When one enters Church Brew Works, the immediate impression is awe, followed by a sinking feeling that you’re somehow desecrating a house of worship by consuming alcoholic beverages on a holy site. Of course, that doesn’t stop most people, myself included, from carrying on with their evening activities. However, what does give me pause is the sinking suspicion that this grandiose façade is exactly that: a shine which masks an effort to create quality food and drink for guests. For all the flying buttresses, ornately decorated altars, and colorful stained-glass windows can’t and should not distract me from the primary reason a restaurant exists, and that is to provide delicious meals to its guests. In the end, my suspicions were partially put to rest, but you’ll have to read on to find out why! (P.S. my good friend Jared Sheinberg, featured reviewer for this installment of Famished with Friends, confirms these same suspicions)
Of everything that Church Brew Works has going for it, the atmosphere that dining in a renovated church creates is certainly the best part. The large stained glass windows, beautifully symmetrical arches, and opulent alter (dedicated to brewing the best beers this side of the city), all produce a magnificent setting to enjoy a heavenly meal.
The noise travels in this building, but not necessarily in a bad way. The ceilings are so high and there is so much communication going on that a gentle din surrounded us rather than a crazy cacophony.
The service we experienced was pretty good considering how busy the place was and that there were 5 of us needing separate checks. Some of our food items arrived slightly cold, which I wasn’t sure was due to slow service or under-prepared food items. But overall, our waiter was pleasant and professional.
If there was one thing lacking from our visit to Church Brew Works, it was the quality of the food. However, a note about the drinks: they were exquisite. Some of my favorite brews come from Church Brew, and a big shout out has to go to the Pious Monk Dunkel, a light lager that doesn’t leave a sour taste like some other lagers seem to do.
The food was a big disappointment here. I ordered a few different appetizers, including the pulled pork nachos to start, the lamb meatballs, the traditional pierogis, and a tropical cheese quesadilla with a pineapple pico de gallo topping. Overall I just thought everything was really bland, and the fact that each dish came out somewhat cold didn’t really boost the score. The meatballs and pierogis were the worst, just lifeless, with no real spice, heat, or texture to speak of. The one positive I can comment on is the Malted Bread Pudding a la mode, which however dense did make up for it by being flavorful, creamy, and satisfying.
The price of our meal has me a little perplexed. I think for the price you pay, you do get quite a bit of food and drink. However, the quality is seriously lacking in some areas, leading me to believe that it may not be worth it.
I have had really good experiences here and also some not so good ones. This visit definitely belonged in the latter category, and itvery well might be a lasting trend.
Best part of the experience?
I would have to say that the best part of my meal was the atmosphere. The décor is beautiful and unique. Not everyone goes to restaurants merely for the food, but for the entire experience. The building itself gives off a personality that makes it very comfortable for anyone to eat, drink, and socialize. I particularly enjoyed seeing the hops machines up by where the alter would be. It almost gives it a spunky look by combining a contemporary and antique appearance to create something that embraces the best of both.
The food itself is what I believe needs the most improvement. While I would say it was decent, it appeared that overall most of the food I tried happened to be a little dry. This could possibly be attributed to the crowds but nonetheless I found that I would consistently need to revert to my beer to help wash things down.
What kind of place is this (who would you bring here, for what purpose, etc.)?
This is the kind of place to take friends and sit down to enjoy beer and food while conversing for hours. They were certainly able to accommodate large groups due to the ample amount of space. Because of the price of the food and their specialty being in craft beer, there weren’t too many children present, but I wouldn’t say that this kind of unique dining experience isn’t for them as well.
My meal consisted of a buffalo burger cooked medium rare with a side of Cole slaw and a pickle. Overall, I enjoyed it, although as I stated above the burger was a little dry. I tried the celestial gold and Mont Pious Dunkel beers which were both excellent. The pious was a little darker and stronger which I preferred but both were thirst-quenching and offered a unique flavor.
Jared Sheinberg will be attending Pitt Law this upcoming fall with an undergrad degree in finance. He is from Allentown, PA and has four other siblings. In his free time, Jared reads, runs, and watches Netflix. Not all at the same time, although that is his ultimate goal in life.
Church Brew Works is a renovated old church, St. John the Baptist Church, which has become a restaurant and bar in the Lawrenceville. Check out some more interesting history on the parish turned purveyor of pints at their website: http://churchbrew.com/