“I see too many cool old historical things get knocked down and erased,” Finch says. “It would be dumb to change it. I let the building do its thing and didn’t do anything to it.”
The building was built in 1922 as Maynard Riegel’s Gulf Services auto shop, and it remains a filling station, of sorts, today. If your stomach is running on empty, Finch wants to pump it full of nostalgic foods like Frito chili pie, bologna sandwiches and sloppy Joes.
Most dishes are named with the building’s heritage in mind. The Mechanic Board is a twist on a classic charcuterie tray with sharp cheddar, pepper jack, pimento, sausage, pepperoni or bologna served with Ritz crackers, honey-roasted nuts and pickled beet relish. Dirty Dipsticks are spicy garlic fries, and Hot Rods are sausage dogs crafted by The Grape’s Brian Luscher.
“This end of the block needed food,” she says. “I did a menu that I grew up with and couldn’t get around town. What would I have gotten as a kid on a road trip? It’s simple, not overpriced and goes good with a frosty, cold beer.”
The drink menu features several signature cocktails made with old-fashioned sodas that are right at home in the old service station. The Lemon Cream Pie tastes like the baked good in liquid form with vodka, salted caramel, vanilla and cream soda. The Peel Out is the star of the menu and tastes like a Dreamsicle with vodka and a pop of orange and vanilla flavors.
“When we were taste testing, I brought in a box, and we’d eat the push-up, chase the drink, eat the push-up, chase the drink. We nailed it,” Finch says.
The menu continues to evolve through partnerships with area chefs. Three months after opening, Finch teamed up with pop-up shop Casa Masa to provide tamales every Tuesday. In May, Thunderbird Station introduced snack cakes, such as the cinnamon oatmeal cream pie and the hazelnut Ding Dong, that are even better than Little Debbie’s. Next to launch is a mimosa bar with multiple flavors.
“I want to get back to providing good times again. I haven’t been able to do that for a year,” she says. “That’s the reason we do what we do.”
Thunderbird Station, 3400 Commerce St., thunderbirdstation.com