Last year, chef Gabe McMackin opened The Finch, an intimate restaurant situated in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. Among the enclave’s row houses and stately mansions, this 120-year-old brownstone, renovated into a 75-seat restaurant and bar, is steeped in history.
The cheery feathered bird is the restaurant’s namesake and can be witnessed by the blue hue of paint. “It’s a restaurant, it’s a bird, it’s a time of year, and it’s a reference point for what it feels like to be well cared for in a beautiful space by nice people,” states McMackin, who worked at Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
To conceptualize what The Finch could become, McMackin first needed to learn what it once was.
Renovating the space was an archeological process. Working with architects Ostap Rudakevych and Masa Sono from Clouds AO, McMackin peeled away layers of paint, drywall, plaster and lathe, and removed a drop ceiling and rotted tin.
“We were left with an incredibly beautiful space,” the chef says. “The work we did was more to preserve what we found in an elegant way, rather than to redesign it. The Finch blue panel, the Dutch door in the back, the way the lights fill the space and the design of the banquette were very important, but they flowed out of what space we had.
“It’s an incredible pleasure to work with ingredients we can raise, grow or find locally,” McMackin shares. “Being present in the moment of a meal is a huge part of what we do. If we can find a special vegetable or a rare spirit and share it with our guests, it’s an occasion. If we can share a melon from Norwich Meadows Farm or an heirloom zucchini, if we can show the trout that Dave at Max Creek raises, or if we can tell the story of the Tristar strawberries at Mountain Sweet Berry Farm and how much we love them with the Maplebrook Farm burrata, we feel proud of the work we do and proud of the people who provide those ingredients.”
Look for beautiful comfort on a plate with foods like roast chicken with Romano beans, slow egg, smoked cabbage and bread pudding ($27) and beef flat iron with fingerling potatoes, spigarello, onion and salsa verde ($30).
Find your way to The Finch by subway (G or C train) or car.
Dinner Conversation with Gabe
Why the open kitchen? I wanted to support creativity and a real conversation between the staff and our guests. I don’t want to be one-sided, so we cook right in the middle of the space. If you like something prepared or cooked one way, I have a better chance of making you happy.
Popular cocktail? The Bergamonster, made with Earl Grey vodka, green tea syrup and lemon juice.
What about dessert? Ours are fun to eat, bright and energetic, just like the rest of the food. Right now we have a semolina pound cake with wine poached peaches, strained yogurt and hazelnut-oat crumble.
Coffee? La Colombe. We love it.
Photography by Torkil Stavdal
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