Photography by KATHY TRAN.

Sixteen years ago, Kim Finch walked into a bar and started an empire that has grown to include three businesses in the budding Deep Ellum neighborhood.

It all started with Double Wide, one of Dallas’ most beloved dive bars. Then came the bar’s younger sibling, Single Wide. Her latest venue, Thunderbird Station, is shifting into high gear after opening in September. The car-themed bar located in an old gas station will take folks cruisin’ down memory lane with unpretentious food curated by the fiercest females in the industry.

“People still don’t think I own this place — or Double Wide or Single Wide,” Finch says. “Double Wide has naked lady velvet paintings. People are like, ‘A dude must own this place.’ I’ll make a joke about it, and they’re like, ‘Uh, uh, uh…’ What year are we living in?”

Finch almost left the bar business for good when Double Wide hit the market in 2006, but she couldn’t pass up an opportunity to own the neighborhood icon. Her famous parking lot parties made the bar a destination when Deep Ellum was still on the wrong side of the tracks.

“I was restless and kind of bored, and I needed a better creative outlet, so I went back to school for computer animation and web design,” she says. “I realized I didn’t want to sit behind a computer all day, so I went back to bartending and needed a creative outlet. If it was going to be mine, I could be creative. When the universe tells you, ‘This is what you’re supposed to do,’ you go with it, or else you’re going to be miserable.”

Finch had long admired the building across the road from Double Wide. She rented the property with its original 1950s white tile and hoped to open it as Thunderbird Station in February last year. The pandemic delayed its debut by more than six months. The business wasn’t eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans and struggled to keep the doors open.

“It’s already hard in non-COVID times to get people out to a new place,” she says. “We did OK our first couple of months. Then it dropped off bad. It was a brutal winter. There were a couple of times I was like, ‘We’re going to have to close next week.’ You fight through it.”

The restaurant’s greatest asset during the pandemic was a 5,400-square-foot patio that occupies a majority of the lot. Outdoor tables are located under a triangular roof topped with a colorful bird totem that looks somewhat like a hood ornament. Additional seating is located inside the building, which has a retractable garage door that overlooks the patio and barrel wall. Most of the interior brick walls are original and decorated with vintage memorabilia.

“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

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