Words and Photos // Sadie Williams
When Church & Main opened its doors in October of 2010, owner Ned Church knew he was bringing something different to Burlington’s restaurant scene. Positioned on the corner of Church and Main Streets, the restaurant offers delicious food, expertly prepared drinks, and live entertainment to casual shoppers, movie and theater goers, and late night revelers alike.
Although their menu changes every three months, the great minds at work in this corner restaurant never fail to keep things fresh and interesting while fulfilling their mission of creating a unique and enjoyable dining experience for all their patrons. In their newest menu revolution, Church and his team members have introduced a plethora of small plates meant for sharing.
Executive chef Trevor Smith shared his excitement at the change, saying, “I’ve always wanted to do a menu in this manner.” What’s the draw? Both Church, Smith, and manager Daniel Caudle cite flexibility as a primary motivator.
“My hope, my aim is to evolve into a spot where you can spend a half hour or two hours, where you’re not locked down,” Church divulged in an interview. “I want to create a flexible atmosphere.”
The new menu format with its array of raw and cured meats, small plates, salads, and large plates is certainly is flexible. But so is the layout of the restaurant itself. The 30-seat cherry bar provides ample space for casual diners catching a bite or a drink before a show. The dining room, separated from the bar by floor to ceiling curtains, provides a cozier dining experience capable of accommodating large and small parties comfortably.
I was able to experience just how flexible Church & Main is with two very different dinner experiences. Last week my dad and I popped into the restaurant on a weekday around 7pm. He was situated at the bar when I arrived, so we decided to eat there. The bartender, Forrest, gave my dad excellent wine recommendations and was equally helpful in my quest for the perfect after work cocktail. I first tried the Protagonist, a deliciously lemony rye drink with a smoky scotch float, while we ordered a few small plates off the new menu.
During our interview, Church told me “what’s unique [about our bartenders] is that they really enjoy their practice.” Interested to see if that was true, I mentioned to Forrest that I would like to try something a little spicier, perhaps with one of their tequila infusions (of which there are many). After inquiring as to a few other flavor preferences, he set about making what is now one of my all-time favorite cocktails. Served in a martini glass with a cayenne sugar rim, the combination of spicy jalapeno, red bell pepper, and cilantro infused tequila, cucumber infused tequila, lime juice, and Solerno was literally to die for. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that Forrest enjoyed every second of making that drink, he certainly put a lot of care and attention into the process, and seemed genuinely pleased that I enjoyed the results of his labor.
Of course the great flavors don’t stop at the bar. We ordered the foraged mushrooms, pork belly, lobster and crab cake, and octopus salad. Each dish was artistically plated, impeccably delicious, and better yet, left me feeling satiated but not bursting.
A few days later, I was invited out by a friend and her family, visiting from Pittsburgh. They had reserved a table for 10 in the main dining room. Luckily they were very interested in the new menu and ordered a round of small plates before considering entrees. Everyone sampled a different cocktail or wine while plates were passed around the table. After two and a half hours of good food and stimulating conversation, everyone left feeling not only satisfied, but stimulated by the entire experience.
With the combination of flexible dining options and enthusiastic service at the bar and table, there’s nothing not to like about Church & Main. And they don’t stop the fun with dinner. The kitchen may close for dinner service at 10pm, but the bar stays open until midnight. Passing by on a Friday it’s not uncommon to see people packed into the back room listening to a DJ, or enjoying a quieter dose of musical ambiance with singer/songwriter Iris Downey on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Next time you’re downtown, stop by Church & Main. Whether it’s for a casual cocktail, a bite to eat before a night on the town, or an intimate dinner, you’re sure to have a good time. The dining room is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4-10pm, closed Mondays. For more information about nightly music, visit their Facebook page. For reservations call (802) 540-3040.