Downhome (Montpelier, VT)

I have a soft spot for Montpelier, one of the United States’ most quiet state capitals. It’s a pleasant town, with a lot of little stores, and a decent arts scene. And, most importantly, for a modest city of its size, it actually has an impressive assortment of restaurants, ranging from classic diner (Coffee Corner, to funky Asian-inspired (Kismet), to pizza (Positive Pie II), just for starts. And in this environment, new eateries are appearing all the time, and most of them have staying power. So, when a new place shows up in Montpelier, I’m usually interested in checking it out, so a trip up to Warren VT turned involved a chance to stop by and check out a relative newcomer: Downhome.

Having moved into what was until recently a bookstore (Rivendell Books), there’s been a lot of renovation, but the result is a surprisingly pleasant dining room. The menu is basically “Southern Comfort food”, and this is where I usually start to have my spidey-sense tingle, since typically “New England” and “Southern Food” combine just about as well as “New England” and “Barbecue”. The combination isn’t impossible, but it should be approached with great skepticism. That said, that’s why I held out some decent hope for Downhome, since one of the Chefs involved with Downhome is Jimmy Kennedy, who used to run the late River Run BBQ, which in its relatively short existence was one of the few exceptions I’ve found to “New England Barbecue sucks”. In any case, I decided to take the plunge, ordering up The Southern, a breakfast plate featuring a fried chicken thigh, two eggs, a choice of home fries or cheese grits and a biscuit. Of course, I went for the cheese grits.

And I’ll have to say, like nearby Philamena’s, I was immediately impressed by my breakfast from Downhome, since it was served up with a proper biscuit that, well, didn’t suck. It was a good, proper biscuit: tall, fluffy, and flavorful inside, with a nice crunch exterior. Please, make sure you spread the art of biscuit making around, folks! The fried chicken was also a proper thigh: nicely breaded, juicy and flavorful inside, and nicely enrobed in a flaky breading that didn’t bury the chicken, and wasn’t overly greasy. Add in some pleasant cheese crits and some nicely done eggs, and this was a fine breakfast overall. I’d be happy to come back.

Overall, Downhome was quite pleasing, and I’m glad that someone is finally doing a good job of bringing classic Southern fare to Vermont.

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