Driving to 1147 Boston Ave. in Nederland provided a surprise like no other encountered on recent assignments. Arriving at my destination, a new restaurant, Finch Hutton, I had no idea what to expect. A gracious welcome to our party by an attentive staff impressed me right off the bat, but when I saw the menu offered at this French-American bistro, shock is a mild word to describe my feelings. Each member of our group looked over the choices offered and decided to each try something different to see what was in store for customers and friends who want a truly different dining experience.
Meeting Katy Maloney, the front of house manager in training (her description of her job duties) and sensing her enthusiasm about the eatery made me curious as to how this new establishment came into being. In some ways, there was an old familiar feel to the ambience, décor, and even the menu, but I could not put my finger on it at the moment. Asking whom the owner/manager was, Maloney told me it was Chef Rafael Ruiz. Bingo. It all clicked. I had met and interviewed Ruiz at another well known eatery and learned his life’s dream was to open his own restaurant, serve the kind of food he chose, make the customer feel very important and cherished, and to create something so different from surrounding eateries. He has more than succeeded in Finch Hutton in the old business district in Nederland. You will have trouble remembering where you are once you taste your food.
Ruiz, serving as a master chef in several establishments for more than 15 years, has perfected the dining experience and made it available for area residents. Explaining how the name Finch Hutton come into being, Maloney said, “Chef Ruiz is an avid reader and he was fascinated with the novel ‘Out of Africa,’ where one of the main characters is Finch Hatton, but when our accountant and attorney filed the paperwork for our various licenses, he spelled ‘Hatton’ as ‘Hutton.’ It stuck and we all like it, so Finch Hutton it is.”
One member of our party ordered the beef and chicken brochette and I ordered the famed tuna tower. Neither was disappointed with the food or the service. The restaurant features steak, seafood and poultry dishes that are blended with southern touches. You’ll find a lamb burger with blue cheese crumbles, a peppercorn crusted filet of tenderloin served with cognac shallot sauce, and a delicious roasted garlic and mushroom pasta. The bread and Finch Hutton’s butter is worth going for, but skip on over to dessert and try the strawberry tart, hot bread pudding, or chocolate truffles. The only real problem we had was in deciding which of the delicious meals to order first.
Noticing two burly young men at a table down from us, I approached the two guys and asked why they had chosen Finch Hutton rather than a traditional burger or chicken place. Andy Doughty, a 2009 graduate of Nederland High School and a friend from Midland, Steven Reker, seemed delighted with their choices. Doughty lives in Nederland and said he had heard about the new restaurant and that it was different, and he decided to bring his guest there to try it out for himself. Doughty had what he termed his “first grown up grilled cheese,” and it was a beauty, while Reker had the grilled chicken Caesar salad. Both cleaned their plates and said they would be back for more. “It really is good food, and I just like the place because it is different,” said Doughty. “We’ll be back for sure.”
Ruiz opened his dream eatery Oct. 6, 2011, and from all appearances, it is off to a fantastic start. Reservations are strongly suggested because the elegant and sophisticated restaurant is filled every night. You may call (409) 722-3100. Finch Hutton is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and for Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and is closed on Mondays. Congratulations to Chef Ruiz and his culinary team for bringing a five-star dining experience to Nederland.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.