Burlington has always been a haven for outdoorsy types, local craftsmen, and hipster college students, but now we can add foodies to the list. Jen Rose Smith, writer of Glutton Guide Burlington, fills us in on the downtown food scene.
BURLINGTON, Vermont – Downtown is a great place to start exploring Vermont's Queen City. In the summer, pedestrian-only Church Street is lined with tables where you can enjoy a leisurely meal while watching passersby. In the winter, the corridor is decked with Christmas lights that make even the coldest evenings feel festive.
A Single Pebble
133 Bank St.; +1-802-865-5200
Taiwanese chef Chiuho Duval worked as a photojournalist before she got a job at a French restaurant in Taipei. Her photographs adorn the walls of her eclectic Chinese eatery. Her place sets the bar in the food-loving town for quality, service, and cooking ethic; A Single Pebble has won a "Best-Of" in Burlington's Seven Days newspaper every year since 2004. Dishes served family-style encourage sharing and lend meals a convivial feeling. Don't miss the legendary mock eel or dry-fried green beans. The daily specials are always worth exploring.
115 St. Paul St.; +1-802-861-2999
This beloved pizza joint is home to Zero Gravity Craft Brewery, maker of some of Burlington's truly great beers. For the quintessential Flatbread experience, sample flagship beers like Conehead IPA (bright flavors from Citra hops) and Green State Lager (a Czech-style pilsner that is a godsend on a midsummer afternoon). Their signature thin-crust flatbread is loaded with local ingredients (they supported farmers before it was hip), and the specials feature the best of what's in season. Don't show up starving on a Friday night. The no-reservations policy can result in hour-long waits.
149 South Champlain St.; +1-802-540-0060
This bakery is wonderfully cozy in winter when the windows steam up from piping-hot loaves and fresh pastries. The bread is the best downtown, and the Hungarian sweet rolls are delightfully moreish, oozing with a toothsome walnut filling and dusted with sugar. The owners made national headlines with their decision to ban laptops, but conversations, reading, and lingering over coffee is welcomed.
160 Bank St.; +1-802-859-0888
This farm-to-table gastropub opened in 2010 on the site of a former McDonald's. Naturally, the community suggested they call themselves "The Old McDonald's Farmhouse." Now with a slightly abbreviated name, The Farmhouse serves comfort food, specializing in burgers made with local meat, but the less-homey starters steal the show. Try the beef tartare with housemade potato chips or a carefully-curated local cheese plate. A cocktail menu and an amazing array of craft beers keep the bartenders busy. Samples are happily given out to curious imbibers. Keep your eyes out for kegs from Lawson's Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, two acclaimed Vermont breweries whose products are scarce out of state.
Hen of the Wood
55 Cherry St.; +1-802-540-0534
Chef Eric Warnstedt repeatedly lands on the James Beard Foundation's short list for best chef in the Northeast. Named for a wild mushroom, the original Hen of the Wood opened in Waterbury in a restored mill, but the Burlington location holds it own with a spot in the stylish Hotel Vermont. The real attraction is Warnstedt's carefully honed cooking, which is insistently local (but with a perceptible European accent). The menu changes constantly and offers a wide range of small and large plates that highlight regional ingredients in surprising ways for a memorable meal.
Bistro de Margot
126 College Street, +1-802-863-5200
Don't be deceived by the décor, which recalls a Parisian-inspired dining room in a Kansas City Marriot; this bistro is the real-deal. The menu changes with the season, but some highlights, like escargot de Bourgogne and housemade terrines, are available year-round. Beloved French favorites like steak frites are well-executed, but less familiar options recall why Gallic food defined fine dining for decades. A previous menu included pan-roasted quail with quince apple tatin that was a heady blend of restrained spices and indulgently crisp, gooey textures. The wine and beer lists are beautifully curated, but don't miss the cocktails.
Lucky Next Door
169 Cherry St.; +1-802-399-2121
This intimate spot is a little sibling of the ever-popular restaurant next door, Pennycluse. And while it shares its neighbor's emphasis on quietly innovative flavors, Lucky can easily stand alone. A lovely place for a light lunch, its menu of hot sandwiches and salads is fleshed out with treats like sardines on toast (said to have been Balzac's favorite food). Notable orders include the pork pie with a side of beet salad, or the hot smoked salmon sandwich. During the week, the shop opens just in time for elevenses, which may find its highest expression in a slice of Lucky's chocolate cake taken with espresso.
1 Lawson Ln.; +1-802-846-7446
This cozy cafe has something for everyone — carnivores, vegans, and those who are gluten-free. The back patio is heavenly (if you can snag a table) on sunny days. The house-cured salmon, served on greens and hashbrowns with dill crème fraîche, is a standout, with just the right blend of richness and piquancy. The lemon ricotta pancakes taste like pure sunshine. Magnolia is the first "green certified" restaurant to open in Vermont and buys some of its ingredients from area farms.
169 Cherry St.; +1-802-651-8834
Lunch for breakfast, breakfast for lunch … if it's light out and you're hungry, you can't go wrong with the folks at Pennycluse, who've done exactly as they please since 1998. That means a menu that combines breakfast classics like huevos rancheros and pancake stacks with homemade banana bread french toast and avocado smoothies. They've got options that range from restrained to indulgent, and if something sounds great to them, they put it on the specials board. They are also leaders in supporting local food producers despite making very little fuss about it, and have some of downtown's friendliest staff.
9 Center St.; +1-802-448-3657
This vegetarian restaurant is a refreshing change from Vermont's current meat-focused food culture. The flavors are inspired by Asian cuisines, but the chef uses many Vermont ingredients, some of which are organic. The menu changes frequently, but perennial favorites include tacos, scallion pancakes, and salads. The decadent banana cream pie is worth a stop for omnivores and vegans alike, as is the memorable chocolate cake.