The Finery & Blacksmith Bar
Bold, flavorful farm-to-table fare in historic St. Charles
Fried artichoke hearts with radish salad
It might seem a 19th century brick building like many others in the scenic river town of St. Charles, but the site at 305 W. Main St. is one with a remarkable history. A blacksmith who set up shop there in the mid-1800s is said to have used the building as a hub on the Underground Road during the years leading up to the Civil War.
Today, that building is home to The Finery & Blacksmith Bar, a dining establishment that pays tribute in name to the structure’s history. The interior harkens back to earlier times, with thick wood tables and chairs, hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and doors leading to the original finery furnace, balanced with contemporary touches like soft lighting, and muslin-like curtains.
The menu is decidedly farm-to-table, reflecting the desire of co-owners and Executive Chefs Juliette and David Reyes to create bold, flavorful dishes with authentic ingredients sourced from the region. Inventive appetizers speak to the
agricultural roots of the area, such as crispy artichokes served atop paprika yogurt sauce with intertwined arugula and mint and pickled radish slices that lend color and tang. The smoked salmon rillettes look and taste like small savory cornucopias, with a thin slice of crisp pumpernickel rolled and filled with piped smoked salmon and pickled shallot, finished with ribbons of dill crème fraiche. There are starters for protein lovers, too, including earthy sumac lamb chops and a cheese and charcuterie board.
The entrée list offers country pheasant, elevated in a contemporary way by pairing it with black truffle, risotto and a confit “purse” along with swirls of pesto. The flat iron steak is worthy of a blacksmith’s appetite, with generous slices of steak combined with small potato halves, watercress and pickled onion and a delectable pair of complementary chimichurri and parmesan fondue sauces. On the seafood side, patrons can have fun with a hearty crawfish boil, with new potatoes, baby carrots, turnips and green beans in a creole sauce.
If it seems like the chefs celebrate vegetables, they do. Plant-based entrées include homemade fettucine studded with cannellini beans, asparagus, tarragon and basil in a rustic tomato sauce with shards of parmesan. A distinctive entrée is the English pea falafels, with radicchio, toasted almonds and beech mushrooms enrobed in crème fraiche and a Moroccan herb sauce. The side dishes are an ode to local produce, too, including simple but elegant and flavorful grilled asparagus with herb butter and French green beans with caramelized onions.
Desserts also showcase farm-sourced ingredients. The buttermilk panna cotta is rimmed with seasoned fruit, while the vanilla napoleon is topped with marinated seasonal berries and sprinkled with pecan dust.
The beer, wine and cocktail list is extensive. The French training of Chef Reyes is evident in the many wines sourced from France, while cocktails such as the “gin thingy” and the refreshing “mule,” feature spirits that are a good fit with the historic setting. ν
305 W. Main St., St. Charles
Flat iron steak; crawfish boil; and goat’s milk cheesecake
Appetizers: $9 - $13
Entrées: $17 - $35
Desserts: $7- $9
Tue - Thur: 4 - 10 p.m.
Fri & Sat: 4 - 11 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. & 4 - 9 p.m.
Sunday brunch; 3- or 5-course tasting menu; reservations accepted