BRYAN — The seat of Williams County is best known for Etch A Sketch, Spangler Candy Co., and its historic courthouse, but they might soon take a backseat to Father John's Brewing Co.
Dr. John Trippy, a retired oral surgeon from Bryan, bought and renovated a Methodist church built in 1895 that now houses a restaurant and craft brewery in the basement, meeting rooms and a concert hall in the sanctuary, and a scenic beer garden.
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The centerpiece of the restaurant, which opened last summer, is a beautiful, stone-like bar in the shape of a cross. Many multi-faith icons decorate the dining area, including crosses and stained-glass windows, a giant Buddha behind the beer engine, pews for seats at booths, and even knights and swords. Rooms look like they belong in stone-walled castles and one has a glass floor with a view of the likely final resting place of the original minister.
Father John's menu, which changes regulary, says it has "reclaimed, repurposed, or handcrafted from local sources" most things in the building. And if all that weren't enough, the food and beer by themselves are worth the hour-plus trip from Toledo.
We dined on rosemary and sea salt prime rib ($27), 12-ounce bison strip loin ($26), and seared Georges Bank scallops ($24) on our first visit.
The prime rib was succulent and expertly displayed atop mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and cauliflower, and served with roasted asparagus and a horseradish-based sauce.
The restaurant serves bison that is raised on Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve in Fremont, Ind., that also is owned by Father John's proprietor. The bison strip loin, served with fries and a simple salad with house ranch, was robust and grilled to perfection and set off by a zesty chimichurri sauce.
The scallops, which were seared just right, were served among mushroom polenta, roasted asparagus, baby spinach, and a spinach walnut pesto sauce.
Not to be outdone, the appetizer of fried goat cheese curds ($8) set the tone for our indulgent meal, which was capped off by dense and decadent chocolate and orange cheesecake ($9) and sundae whim ($7), which featured chocolate and vanilla ice cream, bits of chocolate cake, green tea, and who knows what else — it was supremely delicious.
The restaurant is open five days a week for dinner but only on Saturdays for lunch, but we were told there are plans for additional lunch days in the near future.
We sampled the biscuits and gravy ($7) and roasted turkey hash ($13). We couldn't have been more impressed with our meal's small, yet welcome touches, such as the biscuits' creaminess from ricotta cheese, the roasted Brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes chunks in the hash, and the exceptional fried eggs. Bacon ($3), home fries ($2), and mushroom and white cheddar grits ($3) were all top-notch sides.
On both occasions, we washed down our meals with a couple of beers ($5 a pint) from the on-site brewery, which makes 16 varieties. The brewmaster told us that they've settled on 10 permanent recipes but will rotate and experiment with the other six. The Holy Cow Cream Ale was light and fun and Devil's Advocate Lager, with its hints of cloves, were among our favorites. Growlers are available for purchase and fill-ups.
According to Father John's website, the kitchen is led by experienced and well-traveled chefs Tony Miller and Maggie King, an Archbold native. Service was professional, courteous, and knowledgeable; everyone seemed to actually enjoy their work.
If Father John's succeeds in becoming a tourist destination, visitors might make good use of the Amtrak station in town.
Contact Bill of Fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics' meals.