Thanks in large part to a Humboldt Avenue bridge construction project that crawled to completion in June 2010, a handful of restaurants and bars were adversely impacted when one of the primary roads connecting the Brady Street district to Riverwest was cut off. By the time the bridge re-opened, both Bayou and The Good Life were closed.
Sprawling restaurant and craft beer bastion Stubby’s Pub & Grub quickly took over Bayou's spot. Not long after, hip taco and tequila purveyor Bel Air Cantina occupied The Good Life’s plot. To give potential Cantina customers a place to drink while waiting for a table at the popular Bel Air, the Mojofuco group (of Balzac, Palomino, Fuel Café, Hi-Hat fame) snatched up neighboring bar Redroom in December.
And after extensive remodeling and a thematic overhaul, 1875 N. Humboldt Ave. was reopened earlier this month as Fink’s.
Not one to waste time, I swung by Fink’s last week to give the woodsy East Side lounge an early look. By the time I found a (hopefully legal) place to park and walked the three blocks to Fink’s, I had just missed happy hour. But when I realized the daily happy hour was nothing particularly special ($3 rail mixers and $4 cocktails), I stopped kicking myself for my tardiness.
There is, however, a Fink’s daily special - of the all-day and every day variety - that did strike my fancy. Every day of the week, a mere Thomas Jefferson, a scant two Sacagawea gold pieces, a quartet of Kennedy coins… or other more traditional ways of achieving $2 can score patrons a Rhinelander Shorty or cans of Hamm’s and Old Style.
Maybe it was the forest wallpaper or, more likely, the fact that I wanted something to wet my whistle while I took a closer look at the drink list. Whatever it was that led me to the decision, I opted for a Hamm’s (my grandmother’s beer of choice in Lakewood, Wis.) and took it, along with the drink list, to one of Fink’s two window-adjacent two-top tables and waited for a friend to arrive.
As I examined the menu, I found nearly 40 other beer options that touch all ends of the spectrum—from the aforementioned $2 domestic staples, to obscure $4 and $6 craft beer options from Fink’s rotating tap line (currently hosting North Coast and Southern Tier beers). Of course, bottles of regional favorites like most Lakefront products, as well as Pabst, Schlitz, Capitol and Miller offerings were present as well.
Fink’s is even better equipped in terms of its liquor selection, particularly those of the whiskey variety. In all, 18 whiskey options are on hand—19, if you count a default rail option that I decided to have mixed into my Old Fashioned #1, the most enticing of Fink’s nine house specialty “lounge cocktails.”
Now fully enmeshed in the dim and stylish Northwoods motif of holiday lights, wood signage and archaic arcade games (imagine the interior-design lovechild from Blackbird and Camp Bar's one night stand), my whiskey old fashioned sweet ($6) was a scrumptious-yet-potent amalgamation of whiskey, muddled orange and fresh cherries, simple syrup, citrus soda and a generous dousing of bitters.
Though the incredible cherry chunks alone nearly prompted a repeat order, I returned to the alluring affordability of Hamm’s twice more, continuing my conversation in the cozy bar’s window booth and watching new patrons come in and out. Some were meeting friends out for a weeknight cocktail, and others were likely coming from a meal across the street. Regardless of their reasons for coming, Fink’s has the makings of a place people will be sure to visit again.