Wednesday, April 13, 2011

QUICKVIEW: Church- +++ / $$

I don't like Boston. It's a nightmare to navigate, everything costs a fortune, and parking is insane on every day of the week. At least in Providence, weekends provide some degree of reprieve, and in the summers, the city is damned near empty. Boston has none of these advantages. So it was with great distaste that I traveled to Beantown for a photography show in which my sister was participating. Both girlfriend and parents were in attendance, and we planned dinner after the show, before the driver arrived to pick us up.

First off, Boston is actually quite nice when one is walking. Granted, I was in a state of ninja-like heightened awareness the entire time since I assumed that every person we passed was, in fact, a mugger. But other than my urine-soaked underpants, the day went off well. A high point was Dinner, which didn't fulfill any of my fears about inner city life. My sister's apartment was less than a five minute walk from an entire street of restaurants, driving home how great it is to be able to walk to everything, and one that stood out was Church.

It's website was urban and hip, menu was good, and prices were amazingly reasonable. The bar selection was excellent for such a small bar, and the wine list was commendable if unremarkable. The interior was, again, hip and modern. It was romantically lit, but not too bad. Unlike other "romantic" restaurants, you could actually see your food. I liked the modern style, deep reds and browns, and candles littering the walls. If I have a criticism of the interior design, it's semantic. Why is this place called Church when there isn't even the slightest homage to a church in the place? At least nail someone to the wall.

Service was excellent. Attentive, but not too. Polite, fast, and trained in all of the professional flourishes that evince a highly polished management team. The selection is primarily comfort food with an acceptable amount of innovation. What really stands out, though, is how affordable everything is. Only two items break the $20 barrier, with most in the mid-teens. It seems that much of the menu is meant as an accompaniment to drinks, providing nibbles in between attempts at getting laid. The music venue attached to the restaurant supports this assumption.

The margherita flatbread was good and fairly priced at $5. The bread itself was soft and chewy on the inside, with good texture, but was good and crispy on the outside. The sauce was a very simple and extremely flavorful tomato sauce. I like my sauce with more complexity, but I can't fault the quality. Mozarella was fresh and mild, and the basil had acceptable kick.

Entrees included the macaroni and cheese, which was... macaroni and cheese. The cheese was rich, and it certainly wasn't the bland, creamy, mouth-filling "blah" that many mac-&-cheeses are, and the churizo added acceptable bite, so thumbs up. The artisan pasta was disappointing. It was expensive for a small serving and didn't stand alone as an entree. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and the large dollop of delicious goat cheese on top was well-placed, but that was it. Spinach, cheese, and some noodles for $16? That's rough. The steak sandwich, on the other hand, was a good deal for $12 with flavorful-yet-tender meat and being well-prepared. Steak tips were a mixed bag. The tips themselves were tender enough but not very flavorful, and they would have been well-served by a spicy sauce alongside them. This disappointment was eased by the excellent Parmesan and truffle french fries and perfectly prepared asparagus which were served beside the tips. The Buttermilk fried chicken and waffle was a great take on some rich comfort food. It was a small serving but still well-priced at $8. It would make a great appetizer for two people.

The size of the menu and the fact that some of their items are homeruns (appropriate considering their proximity to Fenway) outweighs some of their stumbles. I suspect that if I lived in Boston, I would find myself at Church regularly. It's affordable, with good food, and a very enjoyable dining area. Moreover, as I mentioned, it's one part of a duo with its counterpart being a music venue that looks suitably like a wanna-be, but not quite as dirty, CBGB.

As the Church website so subtly puts it, they provide "music. food. booze." I guess it's best to be direct about these things. So if that three word mission statement sounds good to you, give Church a shot. I'm sure that you'll be satisfied.

Church: +++

69 Kilmarnock Street
Boston, MA 02215-4821
(617) 236-7600

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Monday through Friday 5:00pm to 12:00am
Saturday & Sunday 11:00am to 12:00am
Every day 5:00pm to 2:00am

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