The Shopping Bag (Burlington, VT)

When it comes to “Offbeat Eating”, one of my delights is finding particularly good food in places where you wouldn’t normally expect it. But sometimes there are little hidden gems hiding away in quiet neighborhoods outside of the normal shopping or dining districts. One of these is hiding in plain sight in Burlington, Vermont’s Old North End (not to be confused with the New North End about a mile away to the Northeast): on a fairly quiet cross-street halfway between the Battery St and Winooski Ave thoroughfares, is a quiet little building that looks like it’s a neighborhood convenience store. That’s because it is a neighborhood convenience store. The Shopping Bag is mostly a convenience store, with a selection of snack foods, beverages, light groceries, and even a small meat counter. But nestled into the front right corner of the store is a grilling station and a large menu board, and it’s actually one of the better places in Burlington to score a burger.

As you gaze upon the menu, you’ll notice it’s got everything from your pretty basic loaded bacon cheeseburger known as the Sizzler, served up with lettuce, onion, and tomato as well as a spice mix kneaded into the burger (I did mention they’ve got a meat counter, the meat here is fresh). But there’s also a lot of other good options, such as the Cowboy Up with BBQ sauce and onion rings, or the El Diablo with jalapeno peppers, tortilla chips, pepper jack cheese, and taco seasoning. We both opted for the latter, along with a side of cajun fries. But don’t make the rookie mistake we did: you don’t order at the grill; instead, place your order over at the restaurant (where you can also pay for any drinks, etc., that you’ve picked up… they do have a halfway decent beer selection), and wait for them to cook your burger (no pre-cooked stuff here, so be prepared to wait a bit, especially if they are busy).

About 10 minutes later, our burgers were ready, and we headed out to eat them. The Shopping Bag is a take-out only place, and that’s in the strictest of senses, there’s really no place to eat there even out front, so be prepared to head to one of the nearby parks (Pomeroy Park and Battery Park are both close enough that your burger won’t congeal), or, do like we did (because of the weather) and eat in your car. As we sat listening to the radio, I had a rather enjoyable El Diablo: the burger itself was cooked to a pleasant medium with a nice crispiness, the taco seasoning adding some spice, and the grilled jalapenos were nestled into a nice layer of melted pepper jack cheese. This is indeed probably the best burger I’ve had in Burlington (sorry for the poor picture that doesn’t do it justice, food photography with a phone in a car under street lights is… suboptimal).

The fries weren’t a slouch either: good, crispy exterior and soft interior fries, with a very generous coating of cajun spice, these were a rather pleasant complement to the burger as well.

So yes, if you’re looking for a great (and reasonably priced) burger in Burlington and are on the North End, it’s definitely worth checking out The Shopping Bag. Since inside that convenience store is hiding a pretty dang good burger.

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