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Photos: Finley's Pub opens on South Pearl Street

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This, declares Pete VanItallie, gazing around his new pub, is "exactly what I had envisioned when I dreamed of opening a neighborhood place." He points to a photograph on the wall, a gift from his uncle and godfather, that's a framed shot of the old Finley homestead in Ireland. "He researched the Finley name, found the homestead, blew up the photo and sent it to me. I'm really excited about that," says VanItallie, who opened Finley's Pub yesterday in the former La Brisa space at 375 South Pearl Street.

"As soon as we opened, people definitely walked in right away, and we were much busier than I expected," says VanItallie, adding that both he and the neighbors "have a really good feeling about what we're doing here. Everyone seems to love the vibe."

VanItallie hired Bentley Folse, who hails from New Orleans and was a former lead line cook at Trillium, to oversee the kitchen, and the menu, which hustles everything from beet ravioli and burgers made with ground chuck and short rib, to shrimp and grits, Cajun tots and shepherd's pie croquettes served with a Guinness gravy, is a compilation, says VanItallie, of "New Orleans-style twists and pub classics." He notes, too, that there's no shortage of vegetarian dishes. "Out burger is one of the best you'll have in Denver, but we know, too, that there are a lot of healthy people in Colorado -- and in the neighborhood -- so we made a conscientious effort to make the menu vegetarian-friendly."

When I spoke with VanItallie last month, he promised that his handles would feature craft brews, and true to his word, there are seven taps, all of which -- save for Guinness -- are craft suds from Colorado, California and Belgium; in addition, there are fourteen beers available in bottles and cans, including Upslope IPA, Firestone Union Jack IPA, Somersault Summer Ale and a handful of usual suspects: Corona, Coors and Budweiser and Heineken.

I stopped by yesterday to get a first peek at the space and sample a few of Folse's dishes, including the burger, which will undoubtedly spur a legion of fans. Here's a photo tour.

The pub is open daily from 11:30 a.m to midnight during the week and 2 a.m. on weekends. For more info, call 303-282-4790.

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