Downtown restaurant reopens with new space, concept and menus
Finch & Fork has reopened its fully renovated signature restaurant with a brand-new space, concept and menus by Executive Chef Craig Riker, bringing a diverse, California-inspired culinary experience to the thriving Santa Barbara restaurant scene.
Located within the Kimpton Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara, the reopening marks a new era in the evolution of the iconic restaurant, which originally opened in April 2013.
Finch & Fork at 31 W. Carrillo St. offers dining room seating for 122 people, as well as bar lounge seating for 22, lobby lounge seating for 18, and up to 36 for private events. Buyouts are available from Sunday through Thursday.
The new space, designed by Los Angeles-based Beleco, takes inspiration from the coast with deep blues and aqua marines against earthy textures and finishes such as leather and terra cotta. With an aesthetic that is warm and inviting, yet glamorous, Finch & Fork echoes the experience of dining in an elegant California estate.
“We are proud to reintroduce Finch & Fork to Santa Barbara with Chef Riker at the helm,” said Tim Thomas, director of food and beverage. “The elevated design and locally inspired menus are sure to resonate with our community and our guests.”
Chef Riker has pulled from his background across the Southeast and the West Coast to curate menus that offer a mix of comforting and crave-worthy dishes, highlighting locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Signature dishes include Chef Riker’s Fried Chicken Oysters, the tender, juicy pieces of dark meat from a Rocky Free Range chicken served with potato puree and hot honey sauce; local Diver Scallops with Acquerello risotto, Serrano ham, Roman artichokes and Grana Padano; and plump local Hope Ranch Mussels in a coconut curry broth, served with grilled sourdough.
“The Fried Chicken Oyster gets its name because when trimmed out of the bird, it looks like an oyster you’d eat on the half-shell,” said Chef Riker. “It is one of the best pieces on the bird and for years has been called ‘The Chef’s Reward.’ It was inspired by my grandmother, and growing up in northwest Florida, we were always eating her southern cooking.”
Dinner is relaxed and elegant, with appetizers, entrees and sides such as Deviled Eggs with pickled shallots, Cajun maple pork belly and chives; White Sweet Potato Soup with truffle and espelette; and Bellwether Farms Ricotta Gnocchi with pancetta, grilled king trumpet mushrooms and parmesan cream; a daily fresh local catch served with roasted, caper-golden raisin and pine nuts; Lemon Herb Broccolini with preserved lemon, Calabrian chili and garlic; and comfort food favorite Mac and Cheese with orecchiette pasta and fontina cheese sauce.
“Cajun maple pork belly on the deviled eggs was inspired by my wife and her Louisiana roots — her father was once the secretary of state. This dish was sort of a tip of the hat to her late father Big Al Ater,” said Chef Riker.
The brunch menu includes a selection of artisan toasts with toppings such as avocado or almond butter and banana; classic egg dishes, smoked salmon and bagel and specialties such as Chilaquiles or Short Rib and Potato Hash with poached eggs.
Finch & Fork’s whimsical dessert selection, also from the culinary imagination of Chef Riker, includes sweet twists on nostalgic flavors such as the Fire Roasted Milkshake with caramelized banana and salted caramel; a S’mores Panna Cotta with marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crumble; and Cinnamon Sugar Churros with dulce de leche and dark chocolate dipping sauce.
“The Fire Roasted Milkshake was inspired by my family’s love of camping, combined with a lifelong affinity for banana milkshakes and pretty much any dessert with banana in the name,” Chef Riker said.
Complementing Chef Riker’s menus is a world class wine program, overseen by beverage manager Jazz Moralez, showcasing a selection of more than 100 wines and local beers.
The list includes Finch & Fork’s twist on classics and signature libations such as a Maple Old Fashioned, an infusion of maple syrup, Suntory Toki Whiskey and black lemon bitters; the Rosefinch, Malfy Gin Rosa, Compari, Grapefruit and monk fruit; and a Cabrillo Boulevardier, featuring Monkey Shoulder scotch, Campari, Carpano Antica vermouth and orange peel among others.