Finding a Good, Catholic Restaurant


“I know a great little place where we can get some good, authentic Catholic cuisine.”  How would you react if your date made that statement?  If you’re being honest, wouldn’t you silently stare at that person with a blank look on your face, and think to yourself “Um…I think I’ll go home now”?

I have never actually heard of anyone experiencing this.  But I’m starting to believe that it’s probably coming soon.  More and more I hear of Catholics trying to find the “Catholic” version of everything in life.

It’s not good enough to have good rock music; it has to be Christian rock.  The musician might be Catholic, but if he or she is not outwardly obvious about their Catholicism, then they are not Catholic enough.

Or it’s not good enough that a Catholic goes to Bermuda on vacation, better that they go on pilgrimage.  (and I’m not knocking pilgrimages, after all, I’m going on oneinOctober!)

It’s not good enough that a Catholic couple go out dancing, better that they attend a Theology of the Body talk.  Or an engaged couple feels like they should give their business to Catholic businesses rather than seek out the best price or (more importantly), quality service.

There’s nothing wrong with doing explicitly “Catholic” types of things, or considering the Catholic person for your business over someone who is not Catholic.  But there is everything wrong with over-thinking this, or purposely excluding the explicitly non-Catholic things or people of our culture.

I recently heard about a parish announcing that a new Boy Scout troop was being started because they want to make Boy Scouting more “Catholic.”  Boy Scouts is an American institution, and millions of Catholic boys have been Boy Scouts and become fine young men of character.  To presume to make Boy Scouts more “Catholic” is to attempt to exclude non-Catholics, which is a very non-Catholic attitude.

I’m all for being mindful of how careful people need to be in the culture of death we dwell within, but there is such a thing as going too far, distorting the facts, and frankly getting it all wrong.  This hyper-sensitive concern for what is “Catholic” risks individuals living in true freedom and losing the person.

Though there are destructive things in our culture, we are not to fear it.  There is much more about culture that is good and a gift from God, meant for us to enjoy and relax as we partake in them.

Catholics seeking to meet a quality person who is a practicing Catholic have it hard enough.  Setting the bar so high that a Catholic must think, speak, live, breath all things explicitly “Catholic” is a grave mistake.

To me, this is a red flag that you are dealing with someone who is likely a fundamentalist Catholic, one with little tolerance for mistakes in others.  Often the intensely religious are harsh, cruel, controlling people.

It’s an interesting modern phenomenon to consider something or someone as having credibility or value because of the label of “Catholic”.

A Catholic store makes sense because it sells products that are for Catholic devotion and spiritual enrichment.  A Catholic church makes sense because it is a house of good centered on Catholic worship.

But can you imagine if we started having things like a Catholic baseball team, or a Catholic supermarket?  What is the message we are saying to the world?  It says, “we exclude you.”  Isn’t that the Protestant notion?

What is so beautiful about authentic Catholic culture historically is that Catholics are involved with the culture, and transform it by example and living their lives.  But they embrace the cultural things, not escape them.  They don’t bully the culture with the hammer of “Catholic,” nor behave condescendingly to all cultural things, only embracing it if it becomes labeled “Catholic.”  There is no need to re-label the things of culture, just live as individuals within it, and perhaps simply transform the spirit of it.

Catholic dating tends to have this labeling mentality in a lot of ways.  I just did it myself just now.  I called it “Catholic dating.”  Dating, love and marriage are already implicitly “Catholic”.  Unfortunately, we need the label of “Catholic dating” because dating in general has departed so far from a traditional moral structure, becoming quite reckless, hedonistic, and irresponsible.  It’s just not what it used to be, and we need to make sure people have a way to know right away if they are on the same page.

But all dating and courtship is about love, and love is all about God, and is God.  The extraction of God from modern love, dating and courtship is technically anti-Catholic.  So I am in favor of some aspects of labeling in order to help people have some initial perspective.

But we go too far when we feel we have to distrust anything that we cannot outwardly define as “Catholic.”

We should not be imposing on the mystery of love an intense and rigid approach to culture in the dating process.  Too many single Catholics get caught up in what might be the “Catholic” places to go or things to do, or the “Catholic” things to wear.  Worse, they get caught up in determining if the person they are dating is “Catholic” enough for them, when it is a sinner that they will love and commit to in marriage.

We are becoming a culture of judgmental people with excessively high standards for the Catholics we date and choose to love.  And a large part of this is because we cannot accept that we are culturally influenced people..  Our Catholicism can be the most important part of us, and lived in every aspect of life, but is not the culture.

People make up the culture from God’s creation all around us.  Creation itself is implicitly “Catholic.” We don’t need to put labels to everything in order to appreciate it or partake in it.   A good cup of coffee is culture.  A Catholic cup of coffee is redundant.  The quality, delicious coffee already is “catholic” because it’s God’s creation coupled by man’s invention and industry.

We need to relax.  Just because your date does not talk about Catholicism 24/7 does not mean they aren’t a good catch.  In fact, they’re a much better catch than the person who feels they have to dominate all topics of conversation with religion.

So go out on your dates and have a delicious meal of the multiplicity of ethnic food choices, walking in a beautiful park with the delightful breeze of the night air, enjoying the talents of others at a theatrical performance or at a museum, or any of the endless cultural opportunities that your area has to offer.

None of it has to have the word “Catholic” associated with it.  But the enjoyment of all of it together, drawing you subtly closer in heart, is as Catholic as it gets.


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  • FranR

    How ironic — this post on “Catholic” Lane!
    “…the message we are saying to the world….“we exclude you.” ” I don’t think so. It says I value our faith and I am willing to spend my resources (time/$$) with a brother/sister in the Faith. I take my non-Catholic friends with me to eat in the restaurant run by a parish family. I suggest the dry cleaner (Catholic owner) because the work is wonderful! I have only been to 2 movies in recent memory (The Passion and For Greater Glory) because I WANT to encourage more and not support evil lifestyles of many involved in that industry. When I dated, looking for a wife, I ONLY dated Catholic women – it wasn’t a matter of being “Catholic enough” but of simply BEING Catholic in deed and life choices.

  • raymondnicholas

    So, where is your list of good Catholic restaurants?

  • Paul S.

    By and large, I agree with your article.

    However, one of the notes that you struck among your examples was badly out of tune:
    “I recently heard about a parish announcing that a new Boy Scout troop was being started because they want to make Boy Scouting more ‘Catholic.’ Boy Scouts is an American institution, and millions of Catholic boys have been Boy Scouts and become fine young men of character. To presume to make Boy Scouts more ‘Catholic’ is to attempt to exclude non-Catholics, which is a very non-Catholic attitude.”

    Around the globe, there are many ways of organizing scouting. BSA is one way. SeGdF (which some of your readers will recognize from World Youth Day experiences) is another.

    While there are certainly be pitfalls to be avoided in organizing within our nation a more specifically ‘Catholic’ way of scouting, it is not necessarily ‘non-Catholic’ to attempt the project.

    The comparison to cooking fails because scouting is about human formation (though not everyone attached to the Ave Maria ‘brand’ understands this distinction…). And there are ways in which scouting can move more toward the Catholic end of the spectrum of human formation: more processions, more pilgrimages, etc. If protestants, atheists, etc., want to participate, they should be welcomed to do so.

  • fishman

    I read this article a few times before I put my finger on it and there is something in it that bothers me.

    First of all , it confuses ‘catholic’ in name with authentically catholic. To call something authentically catholic ‘should’ mean that the subject of the statement is in some way soundly in line with the moral precepts of the body of Christ obedient to his will known as the Catholic church.

    So by the virtue of the fact that the subject of the statement is authentically and actively following in quality and action with the will of God it IS better then any subject that is not or is doing so in a lesser fashion.

    This IS a type of exclusivity and it is VERY Catholic and in fact Christian attitude. In fact the idea that there is something defective about supporting and encouraging (even insisting if possible) all social , government and business entities should act in accordance with the will of God and Good morality should be offensive to all Catholics.

    The opposite attitude, by which freedom of choice ( even if that choice is to do evil) is elevated to an absolute is wholly nu-catholic. Loving the sinner, does NOT mean supporting them in their sin in fact it means just the opposite.

    That is even further complicated by our modern culture in which we ‘vote’ for the quality of a business by our patronage. Just as people are encouraged to ‘buy American’ because it means our country is benefited it behooves Catholics to ‘buy catholic’ when they can.

    ‘we are to be in the world but not OF the world’.

    So, if someone told me there was such a thing as a ‘catholic’ restaurant , my response would be , what characteristics of a restaurant would make it ‘catholic’. I can’t think of any that are specific to restaurants ( maybe not serving human flesh?).

    I CAN think of reasons to exclude certain eating establishments for moral reasons.
    1) a gay bar and strip club would both make the cut.
    2) probably hooters and other places that explicitly exploit women as part of their marketing scheme.
    3) there may be some others that are more or less worthy at a given time as well. (i know many people who are currently boycotting Starbucks because they have made a public statement committing money to lobbing for Gay marriage because it is ‘in line with their corporate values’. I wouldn’t go so far as saying a boycott is a moral imperative is such a case, but I certainly wouldn’t have any disrespect for someone who feels called to such action.

    I’m sorry if that makes me ‘too catholic’ but in so much as being catholic is a function of living the life God intended us to live and encouraging others to do so as well, I don’t think that is possible to be ‘too catholic’.

  • Joseph Q

    I would like to strongly disagree. If a company is truly Catholic, living by the values of Christ, they will either make great products, have great service, or honestly sacrifice and try. This is why Mystic Monk Coffee and Trappist Wines are so popular. They work reverently. They are worth supporting. As Catholics we are all discern our vocations and work hard at it. Because our vocations is what God gave us to perfect us and so our work has both meaning and immense value. Therefore, it makes the most sense to actually search for authentic Catholic establishments and utilize them whether you are Catholic or not.

    On another note, my Vietnamese parish had a very discipline Vietnamese Catholic Scouts. And they were head and shoulders above the quality of local secular scouts. I think if the parish is willing to be honest at their efforts and seek real quality leaders, a Catholic Scout would be the way to go. (The scouts I attended were for both gender and much more morally safe for young children then the local Boy Scouts.)

  • When I heard (this was some years ago) that Dairy Queen was donating to Planned Parenthood I was thrown into a quandary. I love DQ Blizzards and other soft serve treats and wasn’t ready to give them up. After some soul-searching I decided to go ahead and have my treat, and give glory to God for the goodness of ice cream. In that way – glorifying God – I hoped to do enough good to offset whatever fraction of the treat’s cost that had gone to PP.

    Maybe my method isn’t for everyone, but in a world where you can’t even have soft serve ice cream without abetting abortion, I think it’s a valid strategy. Boycotting is good too.

  • danielsvenoconnor

    Strange “problem” to write an article on.

    And what would be so wrong with wanting some good Catholic cuisine? Maybe such a place wouldn’t be plastered with televisions, blaring terrible music, full of drunk & swearing people, full of sexual posters all over the walls, etc.

    Sometimes people who live in little utopias like Front Royal forget that we Catholics elsewhere (New York, for example) look for things that are Catholic _______ because in doing so we avoid the unbelievable dissolution that dominates our surroundings elsewhere. Is it wrong of me to not want to spend my time mired in such moral decay?