Featuring coffee from Counter Culture, tea from Rare Tea Cellar, and baked goods from Spilt Milk

Finom Coffee

Open for business this weekend in a historic building at 4200 W. Irving Park
Road, Finom Coffee, Tea, Food & Books brings the tradition of the European coffeehouse to the Old Irving Park
neighborhood. Chicagoans and Chefs/Co-Owners Daniel Speer and Rafael Esparza serve a menu of
Hungarian-inspired small plates alongside specialty drinks by Coffee Consultant/Beverage Manager Ari Franco,
as well as Counter Culture coffee, tea from Rare Tea Cellar, and a selection of baked goods from Spilt Milk
Pastry. Hours are Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-5p.m.
The name Finom translates to “delicious” in Hungarian, the culture from which the coffeehouse draws inspiration.
The logo, which the owners created with Luis Rodriguez of 978 Designs, features a vintage capitalized font and
two birds that were influenced by a Hungarian TV program featuring children’s folklore. Speer’s wife, Melinda, is
from Hungary, and Finom in part serves as an homage to her, even opening for business on her birthday this
Saturday, Nov. 3.
“Opening Finom has given me the opportunity to do the cuisine I love and share that with the community,” Speer


Esparza and Speer designed the menu as “longform small plates,” intended to be enjoyed leisurely alongside a cup
of coffee, the style of food people experienced in European cafés in the beginning of the century. “The food can
sit and still taste good,” Esparza explains. “We went about creating the menu to pair with coffee in the same way
you would pair with wine. We’re using an Ethiopian blend from Counter Culture with chocolate, floral, and berry
notes, so we’re looking to complement and cleanse palates—mellow, mild, and appropriate flavors, rather than
assertive and overwhelming.”
Dishes draw heavily from Hungarian food culture. Speer says, “Hungarian or Magyar cuisine is primarily based
on meats, seasonal vegetables, fruits, fresh bread, and dairy products and cheeses—and paprika is the
quintessential spice and pepper used prominently in a handful of dishes. Hungary is also famous for the
high-quality and relatively inexpensive salamis and sausages it produces primarily from pork.”
Small plates include Marrow Toast —referring to “head marrow,” a rough translation of brains in Hungarian —a
mousse of veal brains and chicken liver, smoked pork belly, radish, peppers, pickled tomato, and dill on toasted
pHlour Bakery ciabatta; Lecsó , a thick vegetable ragoût that features gypsy peppers and onions stewed in
lard, kolbász sausage, tomato, and paprika, topped with an egg and served with pHlour toast; and
Gulyásleves , an nod to one of the national dishes of Hungary, a shepherd’s stew of beef cheeks, paprika, and
other spices.
Other dishes are throwback to turn-of-the-century café culture in which poets, artists, and other creatives would sit
around all day and dine on small plates while waiting for a muse to strike. Examples include The Writers’
Breakfast , toasted pHlour ciabatta, shaved Pick salami, radish, housemade cultured butter, radish, and sel gris; and Conserva Plate , with a tin of Nuri spiced smoked mackerel, housemade cultured butter, and bread from
pHlour Bakery.
A rotating selection of pastries from Oak Park-based Spilt Milk include savory hand pies, sour cherry turnovers,
and Mexican hot chocolate cookies.
Turkish Delight Latte


In addition to the coffee from Counter Culture and a distinctive tea selection from Rare Tea Cellar, Ari Franco
(formerly Brew Brew Coffee & Tea) designs specialty drinks on the Astoria manual-lever espresso machine that
match the cozy aesthetics of the space. Examples include Turkish Delight Latte , with rosewater, cardamom, and
candied rose petals

Design and Aesthetic

Finom evokes a familial living room aesthetic, with seating for 15. Features include vintage furniture and décor,
as well as taxidermy and local art adorning the wood paneled walls. A copper countertop was installed along the
existing wood back bar, and the coffee counter was constructed from reclaimed wood. “We wanted Finom to feel
like it has always been here,” Esparza explains. “We’ve built a space we want to hang out in.”
Finom centers on community, and as Esparza puts it, “It took a village to get where we’re at.” Family and friends
of the shop assisted with the construction, in particular Hipolito Sanchez (Slow Motion for Meat) helped construct
the coffee bar and counters. Marz Community Brewing donated the wood for the bar leftover from its Bridgeport
taproom buildout; the boards date back to the 1890s, the same era as when the coffee shop’s building was first
Armando Velazquez of Brown Magic Paint Co. handpainted the windows, and artist Won Kim (also chef of
Kimski) created a graffiti wall around the bathroom entrance. Artwork was contributed by Megg Sorensen
(Sparrow Papercraft), Ninah Talamantes, and Caesar Perez (Ava Grey Designs). A selection of used books for
perusing and for sale were donated by friends.

Location and Building History

Located on Irving Park Road just west of the Irving Park Blue Line and Metra stops, Finom is the latest business
to take up residence on the first floor of the historic Whistle Stop Inn building. The two-story frame structure is
named for a tavern that operated there from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, although the building was first
constructed by Henry E. Nichols as Nichols & Son Grocery in 1889, with a second-floor apartment for the owner.
Other tenants have included a drug store, a community library, a massage parlor, and more recently the Irving
Park Historical Society.
In its near 130-year history, the building underwent interior and exterior alterations that stripped it of its historical
character, including moving the storefront entrance and windows and removing the original wood clapboard on
the exterior. However, the then-owners of Whistle Stop Inn worked to replicate its former identity—which Speer
and Esparza have also respected during their buildout of Finom. The building earned landmark status in 1990 and,
according the submitted Commission on Chicago Landmarks report, is the oldest mercantile structure in the
community of Irving Park.


Daniel Speer has 24 years experience working in the foodservice industry, with 13 years experience as a
executive chef. He’s worked with companies such as Ala Carte Entertainment; Hell’s Kitchen Catering, serving
artists like Van Halen, A Tribe Called Quest, Panic at the Disco, and all performing acts at Lollapolooza Music
Festival in Chicago; and Morseland, an upscale dining and bar with live music venue. Prior to pursuing his vision
of opening Finom, he spent five years as executive chef of two Nordstroms locations, Michigan Avenue in
Chicago and Skokie, IL. The native of Aurora, IL, now lives on the Northside of Chicago with his wife and young
Rafael Esparza has been a lifelong resident of Chicago, loves Asian flavors, and has an affinity for the street
food of all cultures. He honed his skills and developed his palate working at such chef-driven restaurants as
Momotaro, Shibumi (Los Angeles), Yusho, Kimski, and Band of Bohemia. He has a passion for hospitality and
service that is rivaled only by his passion for food. He was fortunate enough to have learned the ways of
hospitality from his mentors at the BOKA Restaurant Group. He hopes to pass the lessons he’s learned onto all
the cooks who pass through the kitchen at Finom, and to all the guests who walk through the doors of the
restaurant. He is a resident of Pilsen.
Ari Franco has spent more than half a decade delving deep into her interest in coffee in the city of Chicago. After
starting off as an amateur barista at La Catrina Cafe for three years, she moved on to expand her knowledge on
mastering quality espresso at Big Shoulders Coffee for a year and half. Later in deciding to be closer to her
neighborhood of Pilsen, she relocated to work at Brew Brew Coffee & Tea’s second location. Her fascination with
espresso extraction helped continue her drive in working with coffee. Exploring her interest in coffee even further,
she takes on the position of coffee consultant/beverage manager, creating the speciality drinks menu for Finom.