The corner of Church and Main in Burlington is one of those spots that frustrated me. At the very bottom of the Church Street Marketplace, it’s a nice location, and for quite a few years it was the home of one of my favorite Burlington restaurants, Smokejack’s. However, like a lot of restaurants (good and bad), Smokejack’s closed in 2008, and the place sat empty for a few years before finally reopening as Church and Main. We’d walked by it several times since it opened, and people always seemed to be enjoying themselves in there (particularly with cocktails), so when I had to find a place in Burlington to celebrate Carol’s birthday, I decided to give Church and Main a try.
As those that have been to this site a lot have noticed, I have a weakness for hot dogs. Indeed, a coworker claiming that “hot dogs are just hot dogs” was one of my inspirations for starting this blog, since there are really quite a few varieties of hot dogs in existence (indeed, I’ve got as far as the Iceland Pylsur in my reviews). One of the more intriguing things I like is when essentially the same concept, like the “Chili dog”, gets some regional variations. When I was growing up (in the Southwest), a chili dog was simply a “chili dog” (albeit with the caveat that the sort of chili that makes a good condiment isn’t the same sort that tastes good in a bowl). The “Coney Island” dog is a variant of this with “Coney sauce”, a meaty, near-chili spicy meat sauce, and can be spotted by that name ranging from Michigan all the way over to Massachusetts. However, nearly the exact same dog as a “Coney Dog”, with a slightly drier and less spicy sauce, goes by the name “Texas Hot” or a “Michigan” (likely in homage to the Coney Island variety primarily coming from Michigan) in Upstate New York and Vermont (and as far north as northern Quebec, my friend Ben has a great story about buying a “Michigan” hot dog at a food cart at a Hydro Quebec station in far, far, northern Quebec). And a particularly good example of the “Michigan” hot dog can be found at Beansie’s Bus in Burlington, VT.
For a modestly-sized city in one of the nation’s smallest statea, Burlington, Vermont has a surprisingly good selection of restaurants, enough that we always have a bit of trouble figuring out which place to go. One of the perennial contenders for a dinner in Burlington is a smallish place on Bank Street a bit away from the hustle of the Church Street Marketplace: A Single Pebble.
A Single Pebble is one of those places that inhabits a semi-funky space, in what used to be a strip of houses in a block now surrounded by the Burlington Center Mall, Church Street, and a parking garage. If you didn’t know the place was here, you might never stumble upon it, but it’s a reasonably sized restaurant that occupies what used to be two houses and the yard between then (since built over), and most of the seating areas still vaguely resemble their old purpose (indeed, this visit’s seating was in what was obviously the original dining room of one of the houses).
Twice in the last few years we’ve celebrated my birthday with a trip to the same place: Trattoria Delia in Burlington, VT. Nestled into a basement a block south of City Hall park, Trattoria Delia is the sort of place you can easily walk by without checking out… but behind the fairly subtle frontage is a fairly elaborate Italian restaurant with a slightly funky vibe that’s best described as “Sugar house meets Alps”. But despite the quirky decor, Trattoria Delia remains one of Vermonts best Italian restaurants, and this trip was no exception.
In what appears to be turning into a tradition, after this year’s Saturday afternoon session of the Vermont Brewers Festival, we went to The Farm House Tap and Grill with our friends Rick, Sarah, Scott, Eve, and friends. We did this last year, and had a great time (I would have written it up then, but I had left the camera in the truck with our dog Buster).
What is Farm House Tap and Grill? Owned by a group of local restauranteurs including two of the owners of Zero Gravity Brewpub and a few other Vermonters, Farm House is a “gastropub” featuring a combination of good wine and beer lists with food focusing local ingredients. While I’ve never really been a great fan of the term “gastropub” (really, what’s wrong with the old-fashioned word “restaurant”?), it’s actually not a bad description of Farm House. First of all, they’ve got a phenomenal beer list; on this visit, they had an outstanding selection of both local Vermont gems (Rock Art’s Jasmine IPA, Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Chinooker’d, and Otter Creek’s 20th Anniversary, as a start), and regional favorites (Founders’ Devil Dancer, Dieu du Ciel’s Mea Culpa, and some brews from Brooklyn). Some of these (like the Lawson’s) are rather hard to find as well. So they’ve got the selection down pat.
But they’ve also got a decent menu. While they only have a limited tasting menu before 6pm, Farm House was quite happy to let us quietly drink beer and nosh on lighter appetizer fare until 6pm rolled around (we arrived at 5pm)…
We started day 2 of this year’s Burlington visit with a trip to Penny Cluse Cafe for breakfast. Looking over my notes, I was shocked that I haven’t written up Penny Cluse yet; I’ve been coming here pretty routinely since sometime in 2006, and have flickr photos of a half dozen breakfasts we’ve had here. So it’s not because of a lack of experience, or a lack of photos. I don’t know, sometimes these places just find a way to fall through the cracks. But this time I’ll address it.
Penny Cluse (named after the owner’s late beloved dog Penny, if you were wondering about the name) is on the relatively short list of places that seem to be go-to spots for the Burlington crowd. The regular places seem to be Sneakers (which I have reviewed), Magnolia Bistro (which I have yet to try), and Penny Cluse. Located at the corner of Cherry St and Winooski Ave, it’s just around the corner from Church Street, so getting in here for breakfast on a Saturday can be a bit of a wait. An hour, in our case, until I managed to sweet-talk the hostess into letting us squeeze in at the counter (we did, after all, have another beer festival to get to!).
After the first evening of the Vermont Brewers Festival, it was time for us to seek out a a light dinner. Being a Friday night, that’s usually a little hard in Burlington, but as we exited the festival, I was reminded that one place on my hit list was literally right there. Adjacent to the exit of the festival was San Sai, a relatively new Japanese place in Burlington.
Located at 112 Lake Street (in what I still think of as the “New Condo building down by the lake”, even though it’s been there for a few years), San Sai is located in what used to be the location of Taste, right off of the waterfront. It’s actually a great location for a restaurant, except for the fact that people don’t expect a restaurant to be there. If I hadn’t known to look for San Sai, I probably could walk by it a dozen times without noticing it. And it’s not just me, since we walked into San Sai at 9pm, right after the Friday Vermont Brewers Festival, and got promptly seated. Let me tell you, if we had tried to go to Flatbread or Farm House, for example, we’d be waiting until rather late to get a seat. But San Sai had a reasonably good number of tables open…
Last weekend, we found ourselves heading up to Burlington, Vermont, for some light shopping and entertainment. One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Burlington is that it has a good restaurant scene, with a lot of good-looking spots that I haven’t yet tried. One of these that I noticed on a recent trip was Asiana Noodle Shop, nestled into a basement on Church St. Opened back in 2009 in a fairly dark subterranean space with the office-supply-store vibe that seems to be common with many Asian places, the folks at Asiana converted what used to be a burrito shop into a noodle houlse with a very extensive menu of Asian noodle dishes, as well as a fairly extensive sushi menu…
For the nth year in a row, Carol and I went to the Vermont Brewers’ Festival in Burlington, VT. Every year we like to attend on Saturday, enjoy the festival, and then explore downtown Burlington a bit, and then find a new place to try to eat. This year, we settled on Pho Hong. I’ve always loved Vietnamese food, but it’s one of the hardest cuisines for me to indulge in. From my house in Grantham, I can draw an approximate 60 mile radius circle without enclosing a single Vietnamese place. The nearest is in Manchester (Golden Bowl, which I’ve reviewed here). But I’m always looking for new places, and sometime in 2008 Pho Hong appeared, making it the third Vietnamese place in the Burlington area, and (I believe) the first in the actual city.
On Memorial Day, we decided to drive up to Burlington, Vermont, and go bike riding on the Island Line bike trail. Afterward, we then headed into downtown Burlington for some dinner, ending up at American Flatbread after stops at Three Needs for some beer and Hong’s Chinese Dumplings for a quick snack. We’ve long been fans of American Flatbread. Being first introduced to them via their frozen pizzas (which have outstanding quality, unlike most frozen pizza), we then visited their main bakery in Waitsfield, VT back in 2001. That place is an experience; they’ve taken an old barn, and 4-5 days a week they produce the frozen pizzas there, and for the weekends they put away the assembly line, rolls out tables with red-checked tableclothes, and run a very informal restaurant and bar. It’s quite the experience, and one I recommend (I’d write it up here, but I still don’t have photos from there), since it is about as “Vermont” as things get around here. In 2005, American Flatbread opened up a location in downtown Burlington, which brings a good part of the Flatbread experience to town.