The Son Also Rises | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Son Also Rises 

Finn’s Café revives an old sign'and dad’s old Scandanavian favorites'in Sugar House.

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I’ve been carrying that heavy scrap of iron around for nine years!” says Finn Gurholt, chef/baker and co-proprietor'along with his niece Heidi Gurholt'of Finn’s Café. He’s talking about the classic neon sign encased in metal that once adorned his father’s place, the original Finn’s Restaurant in Parley’s Canyon. Today, that old but still operable sign serves as a beacon atop the new Finn’s Café in Sugar House. Finn’s is back, but this ain’t exactly Papa Finn’s restaurant.

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First, a bit of history. The original Finn’s was opened in 1952 by Finn Gurholt and his wife Grete. A native of Oslo, Norway, Gurholt jumped ship from a Norwegian merchant marine vessel in Baltimore before finding his way into the kitchens of ritzy East Coast locales like New Jersey’s opulent Lynwood Country Club, The Birchmont Club in New Hampshire and Boston’s Ritz Carlton. He’d been trained as a pastry chef and baker back in Norway where his family owned a ski resort. Gurholt’s own affection for skiing eventually brought him to the Rustler Lodge at Alta, where he was chef when it opened in 1949. He couldn’t possibly have imagined when he launched Finn’s Restaurant in ’52 that it would thrive well into the 1990s. By the late ’80s, “Little” Finn Jr.'Finn Gurholt’s son'would be baking rye, French and sourdough breads in the restaurant’s kitchen. The plan was for “Little” Finn to take over the restaurant when the senior Finn retired, which he did circa 1990.

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This past winter, Finn Gurholt Jr. and wife Heidi opened Finn’s Café with a comforting nod to the past. Not that the new Finn’s is steeped in nostalgia or anything, but there are traces of the first Finn’s Restaurant to be found here. There is that original Finn’s neon sign I mentioned. And, on a counter near the entrance, sits a large silver bowl of fresh red apples'the same bowl that has greeted thousands of Finn’s customers through the years. Some of the menu also harks back to Finn’s 1.0. There’s the ever-popular Wiener schnitzel, fried chicken, shoestring fries and, of course, Finn’s renowned Roquefort salad dressing.

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But, like his dad’s place, Finn Jr.’s café is an original. In contrast to the almost stuffy elegance of his father’s restaurant, Finn’s Café has a sleek, modern, Scandinavian vibe'more IKEA than Ritz Carlton. From the outside, Finn’s looks sort of like a futuristic diner, peppered by designer Louis Ulrich with lots of natural wood and natural light. It’s a casual, comfy place, especially on the patio where each table is decorated with a simple, fresh geranium.

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In what seems to be a new trend in town, Finn’s Café joins places like Left Fork Grill, Millcreek Café & Eggworks, The Artist’s Palate and the new Caffé Niche as independently owned eateries open for breakfast and lunch only. This may be due in part to the fact that none of these restaurants, including Finn’s, serves any alcohol (which, in Finn’s case, is due to its location near a church). It’s tough to attract much of a dinner crowd without at least offering patrons the option of wine or beer with their meals. But the breakfast and lunch trend to me also is evidence that more and more restaurateurs are paying attention to scale. They are doing what they do well and not trying to be everything to everyone.

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At Finn’s, the food is refreshingly simple. First-class ingredients like tender bay shrimp, imported Havarti cheese and caper berries go into making the nummy Norsk omelet ($9.50), which comes with hash browns, toast and homemade jam. I can’t think of many'actually, any'other eateries where you can get poached fish for breakfast, but Finn’s has it in the form of its Scandinavian breakfast ($11), which also comes with two eggs. Then there are Finn’s classics like sourdough pancakes ($6), Jule kake french toast ($7.50), Norwegian waffles with lingonberries and sour cream ($8) and a hearty Swedish hash called pyttipanna ($9). Juices are all freshly made, including Grete’s lemonade, which shouldn’t be missed.

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The breakfast menu is available all day at Finn’s and lunch service begins at 11 a.m. There’s an open-faced sandwich platter on the lunch menu that I found to be completely pleasing. Here’s the idea: You get three different small, open-faced sandwiches, or you can have three of the same, or mix and match. The sandwich choices are bay shrimp with lemon, salami and Jarlsberg with onion, and roast turkey with lingonberries. All three are served cold, and all three are a study in simple, satisfying cooking. The bay shrimp with lemon and a hint of dill was just so remarkably clean tasting, it knocked my socks off'and I’m someone who won’t usually go into the same room with bay shrimp! Ditto for the salami and Jarlsberg (both of very high quality), garnished with slivers of red onion. My side salad was a small serving of fresh greens, tomato and cucumber but it packed a wallop thanks to Finn’s spectacular “frozen” Roquefort dressing. Frankly, I could eat that dressing by the bowl without any salad at all.

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Finn’s fabulous onion rolls are reason enough to order soup, especially the rich, silky cream of tomato, garnished simply (some would say old-fashioned) with minced parsley. Ironically, the only dish I’ve had at Finn’s Café that was less than wonderful is the “famous” Wiener schnitzel which, for $11, seemed small and came with a soggy breading crust. However, the trio of boiled baby potatoes and quartet of perfectly cooked asparagus saved the dish from the sub-par schnitzel.

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Like his father and her grandfather did, Finn and Heidi Gurholt offer quality and Old World hospitality at their restaurant. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it were still around 40 years from now.

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FINN’S CAFÉ
n1624 S. 1100 East
n467-4000
nBreakfast & Lunch daily
n7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

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