Looking for new restaurants in the New Year? Here are six Vermont restaurants to try in 2016. Whether you prefer fine dining or old fashioned diners, you can’t go wrong with these six restaurant picks. (Special thanks to Vermont food writer Melissa Pasanen for her Brattleboro suggestions.)
156 Saint Paul St., Burlington
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve enjoyed dinner at Pizzeria Verità. Located a block from City Hall Park in Burlington, the space experienced frequent restaurant turnover until Pizzeria Verità opened in 2012 and became one of the most popular restaurants in the city. Sit at a table or grab a seat at the bar and you’ll have your choice of wine, beer and spirits, from bottled La Luca Prosecco and Chianti on tap to Fiddlehead IPA and a house Negroni. The dinner menu includes tasty antipasti dishes and salads, as well as delicious, creative pizzas. My favorite? Pizza with Brussels sprouts and prosciutto. Weekends are busy, so make a reservation or make the most of your time by having a glass of wine at the bar while you wait.
SoLo Farm & Table
95 Middletown Rd., South Londonderry
A visit to southern Vermont isn’t complete without dining at SoLo Farm & Table. Chloe and Wesley Genovart reopened the former Three Clock Inn in 2011 and have made it into one of Vermont’s most celebrated restaurants. Chloe, who was raised in my hometown of Manchester, ran the dining room at Per Se in New York’s Columbus Circle while Wesley was the founding chef at Degustation in the East Village. Located in a classic farmhouse, SoLo offers a cheerful, intimate space with bright wood floors and tall, white trimmed windows. Menu items range from chicken pipián with stewed squash and potatoes to rabbit and ricotta cheese ravioli to Atlantic halibut with Littleneck clams, fried artichokes and grapefruit salsa verde. Even though SoLo is more of a fine dining experience, it should be enjoyed beyond birthdays or anniversaries. After all, going to SoLo is a special occasion in and of itself. (Note: SoLo is closed for its early winter break and reopens Friday, Dec. 18, 2015).
136 Main St., Brattleboro
Serving dinner, weekend brunch
Food writer Melissa Pasanen highly recommends Duo Restaurant in the historic Brooks House block in downtown Brattleboro. Earlier this year, Melissa wrote a piece for the Boston Globe titled, Three New Restaurants Worth Drooling Over, which featured Duo. In her story, Pasanen mentioned how Denver restaurateurs Stephanie Bonin and Keith Arnold opened Duo in September 2014 and designed it after their 10-year-old Colorado restaurant of the same name. “Guests can see Duo’s farm-inspired food being created in the humming open kitchen at the restaurant’s heart,” Pasanen wrote. “Ingredients and flavors are fresh and lively and presented beautifully on the plate.” Diners at Duo can enjoy everything from mushroom croquettes to porter beer braised lamb to smoked whitefish chowder. When I asked Melissa if Duo Restaurant was a good one to feature on this list, she replied, “Yes. Duo, definitely.”
1633 Williston Rd., South Burlington
It’s hard to believe Guild Tavern was once a Ground Round. Thankfully, Guild has ushered in an exciting, new chapter and made the building’s chain-restaurant history a distant memory. Chef owner Phillip Clayton sources everything locally, from Red Hen Bakery bread and Pitchfork Farm salad greens to Woodcock Farm cheese and Misty Knoll chicken. The steaks, which are locally sourced, dry-aged, hand cut, and grilled to order over a hardwood fire, are the main attraction. Not much of a meat eater? Try the buckwheat tagliatelle or cast iron salmon with celery root and roasted mushrooms. Guild’s open kitchen, blue soapstone bar, and cozy yet abundant dining space make you want to settle in for a relaxing, wood-fired meal.
Chelsea Royal Diner
487 Marlboro Rd. West Brattleboro
Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner
Another spot recommended by Melissa is the Chelsea Royal Diner, a classic 1930s diner that has been moved a few miles west of its original site. Todd Darrah and Janet Picard focus very much on local at their diner, where chickens lay eggs out back and vegetables grow in their garden. The diner also serves grass-fed beef and local produce from neighboring farms. Enjoy everything from eggs Benedict to corned beef hash to maple barbecue chicken. As Melissa puts it, the Chelsea Royal is “bringing farm to table to an old-school diner.”
294 Mountain Rd., Stowe
Serving late lunch, dinner
This rustic beer pub opened in August on Route 108 in Stowe. Run by the same team behind the exceptional Hen of the Wood restaurants in Waterbury and Burlington, Doc Ponds offers 24 beers on draft–including brews from Hill Farmstead, Lost Nation Brewing, and Zero Gravity–plus burgers, fries, smoked chicken, fried oysters, calamari, mussels, salads, pies, and milkshakes. Dave and I stopped in for a quick bite on a Saturday evening back in October. We sat at the bar, shared the soup special (a tasty butternut squash chorizo) and ordered two $7 Doc Burgers. Not that we go out to eat all the time, but dinner at Doc Ponds was one of the more memorable meals we’ve had in a while. That says a lot for a burger and beer joint. We’ll definitely be back the next time we’re in Stowe.
Down Home Kitchen
100 Main St., Montpelier
Serving breakfast, lunch
Down Home Kitchen opened in August in the former Riverdell Books building on Main Street. With a big focus on biscuits and gravy, cheese grits, fried catfish, and fried chicken, Down Home Kitchen is all about southern comfort. Owner Mary Alice Profitt worked in food service in Georgia and North Carolina, and it’s clear she knows her stuff. You can also enjoy lighter fare at Down Home, such as the tomato omelet, grilled catfish, and the Down Home Salad with smoked trout (my personal favorite). The restaurant’s bakery case includes gluten-free biscuits, pies, quiches, cookies, muffins, and a banana bread to die for. Another thing to love about Down Home Kitchen is the restaurant’s front bay window that overlooks Main Street—it’s a perfect place for people watching in Vermont’s capital city.
Which Vermont restaurants are you looking forward to checking out in 2016?