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Dining out: Finn’s Cafe

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When I wrote last year requesting that readers send in their stories of fondly remembered local restaurants of days gone by, several mentioned Finn's, the onetime fixture on Parleys Way that featured Scandinavian food in an upscale setting.

Well, Finn's is back. That is, there's an operating restaurant named Finn's that serves Scandinavian-influenced food, and some of it will be comfortingly familiar to fans of the first incarnation.

But the restaurant's setting, its style, its very approach to dining is different from the bygone Finn's. Whether you like the change or not depends, of course, on your memories of the old one and your expectations of the new.

Personally, I find a lot to like at the new Finn's. I like the purity of its design, which is modern Scandinavian in its white walls, flower-motif stencils, and blond-wood floors and furniture. Funky pictures of butterflies — and brightly patterned aprons on the white-clad wait staff — keep the space from starkness, as do the big, capsule-shaped windows.

I also like the food, a fresh and updated version of the old Finn's. The emphasis on Scandinavia is there in the wienerschnitzel and simple roasts offered as lunchtime specials, or in the Norwegian waffles with lingonberries.

But the owners of this Finn's (still members of the Gurholt family that operated the original) have adapted the menu to a breakfast and lunch crowd, lightening and simplifying it and adding such fresh innovations as a smoothie bar and a service counter for those who don't have time to wait.

And wait you probably will, if you arrive at lunchtime with anything more than two or three people. This is a small dining room, surprisingly noisy thanks to the conversations bouncing off all those hard surfaces, and tables for groups are precious few. Try calling ahead for seating if you're in a group, or if it's not too hot (or cold, or rainy) there are mister-equipped outdoor tables with red umbrellas that nod like poppies in the breeze.

My husband had the special roast beef, a straightforward but quite small presentation of beautifully roasted meat, potatoes and bright, crisp-tender asparagus. In meals this simple, the ingredients must be of the highest quality, and Finn's shines in this respect.

I had a much more lunch-like meal, the open-faced sandwich platter. Diners can mix and match from three varieties: sweet, tender little bay shrimp in a very light herbed dressing on a lettuce leaf; roast turkey with lingonberries; and sliced salami on a pinwheel of folded Jarlsberg cheese, with onion.

I liked the shrimp and the chewy, strongly flavored salami. The turkey was a bit dry, and its accompanying berries, while cleanly tart and slightly sweet, were no more than a ruby-red smear atop the meat, hardly enough to flavor one bite.

Finn's has an interesting kids' menu, the most enticing item being the "Little Swede," three Swedish meatballs with dollops of piped-on mashed potatoes, cut asparagus and fruit. It was a little sparse even for a small child, but absolutely delicious. I wish a bigger version could be had on the adult menu.

Salads $3-$8, soup $2.50-$4, entrees $7-$9, sandwiches $6.50-$8.50.

Finn's Cafe

Rating: ** 1/2

Where: 1624 S. 1100 East

Phone: 467-4000

Hours: 6 a.m.-3 p.m., daily

Web: www.finnscafe.net

Wheelchair access: Challenging (tight spaces between tables, but entrances and exits are easy)

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News.

E-mail: skratz@desnews.com