Back in April, Seven Days, the alternative paper for the Burlington area, ran an interesting piece about the extensive Handy Family and the positive effect this group of Lebanese immigrants has had on Vermont (see Handyland). One of the places featured prominently in the article is one of Burlington’s older and more iconic breakfast establishments, Handy’s Lunch, which has been on my hit list for rather a long time as a breakfast joint (quite frankly, I don’t often have the opportunity to have breakfast in Burlington that often, I’m mostly a dinner diner in that city). But my recent trip up to the Canadian border had me spending the night in Burlington, so I got to finally check the place out.
Located in a modest little building on the corner of Maple and South Champlain in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood near the waterfront. Walking in the door, it’s like walking into another era. Specifically, 1958, since that’s when Handy’s installed their current dining area, with a horseshoe shaped Formica counter. And a look around the room from the stools, to the menu board, to the coffee makers, show that precious little has changed in Handy’s since it opened—primarily occasional updates to the prices and the sporting paraphernalia. Otherwise, this place is still the 1950s, including the overall way they run the joint: walking in the door, one of the owners, Earl, gives you a friendly greeting, offers you a seat, and goes over his specials, while chatting you up about Burlington, the weather, and local events (most of which I’m unaware of, not being a Burlington local). It really does have that 1950s diner friendliness down pat.
Menu-wise, there’s nothing really surprising here, just the typical diner fare like they’ve been serving up for 60+ years. Breakfast range from the standard eggs with sides, omelets, pancakes, and the the Big Daddy breakfast combo. Lunch options include subs, burgers, hot dogs, and the like as well. But seeing this was breakfast, I went for the eggs and country fried steak breakfast. I could hear the sizzle as my country fried steak went into the fryer, and watched them crack the eggs and start scrambling. A few short minutes later, and I’ve got a nice plate of eggs (very nicely scrambled, neither over nor undercooked), a nice slab of country fried steak, some homefries (which they call homies), and some toast. Nothing fancy, but a good, delicious, and hearty breakfast, all for the price of $7.75. As I ate, a continual stream of Burlington locals came in and out of the restaurant, most of them greeted, by first name, by Earl.
Handy’s Lunch. It’s a great breakfast place and a nice little neighborhood gem with a great staff. I’m sure I’ll come back at some point, maybe to try their “famous” Texas hot dog.