I have been to Freemason Abbey a few times in the past. Once, when I was nineteen (cannot remember, does not count) and the other instance was with a work 'group lunch' and it was terrible. For obvious reasons, I was a little leery about going again, but Laine and I wanted to review something new and so we did a weather toss between two places. Sunny skies sent us walking to Freemason. Online, I noticed they had a vegetarian menu, which had eight or so choices and this lifted my apprehension slightly. We were seated quickly, but the menu did not show these vegetarian selections. My anxiousness grew to some extent but was calmed when I asked about the missing items and the waitress, with her 'girl training' in tow, said the vegetarian items are on a separate menu and brought it speedily. The veggie sandwich description looked like a lot of lettuce with some sun-dried tomatoes and onions and did not sound like it had a lot of heart to it. There was a vegetarian flatbread pizza, but pizza twice last week has cured me of that craving for a while. Another selection, the Gouda fettuccine, caught by eye, but that is a little heavy for having to go back to work and sit at a desk, so my top choices were the vegetable stir-fry with rice or the vegetable fettuccine. The vegetable fettuccine came with either Alfredo or marinara. I chose marinara so I could avoid falling asleep after lunch. No one likes a face plant on their desk. The waitresses asked if we wanted rolls. It was nice for them to ask to avoid bringing bread for a table that does not want it. Why waste unnecessarily. The rolls reminded me of Pepperidge Farm rolls, which are not bad for store bought. I expect a little more out of a restaurant but of course a lot buy in bulk. The rolls were warm, but I highly doubt homemade.
Our food came out in a reasonable time and my vegetable fettuccine looked better than I had presumed. I like to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I am let down less frequently and this meal proves my theory of choice. The marinara had a good flavor and was of the right consistency, not too viscous or too watery. Sautéed mushrooms, peppers, broccoli and onions were plentiful in the dish, as well, with a little Parmesan. My only suggestion is to add carrots, squash and zucchini to the vegetables. A few more vegetables would give this dish some character.
Service was excellent. The two gals who waited on us were attentive and very pleasant (always helps when someone has a trainee because the trainer puts the best foot forward). Prices were reasonable, with my dish coming in at $8.95. Overall, this is still not a favorite of mine, but I would not have an anxiety attack if someone suggested going again, I would just not be the instigator of the idea. It could be the building that makes me feel out of place. I typically only enter churches for weddings, funerals or for architectural appreciation in other cities.
I'm with Alex on Freemason Abbey. I have been there several times in the past, but it never really bowls me over. I know some people really like the ambiance, but eating anything in a church other than a thin wafer, approximately one inch in diameter, seems odd to me. However, lunch was good Tuesday, and service was excellent. We were in and out of there in under an hour, and Alex's meal was not from their express lunch menu. I was surprised to see that they were fairly busy, and we were seated upstairs in the last booth by the servers' station. I had preselected a salad after checking out their menu online, only to discover that their current in house menu was different, lacking that salad of course. Hrumph! Oh well, instead I selected Abbey Flounder; Boneless flounder filet broiled and topped with our house crab cake. Served with rice and green beans almondine for 8.95. This is from their "Lunch in a Flash" menu. It was quite good. Fortunately someone in the kitchen knows how to cook fish, and it was done to perfection.
I don't think it moved to the top of my list, but my opinion has definitely improved and I would not hesitate to return to Freemason Abbey in the future.
Freemason Abbey Restaurant
209 W Freemason St
Norfolk, VA 23510