CHURCH & STATE BISTRO
A DOWNTOWN FAVE STILL THRIVES
Sometimes the most buzzed about restaurants never seem to live up to their hype. Downtown's Church & State Bistro was all the rage when it first opened in 2008 and now, nearly ten years later, it still delivers a quality meal.
I still remember my first visit to the downtown French café, which some have likened to a SoHo or even Paris vibe on Industrial Street. I found it to be in a really sketchy neighborhood but now the area has been developed and it has a cool, artsy feel to it. The energy really buzzes inside the restaurant as the lively atmosphere sets the mood for a good night out.
I wanted to start my evening with a cocktail and the Rye Not? with Old Overholt Rye, Campari, and St. Germain served up was fantastic. Consider this drink a real winner. Likewise, the Golden Goose with Brokers Gin, gooseberry shrub, yellow chartreuse, rosemary and lime served on the rocks was refreshing and tasted like good boozy lemonade.
Oysters have always been a specialty of the house and really are a must-have item. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. I usually tend to stay away from chartcuterie but it's also a menu staple so we went for broke with the Grand Chartcuterie, which comes with duck prosciutto, duck rillettes, chicken liver mousse, house cured pork belly, pâté de campagne, pork butter, chicharrón, head cheese, mustard and pickled vegetables. This is a pretty spectacular order and the pâté paired brilliantly with the Garden of Eden cocktail made with bourbon, cynar liquor, lime, pomegranate and rosemary served up. I can't say enough about that combination as the cocktail and pâté really brought each other to life.
Other classic French starter items includes the Steak Tartare with Strauss Family Farms grass fed beef, mesclun salad and French Fries, and the The Moules Marinieres, PEI mussels—a very nice dish perfect for sharing.
For our entrées, or plats principaux, we went with the Bouillabaisse—provincial fish stew, prawns, mussels, clams, rock fish, fennel, potato, leek and rouille—as well as the Cassoulet—casserole, seven-hour lamb, pork garlic sausage, duck leg confit, and white beans. Both dishes are unique and not something you see on a menu every day and both were extremely flavorful and delicious. Yes, they were also very hearty and filling. The bouillabaisse was very nice but the Cassoulet was a grand slam winner. If you're not feeling the stew, other options include the Coq au Vin, duck breast or the classic steak frites, but I really recommend the Cassoulet.
If you have room for dessert, the Tartes du Jour, especially the Chocolate & Salted Caramel tart, is out of this world. It's decadent and deadly to any diet but it is so sinfully delicious.
And big props to Executive Chef Tony Esnault for keeping a venerable downtown favorite fresh and exciting, which isn't easy to do in a town where what's new and shiny gets the most attention.
Church & State Bistro is located at 1850 Industrial Street. Weekday lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm; Dinner Monday – Thursday 6pm to 10pm; Friday and Saturday until 11pm; Sunday from 5:30pm to 9pm. Call 213-405-1434.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Some Photography Courtesy: Church & State Bistro