Tucked next to the caffeinated community hub Sweet_ness 7 Cafe at Grant and Lafayette, The Tabernacle is a former religious house revived as a one-of-a-kind neighborhood bar.
The place greets visitors with a bright blue front door and black and white stripes on the stately columns outside. Inside, it sports a new Technicolor coat thanks to owner Prish Moran’s former cook and amateur painter, Jeremy Twiss, who is garnering plenty of attention for his eye-popping murals covering every inch of the eclectic Irish pub.
I have dropped in a few times recently to soak up the atmosphere and sample some bites. The first time was on opening weekend, when music pumped from the speakers and a friendly, nervous energy from the new bar staff filled the deep, high-ceilinged space, festooned with Twiss’ fever dreams and emanating a vibe somewhere between South Buffalo watering hole and psychedelic Buddhist temple. On the West Side.
All we consumed that evening was a Manhattan (long day for my friend) and a coffee (me, feeling sleepy), and a small plate of deviled eggs ($8/$10), but it all strangely hit the spot.
There were three beers on tap, including Bells Two Hearted, Guinness and Carlsberg ($6.5 pint/$24 pitcher), plus domestic and imported bottles, wines by the glass or bottle, and a full list of Irish whiskeys and other liquors. The house pours traditional cocktails and cordials, too.
Another visit fell on Cinco de Mayo/Derby weekend, when a DJ spun tropical music from the back stage; live music will be an ongoing feature at the pub.
A friend and I found the regular food and drink menu replaced with $5 margaritas and juleps, and a few decidedly non-Irish dishes, like chicken, barbecue pork, blackened haddock or veggie tacos ($4), quesadillas ($6, or $7 with chicken). “Prish and Chips,” a nacho plate in two sizes ($10/$15), is a regular item but made the obvious crossover.
I had the haddock taco and, while we definitely weren’t in Rome, or Mexico, it was an ample serving of blackened, flaky fish with a saucy cabbage slaw and chopped tomato, served in two corn tortillas badly in need of a hot griddle to prevent their disintegration.
A return trip to try the traditional Irish pub food produced a tasty, if somewhat grainy, mac and cheese ($8/$10) made with gruyere, cheddar and Parmesan. A single order of “Samarah’s pierogi” ($3 each), an ample dumpling filled with potato and Irish cheddar, came topped with nicely darkened sweet onion and a side of sour cream.
Other dishes—all available as “nibbles” or bigger portions—include assorted platters of cheese ($12/$18), raw vegetables and hummus ($12/$15), and dried sausage ($16/$20), as well as breads ($12/$16) and a shareable Ploughman’s Platter of all of the above plus pickles, eggs, fruit and nuts ($25).
A “loaded burger” ($15) features bacon, egg and, if you’re game, Cheetos. A Southern-style barbecue pulled pork sandwich with farm-raised pork and slaw rounds out the heftier plates.
Like Moran’s former Irish pub in Parkside, the Tabernacle comes with her rules, posted at the door. Notably among them, “Always share your chips.” Let this lead you on a path of (not too much) righteousness as the bartender pulls you a pint.
INFO: The Tabernacle, 211 Lafayette Ave. Phone: 883-1738. Hours: 5 to 11 p.m, Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Live music, call ahead or check Facebook for updates.