Pop into Finn’s Restaurant and Tavern on any given evening, and you’ll immediately forget you’re in Knoxville. Through the front door, under the American and Irish flags, you’ll take to the wooden staircase and be greeted into the restaurant by two painted murals: Céad Míle Fáilte (Gaelic for “A Hundred Thousand Welcomes”) and the traditional Irish blessing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You.”
Or, you could take the side entrance, up an outdoor covered stairwell that leads directly to the sports tavern outfitted with plenty of pub chairs, TVs and beer selections. (Liverpool FC fans are extra welcome.)
Whether through the front door or up the side staircase, walking into Finn’s is the next best thing to boarding a plane for Ireland. Then again, that was the point. When Jon Ferrie and his business partner, Dan Hale, decided to open Finn’s, the first area of focus was authenticity, starting with the building.
“Dan learned the Baker Peters House was available, and I knew it’d be perfect for an Irish tavern. It was built in 1830, but Ireland’s houses are some of the oldest on the planet. I love the preservation of history, so when you walk in, it’s like a functioning museum,” Jon says. “We went for mid-century style, but the green velvet couches are like what you’d see in Ireland today. They all preserve history. They are proud of their heritage, so I wanted to keep the story of the past alive.”
Jon is clear about this. Finn’s is not a stereotypical American version of an Irish pub. There are no Irish pubs in Ireland, he says, tongue-in-cheek. They’re just pubs. Local, comfortable, traditional.
He’s been down this restaurant road before. When Jon moved from Ireland to the States in 2004, he and his wife set up a life in Florida. Then their children reached school age, and the couple decided Knoxville would be a better place to raise a family. When they realized Knoxville lacked an Irish pub, they opened Irish Times in Turkey Creek, which operated successfully for eight years. When the lease ran out, they closed, leaving faithful patrons without their trusty neighborhood pub.
That is, until now. Named after the Irish mythical hunter-warrior Finn McCool, the new restaurant and tavern has a little bit of everything, from traditional Irish fare to American favorites. The atmosphere and aesthetic shifts from room to room, so romantic dinners, family gatherings or a cheerful night out with friends are all welcome at the Baker Peters House.
“Since having the Irish Times, we’ve seen a lot of chefs come and go and had a great reputation already, so our crew here is hand-picked,” Jon says. “Some of the dishes are traditional, like cottage pie, corned beef and Chicken Tipperary, and we have fish and chips with fresh cod. We have a European environment and flavor, but our menu is split because not everyone is into that. We have burgers, rib-eye and salmon and now a charcuterie board to encompass everyone’s palette.”
Finn’s also serves the “holy trinity” of beer—Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp—along with their own lager, Finn McCool’s Lager, which is made locally by Marty Vales at Fanatic Brewing Company. If lager and ale don’t suit your taste buds, the wine list is extensive, as are the signature and classic cocktails. (Everyone must try the James & Ginger.)
Below the restaurant is the dental practice of Dr. Larry Tragesser, who bought the building 30 years ago and initiated getting its historical marker. It was Dr. Tragesser’s and Jon’s shared love of history that made the pairing of Finn’s and the Baker Peters House make sense.
“Most restaurants and bars in the States are in strip malls. They’re purposely built for that reason. With Finn’s, you can’t work against the house. You have to work with it. When you walk in, it’s like you’re in a home. It’s not a chain, and you know it,” Jon says. “It wasn’t thrown up in a few weeks. There’s craftsmanship that you can see from the 1800s. It’s a part of local history.”
Whether you’re in the mood for a full Irish meal, like corned beef and cabbage, or craving a lighter bite, like Salmon Leap, take a pick at Finn’s charcuterie board. Perfect for sharing (or not), it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.
There is something for everyone at Finn’s—wine, cocktails, ale—but for a true taste of Ireland, order their signature James & Ginger. Crisp and refreshing, it’s the perfect, palate-pleasing mixture of Jameson Black, Domaine de Canton, lemon, sage and honey.
Watch all the Premier League games (Go, Liverpool!), Formula 1 races and Tennessee Vol games in the tavern. Rent out the first-floor room for family reunions, parties or other private gatherings. (Rent the whole house, if you want to.) The restaurant opens at 4 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. On Friday and Saturday nights, Finn’s offers live music and stays open until 1 a.m.