. That’s what we’re setting out to do.”
If you go
• WHAT: The Finery & Blacksmith Bar
• WHERE: 305 W. Main St., St. Charles
• HOURS: 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 3 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 to 9 p.m. Sundays
• INFO: www.thefineryrestaurant.com or 630-940-2380
• UPCOMING EVENT: The Finery will host a grand opening event, featuring a ribbon cutting ceremony and appetizer and cocktail reception, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the restaurant.