Women cannot live on maple syrup alone!
July 15, 2013 9:17 AM   Subscribe

In order to sustain our Vermont sightseeing, we need food. What are your suggestions in the Burlington and Middlebury areas for early August? Sightseeing suggestions welcome as well.

We're headed to Vermont for a long weekend the first weekend in August and since you were a huge help for our DC trip and I thought I'd poke the hive mind again for this summer's girls' trip. I have seen this question but there's no doubt things have changed a lot in five years and this as well as all the questions tagged Burlington.

We're going to Middlebury for the Hopper in Vermont exhibit and may do the Robert Frost Trail if the weather coooperates and whatever other mischief we find in town. During the drive from Middlebury to Burlington, we'll stop at Shelburne Farms and/or maybe Mt. Philo. We'll do the other on the way back south.

One of us has been to Burlington, briefly, the other hasn't, and in fact hasn't been to VT since she was 8 to visit a family friend for dinner. In Burlington we know about Church St. and surrounds and of course the lake.

We will have a car, are pretty much total omnivores and are reasonably fit for any activity. Long walks are fine, mountain hikes not so much our thing. We enjoy museums, shopping, photogenic sights, historic spots. Pretty much anything. If it's a gorgeous day we prefer to be outside vs. in a museum, but are open to must-see museums/indoor things. Only "rule" (especially for dining) is nothing we could easily see/do at home (NYC & its suburbs) so no chains unless there's something really Vermont specific about this location. We're not big beer drinkers so breweries not a huge interest. We'll have iPhones, iPads (if there's wi-fi) so any app recommendations also great.

On the list already for consideration, all Burlington:
Mirabelles Cafe
A Single Pebble
Penny Cluse Cafe
The Farmhouse restaurant
Flatbread (probably going to skip this one as it's also in NYC unless there's something super wonderful about the VT location)
Skinny Pancake

If it helps you frame suggestions, some things we've loved in past trips/at home: walking the memorials/monuments in DC, Ben Franklin Institute in Philly, botanical garden and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, walking the Greenway in Manhattan. Food wise we loved Jardin Nelson in Montreal, Johnny's Half Shell in DC, and I don't think I've had a bad meal in NYC.

Also any suggestions for stretching legs between NYC and VT welcome. We have family in Albany and know 87 well but always open to new ideas. We may or may not come back 89/91 for variety.

Happy to hear any recommendations/suggestions that you may have. Thanks in advance.
posted by TravellingCari to Travel & Transportation around Vermont (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Leunig's Bistro is really very good, and is right in the center of town. Really surprisingly good, in fact. Belted Cow is perfectly acceptable, but not terribly remarkable. The Farmhouse was OK, nothing particularly special.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:24 AM on July 15, 2013

I had a really good meal at The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond, VT, just outside of Burlington. I also got a speeding ticket on the way there - be aware of the limits on the country roads!
posted by something something at 9:26 AM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: oh, and I usually end up wanting to read all about a place I've visited so any Vermont travel essays or other non-fiction suggestions welcome.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:28 AM on July 15, 2013

Not at your destination but potentially along the way: Curtis' All American Barbecue. OMG it's good.

If you can detour through Montpelier, it is home of the New England Culinary Institute, and has a bunch of good restaurants.

Sorry I can't address your actual question.
posted by jon1270 at 9:30 AM on July 15, 2013

NECI on Main in Middlebury is a teaching restaurant of the New England Culinary Institute. I've only eaten there once but everything was excellent, and the prices were really good for the quality and level of preparation.

If you do take route 91 back, a good spot to stretch your legs in southern VT is Allen Brothers Farm off of exit 5. Very tasty baked goods, decent sandwiches, and public restrooms. Also off of 91 is the Vermont Country Store in Rockingham. It's a little bit twee and overpriced, but fun to poke around. Wide selection of old-school candy and perfumes/colognes/aftershaves/salves/liniments that you'll be surprised still exist.
posted by usonian at 9:32 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: My family and I were just in the Middlebury area in June. We were mostly looking for creemees, but if you are going to be as far south as Middlebury, in my opinion you might as well drive a little south (~20 minutes on rte 7) to Brandon and eat at the Cafe Provence.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:50 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also in Brandon, Sheri's Diner is FABULOUS!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2013

Pane e Salute in Woodstock, if you're heading that way. Bad website, great food.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:02 AM on July 15, 2013

I will second your own Single Pebble mention (if only for the Mock Eel). Hen of the Wood in Waterbury is pretty special (call now for reservations), and Kismet in Montpelier is a nice little bistro. I've heard good things about Salt, also in Montpelier. I suggest you steer clear of the NECI restaurants, at least in Montpelier, where I think the food (and service) can be uneven. YMMV. Ariel's in Brookfield is out of the way, but offers good food with a pinch of Vermont quirk, in a lovely spot next to a semi-floating bridge.
posted by baseballpajamas at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: I'll second the suggestion of Leunig's. (I actually don't particularly like it, but the rest of my family does. I had a nice meal in Burlington the last time I was there, but I can't for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant. It was off of Main and hard to find and it's not showing up on Google Maps.)

Both the Bobcat Cafe (which is in Bristol) and the Black Sheep Bistro (in Vergennes) are very good, though I'm always surprised by how expensive they are. They count as near Middlebury.

My mother has decided 51 Main is the best restaurant actually in Middlebury. (I don't think it's amazing or anything, but it is in Middlebury.) There's a Thai place that wasn't very good when it opened, but I don't know if my mom's been back to see if it's improved (I haven't been a second time). The Storm Cafe isn't exactly to my taste, but does a roaring trade and isn't at all objectionable. My mother actively hates the Two Brothers Tavern. My dad, who does not live in Vermont, likes it. I am indifferent. I've just named you like half the restaurants in Middlebury, to be honest.
posted by hoyland at 10:16 AM on July 15, 2013

Found the place in Burlington: Magnolia Bistro, breakfast and lunch only. IIRC, there's a courtyard off of Main where you if walk through it, you can spot the back door. I think the real entrance is through some building that you find by walking on College. (In any case, Lawson Lane is sort of a non-street.)
posted by hoyland at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2013

Do you like ice cream? Of course you do. Then check out the Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour in Waterbury. The tour is fun, plus, free ice cream at the end.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:22 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have not been to but have heard repeatedly recommended La Tourtourelle in New Haven, which is between Burlington and Middlebury.

Sonoma Station in Richmond is also on my list to try.
posted by slateyness at 11:32 AM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: thanks all, great stuff. I'm drooling already

Shipwrecks piqued my curiosity, can anyone let me know whether the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is worth the drive?

Ginormous Google map in progress and growing, I can't wait
posted by TravellingCari at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: If you like beer, The Alchemist in Waterbury makes Heddy Topper, currently hailed as the best beer in the USA. (Beer Advocate rates it a perfect 5. IIRC, it's the third brew ever awarded such a score.) It's an IPA, fwiw. I don't drink, but did sample it and it is truly unusual. I-89 at exit 10, I think. Maybe 11.

Eating won't be a problem.

Things here are spread out, but there is usually something interesting in all 251 towns. No longer than you'll be spending here, geography will be the biggest obstacle, so there's a premium on sticking close to Burlington, where about 1/2 of our 600,000 citizens reside. (There are more people in Charlotte, NC than in our whole state. However, unlike NC (my native land), folks here aren't homophobic, religious, or racist, or republican. Sorry if I am redundant.)

American Flatbread was started here, and though they are in NY, this one is pretty amazing and Vermonty. Worth a trip and the inevitable wait in line.

In Bennington, there is a great little diner called the Blue Benn. Modest, but with a rock star menu and killer food, complete with juke boxes on the booths.

Avoid Woodstock and Manchester unless you want the Disneyland version of Vermont, populated by out of state folks and shoppers.

Creamies are everywhere. Stock up some winter fat. You know you want to.

Spend a lot of money. At local businesses, if possible. Skinny dip. It's legal.
posted by FauxScot at 12:18 PM on July 15, 2013

Heady Topper by Alchemist is the best. beer. ever. - second.
posted by slateyness at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

About halfway between Burlington and Middlebury, there's the Starry Night Café in Ferrisburg. I also really like Pauline's Café in South Burlington. But my favorite restaurant in the Middlebury area is Mary's Restaurant in Bristol (not the town center, but a little ways north).
posted by brianogilvie at 12:36 PM on July 15, 2013

Vergennes Laundry (yelp page because their website is not all that useful) in Vergennes (about halfway between Middlebury and Burlington) is delicious. Their baked goods are spectacular. It is a small place with a limited selection, but definitely worth a stop.
posted by vakker at 1:26 PM on July 15, 2013

I've been to the Maritime Museum. It's more of a kid's museum, honestly. It's a little thin on content IMHO.

You might consider a tour of the Otter Creek Brewing Company.
posted by plinth at 1:34 PM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: brianogilvie: I also really like Pauline's Café in South Burlington.

That's fabulous as it looks quite close to our hotel and I wasn't sure how much of interest was in that area.

Plinth: I've been to the Maritime Museum. It's more of a kid's museum, honestly. It's a little thin on content IMHO.

Thanks, Plinth. Will look at other options.

This is the Google Map if it's of interest for people who stumble on this in the future or if anyone is curious. I'm adding anything that comes up and we'll decide -- on the way if DC and Montreal were any indicator
posted by TravellingCari at 2:00 PM on July 15, 2013

En route from Montreal to western Massachusetts, SO and I stopped for lunch at Misery Loves Company in Winooski, just outside Burlington. Tasty, creative sandwiches (the dinner menu had more substantial plates that looked enticing as well) and good beer available too (I had a Heady Topper: ZOMG).
posted by letourneau at 2:01 PM on July 15, 2013

Best answer: As a random sidenote, the "scenic route" between Burlington and Middlebury is to take 116 rather than Rt 7. There's a one lane bridge! (Okay, not that exciting. There's a stoplight controlling it.) I think it is a bit more scenic and certainly less crowded than Rt 7. I don't know of anything you'd stop and see on the way (though 116 does go through Bristol, so you could stop for lunch or dinner).

Middlebury has a somewhat ineffable one-way system in the center of town, which results in more driving in circles and turning around than should really be necessary. Having never lived there, I can get from my mother's house into town, but feel like I'm reinventing the wheel every time I have to get back out of the one-way system.
posted by hoyland at 4:49 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

BTW, in Vermont, you can take home a partially consumed bottle of wine, as long as the restaurant puts it in a sealed bag with a copy of the receipt. This is useful if the restaurant has a good wine list but you need to stay sober enough to drive: just take home the rest of the bottle and enjoy it at your hotel.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:40 PM on July 15, 2013

Response by poster: hoyland: Middlebury has a somewhat ineffable one-way system in the center of town, which results in more driving in circles and turning around than should really be necessary. Having never lived there, I can get from my mother's house into town, but feel like I'm reinventing the wheel every time I have to get back out of the one-way system.

Oh. Wonderful. It sounds like Boston. I love the city but hate driving in it. I'm hoping it's semi walkable.

Thanks all for the useful information/tidbits/sights/etc. I can't wait. Will report back with a trip report. Feel free to keep suggestions coming. I'll be watching the thread.

Thanks again
posted by TravellingCari at 6:24 AM on July 16, 2013

A great many people are suggesting beer-related stuff, so if that is your interest, go to Farmhouse Tap & Grille on Bank Street in Burlington. You can sample many Vermont beers. I like Heady Topper, but the Waterbury facility is a cannery. The old Alchemist pub was closed down after tropical storm Irene. At Farmhouse Tap & Grill you can try Heady Topper or a variety of other also excellent beers. Remember, HT is 8% ABV. You'll be tempted to have many because they are refreshing and don't feel heavy, but be careful if you need to drive somewhere. Personally I think Sean Hill's beers of Hill Farmstead are better than Heady Topper. Sean's beers are all highly rated too.

Not to be a party pooper, but I think that some of the ratings are based on the exclusivity of Heady Topper. It is in limit supply as the canning facility can't keep up with demand (they are expanding), so at the places where one can buy it it is usually limited in supply. For example, at Hunger Mountain co-op in Montpelier they get a weekly delivery, everyone knows when the delivery is, and they limit you to 2 4-packs. Anyway, try Heady Topper for sure at Farmhouse Tap & Grill, and if you like it that much, drive to the cannery and buy a case or 3. Your friends back home will thank you.

I lived in Montpelier for 7 months and I highly recommend non-NECI run restaurants. NECI graduates many talented chefs, but many of them are learning while you pay them. I had as many very good meals as I did poor ones at NECI-run establishments.

There are plenty of great non-NECI places to eat in MontPeculiar. Again, if you like beer, definitely stop by the Threepenny Taproom. HUGE beer selection, and awesome, locally sourced foods. Another great spot is Kismet. Their brunch is phenomenal.

Have fun, enjoy your visit, and as FauxScot said ... SPEND LOTS OF MONEY IN OUR STATE, PLEASE! kthxbye
posted by terrapin at 7:57 AM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm back and we had an absolutely amazing trip. Vermont is beautiful. I'd really love to go back to see the Eastern half of the state. Money spent in the state, not an issue. I think other than hotels and Dunkin Donuts (cannot resist!), I think everything was a local business. I've marked as best those I actually did, although these were all "best" answers. Thanks again!

A couple of points for those who find this in the future.

-Coming from NYC area, a great place to break up the trip is Fort Ticonderoga if you like history.
It's a bit pricey, but money well spent as there's so much to see. And despite a ridiculous ton of misinformation online, the bridge at Crown Point is open and an easy crossing.

-Middlebury. I didn't love it. Despite being the main reason for our trip (the Hopper show) I didn't find the city that interesting. Maybe because it was so quiet with the college kids gone? I did love the Robert Frost Trail south of Middlebury. It has some maintenance issues due mainly to the sequester, I think, but it's still in good shape and a fun walk especially to walk off yummy Vermont foods. We had a good meal at Two Brothers' Tavern and a post-Frost treat at Otter Creek Bakery. The one-way roads in Middlebury would have done me in if not for the GPS.

-Drive from Middlebury. I LOVED Mt. Philo. We had a crystal clear day (self link, photo), which helped, and I cannot imagine how gorgeous that would have been in the fall. We skipped the Shelburne Museum as it seemed absolutely overrun with camp groups (11 buses in the lot) so no opinion there. Enjoyed meandering through the small towns on 7 from Middlebury to Burlington and was pleasantly surprised by the Rokeby Museum. Small, but very well done. I'd recommend it if you're passing through.

-Burlington. I fell in love. I could and likely should have just direct-deposited my wallet into Church St. We also happened upon the Festival of Fools, which made for some awesome people watching. It did make getting a table harder than it likely should have been. After trying and failing twice to get into Leunig's for dinner, we made it there for Sunday brunch and it was good. Not my favorite meal ever, but I'd recommend it. I've heard it's better for dinner.

Other meals: we went to EB Strong's (horrible mobile site, great food) on Friday. Apparently same owner as Halvorson's next door. A bit pricy but well worth it and the portions are beyond generous. Saturday was L'Amante (Italian, on College St., about halfway between Church St. and the Lake). I don't love Italian but it was good. We both loved the Vermont Pub & Brewery as recommended by almost everyone and a snack at the Skinny Pancake cart on Church St.

Must-see/shop stores: Saratoga Olive Oil Company, delicious tastings and an amazing array of oils, vinegars and sea salts. Lake Champlain Chocolates, available in a lot of stores in the city, but also have a presence on Church St. which oddly doesn't appear to be on their site. Kiss the Cook, great cooking related stuff including dinosaur cookie cutters. That's all personal bias, but all the stores on Church St. and some of the side streets were great. Easily need more than two ish days in Burlington.

-Champlain Islands -- this was rather spur of the moment when I realized how close they were and how gorgeous they appeared to be. Hero's Welcome in North Hero is possibly the cutest general store anywhere, alongside the world's cutest post office. Green Frog Gifts in South Hero was a close #2 and I absolutely loved the Hyde Log Cabin and school. What an amazing piece of history. Alburg Dunes were a bit of a miss, I was thinking Cape Cod National Seashore Dunes, but that was my own poor research. Still the drive and the Islands were worth it.

-Covered Bridges - I had no idea these were " a thing" until my travel partner said she couldn't leave Vermont without seeing one. Finding one (not counting the one we somehow missed right in Middlebury) was a bit of a challenge because a lot of the information online is out of date as it seems a number of bridges were lost in the Irene-related floods. I found the Wikipedia list to be the most current, but it's not 100%. The Covered Bridge Museum in Bennington is small, but well worth it and there are three covered bridges within the town itself.

We also took 116 a stretch after our wander through Charlotte's covered bridges until we hit 7 to Bennington so no Montpelier or Waterbury, so no maple testing or Ben and Jerry's factory :-( I know I have a lot to see next time and can't wait 'til I go back. I loved the scenery and the drives as much as the towns themselves. Hit Cafe Provence as a leg stretcher on the way back down south. Yum. Blue Benn closes early on Sunday, unfortunately, so our last stop before heading home was Jensen's. Small fun diner, nothing to write home about but good food.

I still don't get Creemies :(

Thanks again for all your help.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Glad you enjoyed the trip!

BTW, a creemee is what would be called soft-serve ice cream elsewhere in the US, though creemee is slowly making its way south into western Massachusetts.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:00 PM on August 20, 2013

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