Welcome to Lent 2017! Well, technically, it is still Shrove Tuesday and Lent starts tomorrow, but you get the drift. We are bringing back our regular Lenten feature (OF COURSE WE ARE) – our reviews of regional fish fries.
But tonight we have a special pre-Lenten chance to flex our fish fry review muscles with our first ever foray to a Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner.
Name: Calvary United Methodist Church (Northside)
Date: February 28, 2017
Time We Ate: 6:15 PM
Random review of #fishburgh adventures during Lent. Find a fish fry on this Google maps collection. You can also follow them on Facebook and find tons of reviews and suggestions. Here is our general criteria:
In review, the factors we assess or review include:
- Atmosphere/Volunteer Friendliness/Engagement
- Menu: variety, portions, taste and price
- LGBTQ cultural competency
- Ecofactors such as reusable/disposable items, recycling bins, takeout containers
I saw this event advertised on Facebook and since we had nothing ready to prepare for dinner, we thought it was worth a visit. This church is less than a mile from our house. I’ve never been there, but Ledcat’s brother was married there. There was plenty of street parking and some helpful giant signs directing us to the appropriate entrance.
We had to descend exterior steps to the basement and there was no sign to the elevator. Ledcat found the elevator when she was looking for the ladies room so I’d say half a point on that matter.
We were greeted by a polite woman at the front door – the cost was $6/person for an all-you-can-eat style meal. The menu included buttermilk pancakes, sausage, several fruits, applesauce and some other topping choices. Beverages were coffee (regular and decaf), tea, juice, lemon water and milk.
The room was filled with groupings of tables. We grabbed two empty seats and tossed our coats down to reserve them. Then we headed back to the serving table.
I notice that they didn’t ask if people *wanted* sausage which is a mistake given that vegetarians are likely guests. We were each handed a styrofoam plate divided into sections with a whole bunch of pancakes stacked on top along with 3 sausage links. The syrup caused a backup due to physics (slow pouring due to air flow). I was tempted to yell “Science can help!” to hurry things along, but thought better of it.
The food was okay. Pancakes were a little chewy, but not terrible. The side of fruit made it fine. The sausage was fine. For $6, it was fine. The coffee was pretty bad. The lemon water tasted quaint.
The big problem was the atmosphere/engagement/friendliness. No one spoke to us beyond a few nods, smiles. No one asked how we heard about it, why we came, where we are from, etc. Given that we live less than a mile away, that’s a huge missed opportunity. It was very clearly an event targeting their existing internal base. It felt very cliquey and unwelcoming. No hint of LGBTQ friendliness at all. Way more excluding than the Catholics.
Two things really stood out. One was the older man wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball cap which appalled me. I was tempted to leave. He was clearly part of the congregation, but I can’t begin to imagine why they would fail to realize the message that hat sent to our predominantly black neighborhood (and the occasional LGBTQ person.) Gentleman of his age don’t typically wear baseball caps inside church buildings at all so I think it was a deliberate message. And it was received. AKA I won’t go back.
The other issue was the group of children running around the hall. At least six children including toddlers just buzzing around the beverage table playing keep away etc. No adults. One ran smack into Laura while she was juggling her plate and narrowly avoided a collision with a hot plate. I’m all about incorporating kids into events, but there’s a line and it should definitely start near the carafes of coffee and hot water. I don’t mind being inconvenienced, but I would like to be able to set aside fear of accidentally scalding a preschooler who is in full shriek mode.
The church did put out a lot of flyers about upcoming events. And the tables were nicely set, clean and sturdy. But it felt more like an event venue than a worship space. The church has a wonderful reputation for hosting weddings and participating in tours and such. But even the website focuses more on events & weddings than theology or community building. Tis a pity.
The final matter was the environmental factor. This was probably the least eco-friendly event I’ve ever attended. The plates and cups were pure styrofoam. There wasn’t a hint of recycling anything, anywhere. And then this sign:
Not tap water! I shouldn’t mock that because I know there are legit tap water concerns, but again – white folks coming into a black community and not wanting to drink the water from the spigot is a bit iffy.
Pros: price, cleanliness, quasi-available elevator, signage
Cons: waste, lack of engagement, lack of parental supervision, quality of food
We chalked this up as an okay outing. We spent a few bucks in the neighborhood, got an okay dinner and tried something new. But not a single thing about this faith community makes me want to go back (especially that hat.) I do appreciate the chance to flex my fish fry muscles.
I can also see I’m going to have to add the MAGA/Trump type hat to the general assessment of friendliness and welcoming attitudes moving forward. Sigh.
Stay tuned – we are still deciding if we’ll attend an Ash Wednesday fish fry. I’m looking forward to hearing how Glitter Ash Wednesday goes! But we’ll definitely be back up and running on Friday.