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A Taste of Ireland in Excelsior

When Zach Brown and Victor Claffey set out to make The Bull and Finch,they had a very specific vision in mind: “Restaurant-standard food, in the charm of the pub.”  Both men were well suited to bringing the old-world Irish feel to Minnesota.  Claffey, originally from Ireland, owned several pubs before coming to the United States.  Brown has worked in restaurants across Europe and the United States.  They teamed up after working together at Claddagh Irish Pub in Maple Grove to create The Bull and Finch in Excelsior.  “Excelsior is a small quaint town, and its perfect for what we want to do,” Claffey said, “We didn’t want starched tablecloths you know?  We didn’t want it to be too stiff.”  

When bringing a traditional Irish gastropub to Excelsior, they wanted to include more than shepard’s pie and corned beef.  With a menu ranging from the staples of pub food like fish and chips to horseradish glazed Salmon and 10oz ribeye, Claffey stresses, “It’s gotta be excellent food.”  On how they maintain that high standard, Brown replies simply, “Attention to detail.”  That detail can be especially in the presentation.  Brown personally plates nearly everything that leaves the kitchen because he says that first, “You taste it with your eyes.”  Another way The Bull and Finch strives to go above and beyond is in the careful combination of the bar and the food menu.  For their signature Manchego burger, Brown makes special Moscow Mule pickles in-house.  “I pickle fresh cucumbers.  It takes a week for the pickles to be good, but it uses actual Moscow Mules so you get the flavor without the alcohol.”  

Another break from the traditional Irish Pub is the focus on brunch and family.  The Bull and Finch will offer a full brunch featuring traditional Irish breakfasts with black and white pudding and inhouse-made soda bread, as well as brunch staples like eggs Florentine and chicken and biscuits.  Brown and Claffey envisioned The Bull and Finch to be welcoming for entire families, especially for brunch. “It’s fine if people want to leave their kids, but brunch should be a family meal.”  Said Brown.  

Of course, an Irish pub needs to have a drink menu and here The Bull and Finch leans traditional.  Behind the bar there are sixteen draft beers, eight staples and eight rotating.  “No matter how well they are performing, they will always be changing.  It should be nice and fresh,” Says Claffey.  When asked about long list of Irish whiskey Claffey laughs, “The whiskey list, it’s extensive, very, very extensive.”  The same care within the food can also be seen in the craft cocktails featuring twists on classics like the ‘Gin and Thyme’ and ‘Rosemericano’.  “The craft cocktails” says Claffey, “took a nice minute to get together.”  The Bull and Finch also boasts long lists of both wine and gin.  

Both Brown and Claffey have been very happy with the location of The Bull and Finch.  Initially, they had planned on staying in Maple Grove in a building they had both previously work within, “And then we came in here,” Said Claffey.  On the corner of Water and 2nd St., Claffey discovered the location while consulting with Excelsior Brewing.  “We could see early on what we could do with the space, and it would suit what we do.  The vision we have for food and menus and drink offerings and all that, it could all come together beautifully in this pub,” said Claffey.  Where The Bull and Finch breaks from Irish pub décor is the lighting. Both men worked hard to create a bright, open space for The Bull and Finch, especially due to their corner location in Excelsior, “I think you should be able to sit up there by the fire and look out at the snow, as opposed to guessing if it’s snowing,” said Claffey.  

To the sound of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror Claffey says, “We want every person who walks in to feel welcome […] It’s not false, its not pretentious.”  They want people not to simply come to eat and drink, but to relax and feel at home.  So, in the face of the oncoming winter, The Bull and Finch opens its doors to warm food, cold drinks, and a place by the fire: all the charm of an Irish pub right here in Minnesota.