Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Where: Stone Church Pizza House and Brewpub, 600 S. Hermitage Rd., Hermitage, Pa.
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Menu: Five burgers, from $10 to $14
Rating: 41⁄2 stars
By Anthony M. FUDA
On the eighth day of creation, God said “Let there be burgers.”
And Drew Dieter, chef at Stone Church Pizza House and Brewpub, fulfilled God’s wish by creating five heavenly burgers.
Yes, we went to church, but a church that was converted to a restaurant and pub. We were joined on our pilgrimage by Matt Stone, reporter at WFMJ-TV 21, in hopes of praising these burgers.
When we arrived, we weren’t sure if we should make the sign of the cross as we walked in, or genuflect before we sat at the table.
Jack Laeng, co-owner, gave us a tour and a brief history. The Romanian Roman Catholic church was built in the 1960s and stood strong until the congregation moved in the 2000s. In 2014, Laeng and his business partner, Mark Hudson, bought the church and kept the spiritual theme. Stained glass windows decorate the walls, and pews provide seating as well as chairs. A bar now stands where the altar used to be, and downstairs is the kitchen where divine cooking takes place.
We were there for the burgers, but Stone Church is known for its create-your-own-pizza as well as its on-site brewed craft beers, and usually has eight to 10 on hand. Laeng wasn’t going to let us out of the building without sampling its “holy water,” but we will defer all beer questions to the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew.
Our waitress, Alani Aikens, gave us a brief homily on some of the restaurant’s favorite foods and brews. Even though we were tempted by the pizza, we looked eagerly to the burger section:
Stoney Burger (two hand-pressed 3-ounce patties, lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced red onion, melted cheddar, beer pickles and topped with beer mustard)
Sweet Baby Bacon, two hand-pressed 3-ounce patties, stone spicy barbecue sauce, diced red onions, melted cheddar and candied bacon
Stout Gravy Burger, topped with house-made stout gravy, sautéed mushrooms, onions and Swiss cheese
Double Bacon Cheeseburger, one-pound patty, bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion
There’s also a build-your-own option, and all the burgers are served with fresh cut fries or pub chips.
What’s unique about the pub’s food is that you can get a burger on a standard bun, classic pizza shell or gluten-free pizza shell.
I had to try one of the home brews with my burger, so I chose the El Padre Mexican lager with the Double Bacon Cheeseburger, and I was very happy with my choices.
The beer was smooth and a nice-tasting lager. This one-pound burger is very hearty. It was cooked perfectly, and tasted as if it was pulled off the grill as soon as the last ounce was finished cooking. I went with the church-blend cheeses of provolone, Gouda and cheddar, which made the burger even better. The bacon was delicious, with just enough crispiness to make any bacon-lover smile. With the combination of all of those flavors, this is a burger I will definitely re-visit. To top it off, the mountain of fries made sure I did not go home hungry.
Matt Stone: I had the Stoney Burger, and I liked the immediate fresh grill taste of the burger. The cheese and beer mustard with the onions, all melted together, provided a surprisingly different taste than your average run of mill burger, but that’s a good thing.
Eric: I had the Stoney Burger as well and tried the classic pizza shell for the bun. I found it to be extremely enjoyable. For starters, having two patties instead of one is always a step in the right direction. The toppings came in just the right portions, and besides it’s hard to say no to beer mustard and beer pickles. I chose to have my meal on a pizza wedge, which was a new experience. After my first bite, I realized the days of the conventional hamburger bun may be coming to an end. While the Stone Church might be more recognized for its pizza and many different beers on tap (of which I can attest, the latter is also amazing), I can say a few Hail Marys for the divine burgers that are served.
JT: I love the atmosphere! The enormous, intricately crafted stained glass window, catching the day’s final glimpse of sunlight, is an inspirational backdrop for their beer tap system handles. My eyes watered just a bit. Maybe from the sun, or maybe it was the pure, unadulterated beauty of the row of silhouettes standing before the kaleidoscope of color, poised and ready to serve any style of ice cold, church-brewed draft one could desire. Jack was kind enough to set us up with a dozen or so samples which did not go untested. They know what they’re doing! I cannot wait to hear what our thirsty brothers in The Mahoning Valley Flight Crew have to say when they visit! But, we are here first and foremost for the burgers. I have to agree with everyone about the flavor; they were delicious! For a pizza place, they put up some excellent burgers!
You don’t need divine intervention to try one of Stone Church’s burgers, but you will thank the Lord above for showing you the path to the church’s front doors. Burgers, craft beers and pizza; for some people, that combination is scripture in and of itself.
After this delicious meal, we exited the Church singing, “Alleluia, Alleluia!”
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