The corner of Church and Main in Burlington is one of those spots that frustrated me. At the very bottom of the Church Street Marketplace, it’s a nice location, and for quite a few years it was the home of one of my favorite Burlington restaurants, Smokejack’s. However, like a lot of restaurants (good and bad), Smokejack’s closed in 2008, and the place sat empty for a few years before finally reopening as Church and Main. We’d walked by it several times since it opened, and people always seemed to be enjoying themselves in there (particularly with cocktails), so when I had to find a place in Burlington to celebrate Carol’s birthday, I decided to give Church and Main a try.
Church and Main is basically an upscale “American Bistro” focusing on cocktails, a very extensive wine list, and the showcasing of local ingredients (particularly meats and cheeses), making it a slightly more upscale dining establishment than much of Church Street (apart from Leunig’s). Since the bar (and it’s rather outgoing bartenders) are a prominent feature of the place, we both decided to start with cocktails, Carol with a Maple Manhattan, and myself with a “Budding Romance” (a rather pleasant concoction of hibiscus-infused vodka, Lillet rouge, creme de peche, and champagne). The Maple Manhattan is what really impressed me: usually the use of Maple in a cocktail isn’t the greatest idea, since it usually hits like a sugar hammer, but this was a well-done cocktail: it still tasted just like a Manhattan should, but with just a hint of maple flavor and sweetness, adding to the cocktail instead of covering it up. I’ll definitely want to come back and sit at the bar at some point.
For appetizers, we opted for two: the calamari and a wedge salad. The calamari was quite notable, since it wasn’t your normal presentation; instead of the normal calamari flour breading Church and Main does theirs with a light rice flour batter and a chili-ginger sauce. The result was a light, pleasant dish with predominantly Asian flavors, and I found it rather enjoyable (even if the calamari itself was right on the border of being overcooked).
My salad was a result of me giving into one of my weaknesses. I’m generally not a great fan of iceberg lettuce, but I do rather find myself unable to resist that old steakhouse classic, the wedge salad, where a giant wedge of iceberg lettuce is served up dripping with bleu cheese dressing and bacon. Well done, it’s actually quite a good dish. Here at Church and Main, they had their own rendition of it: substituting prosciutto for bacon, using mini-iceberg heads, and dressing it lightly
but adding several large chunks of high quality local bleu cheese. The result was a nice and enjoyable riff on the normal wedge salad, although to be honest, I would probably have liked it more with a good pancetta or even North Country Smokehouse bacon, but the prosciutto did work well enough.
For the main course, I opted for one of their featured entrees, the Church Filet. A relatively simple dish, this was a nicely done filet (extremely tender and cooked to my requested medium rare, although with a slight bit more sear on the outside than I usually prefer), served up with a nice medley of potatos, carrots, and mushrooms. Not a particularly fancy dish, but a dish done well.
Carol did quite well, too, with their featured chicken dish. Basically a roulade made by rolling the white and dark meat chicken, cooking it sous vide, and then finishing it on the grill, this was a well-conceived and executed chicken dish: the chicken was moist and flavorful, but crispy.
Overall, we were pleased with Church and Main. There’s a lot of potential here, especially on the cocktail front, and while their basic concept of “inventive American” was good, some dishes carried it off much better than others. And the execution was just a spot off of what I like for this level of dining. There’s nothing wrong per se with Church and Main, and I’ll certainly be coming back. But I hope they can turn it up a notch.