Chugging the Sacrament at Church

A new bar in Northeast Portland tries to make drinking a religious experience.

By Benjamin Tepler May 8, 2013

Thee Burger with brisket, pickled slaw, aged white cheddar, and house bbq sauce

“I’m headed to Church…I don’t want to be late for Church!” As bar names go, you’ve got to admit “Church” gets your attention. It’s ironic in a sacrilegious sort of way. Any off-the-cuff mention requires further explanation. That was the thinking behind a new hipper-than-thou bar on Northeast Sandy near 26th Avenue where the house motto is “Eat, Drink, Repent,” and the interior straddles Southern Pentecostal and industrial chic.  

Reclaimed pieces of wood look torn straight from a centuries-old Southern church, medieval iron chandeliers dangle from the ceiling, and a heavy black cloth in the corner shrouds the “confessional”—a converted digital photo booth. At its best, Church is a fun, provocative addition to the neighborhood.

But early tastings have been far from religious. The small food menu skews Southern comfort with hush puppies, fried chicken, and cornbread. Deep-fry batter wilts off drumsticks and “Hipsters on Horseback” mixes tepid oysters with watery green tomatoes and a strangely sweet beer glaze. Even “Thee Brisket Burger” is a miss, cooked to hockey-puck status and drenched in saccharine barbecue sauce. And while the names are cleverly thematic (Hang Your Cross, Old World Prayer), Church’s fancy cocktails lack nuance and execution across the board.

Corn Hush Puppies with Voodoo Sauce

It won’t take divine intervention for Church to step up its game. The doors have just opened, and there is plenty of time to match food and drink to the novelty bar concept.  

2600 NE Sandy Blvd.
Open daily, 4pm-2am




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