Head down to the corner
Finnegan’s Public House
Finnegan’s Public House3751 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95820
Nestled in the corner of the M&R Carpet building across from Luigi’s Pizza Parlor in Oak Park, there’s a little gem of a cafe that’s opened. The name—Finnegan’s Public House—belies its true character, and the location is a blink-and-you-miss-it spot.
Don’t miss it, though.
Owned by husband and wife John and Mary Finnegan, the Public House is somewhat misnamed. Instead of pints and chips, agrave; la de Vere’s Irish Pub, here you get eggs and bacon with a side of personal touches. It’s really more of a corner cafe.
Chef John Finnegan is a longtime veteran of professional kitchens, most recently with Evan’s Kitchen and Catering and the now defunct Cajun Wagon food truck. Previously, he also owned a popular restaurant in Connecticut for 12 years. Now he produces “fun, innovative, creative cuisine,” as it says on his Facebook page.
It’s a small place, with only about 20 seats between tables and the counter. Homestyle touches like plants in repurposed wine bottles and photos by a local artist add to the neighborly appeal.
Each time we went, customers chatted between tables and called back hellos to the kitchen. The music is eclectic and highbrow, cookbooks from places like the French Laundry are perched on the bar.
All of which is to say it’s a little place that’s full of surprises. Open only for breakfast and lunch, Finnegan’s has an all-day menu and a large board of daily specials. They excel at unusual flavor combinations that pay off.
There are lots of pancake options, all based on huge tangy buttermilk flapjacks ($5). The blackberry-brie ($9) is already famous, and a great example of an unexpected pairing that works. Corn-cheddar ($8) is more on the savory side, but fresh blueberry and banana-pecan ($7 each) are worth trying, too.
A special waffle ($9) one day contained tender kernels of corn and came with a Granny Smith and maple topping. The Belgian-style round waffle ($9) sent me straight to childhood, with its salty-sweet crunch like my mother’s fresh corn fritters.
There’s also a section called Skillet Specials, which are served in a 6-inch cast-iron skillet. The Texas Pink ($8) includes scrambled eggs with jalapeño, red potatoes, cheddar, salsa and sour cream. The promised side of pink grapefruit turned out to be melon, but no matter. Despite a light hand with the chilis, the combo is delicious.
The chef must appreciate tang, because the biscuits ($1.50 for a side) are buttermilk-based as well. They come split and buttered, but you can still make out a light texture and tender crumb.
There are also a variety of po’boys based on John Finnegan’s food-truck days. The chicken version ($9) comes crusted with Cajun spices and slathered with remoulade (maybe just a bit too much). It’s juicy and not too large, served on a softer bun than classic, but good nonetheless.
A BLT ($7) is always a good indicator of the kitchen’s prowess. Finnegan’s comes on dry-toasted sourdough without the crusts—very old-school style. The tomato wasn’t as ripe and local as I’d hoped, but with supercrispy bacon, just the right amount of mayo and crunchy lettuce, it turned out to be a fine example of the classic.
The only real misstep we found was a special acorn squash soup ($3.50 for a cup, $6 for a bowl). Pureed with apples and ginger, it was so thick it would have been better as a side with pork chops. While the ginger was a nice addition, the soup was too sweet.
It’s a pretty exhaustive menu and a lot for a small kitchen to keep track of, but so far they seem to be turning out solidly good, very large portions. Brave the traffic on Stockton and the odd parking lot. It’s worth finding Finnegan’s.