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Feb 2, 2001 07:28 AM

Bistro Henry, Manchester, VT sucks!

  • j

IÕll get right to the point: steer clear of a potential trap lurking in Manchester, VT: Bistro Henry. Bistro Henry is billed as a casual French bistro. My wife and I went there MLK weekend. As we were being seated, the maitre dÕ offered us a choice between regular water or Pellegrino (an Italian mineral water we both like). We opted for Pellegrino -- neat trick, getting us to order something before we even opened the menu. We then realized that the prices on the menu were much higher than we were expecting (the cheapest entree being $17.00), but having already asked for Pellegrino, we decided not to get up and leave. We figured that weÕd keep the cost down by skipping appetizers and wine.

However, the moment our waitress realized we werenÕt big spenders, both she and the maitre dÕ began to be extremely snotty. It was clear that they were not going to expend any effort on us if we werenÕt going to run up a large bill. We had to ask for a basket of bread, while we could see our waitress puttering around. She was kept touching her hair, and worse, her nose (yuck!). Incidentally, the table next to us ordered several drinks and appetizers, and was engaging the waitress with small talk, but we caught her rolling her eyes the minute her back was turned. Now, our usual approach to table service is that we never mind cheerful incompetence. Screw up everything, but if you really try to get it right and do it with a smile, weÕre prepared to forgive just about any gaffe. But, we will not forgive rudeness.

To make matters worse, the chow sucked. Our steaks were both very tough and flavorless. My steak au poivre was just peppery. The frites were droopy, fried in oil that wasnÕt hot enough. The best food on the plate -- indeed, the only flavorful thing -- was the garnish of sautŽed snow peas. 2 entrŽes, and a large bottle of Pellegrino came to $52.00. IÕve had excellent meals, including drinks, appetizers, and dessert for less.

All in all, avoid Bistro Henry, and the whole Manchester, VT area -- itÕs too touristy, overdeveloped, and rude. For a better Vermont vacation, head further north, to the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont, especially to the town of East Burke, and visit our favorite restaurant anywhere -- the River Garden CafŽ, which IÕve written glowingly of previously in this space.

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  1. Sounds almost as awful as Seasons at Stratton, Vermont. You can find very good food south of Manchester. Try TJ Buckley's in Brattleboro or Max's in West Brattleboro. You may be pleasantly suprised. Head a little east to Keene and try Nicola's Tratorria.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JPR

      Also in Keene, NH try Tony Clamato's a great small get away.

      1. re: Mike

        I live near Manchester and here are some alternate restaurant choices in the area. For lunch or early dinner (11:30AM - 4:30PM), go to my absolute favorite place, Steininger's, in Salem, NY. Its soups are the best I have ever had!!

        I have enjoyed the following Manchester restaurants: Little Rooster Cafe (breakfast and lunch only), Up for Breakfast (breakfast), and The Perfect Wife. I have heard good reports about Candeleros and Mistrals At Toll Gate Lodge, also in Manchester.

        In Bennington, try Alldays and Onions, for a range of good food, and the Blue Benn Diner, which offers diner food and vegetarian choices.

        For good family-type meals and bar food, try Kevin's at Mike's Place III in North Bennington.

        1. re: Sandy

          This eight year old thread has been revived, so let me add my 2 cents.

          --The passage of time has been very good to the Blue Benn Diner. It retains its road food ambiance and continues to serve great sized portions of good food. You can get breakfast all day long...the menu is supplemented by numerous specials posted on the wall...plenty of good vegetarian and vegan options...real Vermont maple syrup costs extra, but worth the price over pancakes, waffles and french toast...friendly waitresses...good prices. Even if you're staying in Manchester, the 25 minute drive is picturesque and worth your time.

          --I cannot comment on the ongoing debate about Bistro Henry. A family member ate there and loved it but, admittedly, it is the most expensive place in town.
          We had a top-notch meal at the Dorset Inn, six miles up the road. Here's my post on the subject:

          Be aware, with both Bistro Henry and the Dorset Inn (and this is true nationwide) that restaurants advertising that they are the recipients of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence only have to submit their wine list and a "fee" of something like $50 to get the award. Wine Spectator has other levels of awards for superior wine lists and wine service. That does not detract in any way from the wine list at either restaurant. Both are well-chosen and, in the case of the Dorset Inn, well-priced.

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          1. My wife and I have been going and staying in Manchester at least once a year for 10 consecutive years. We enjoy good food and like going back for the solid restaurant scene. In fact we just visited last weekend and will be returning this Columbus Day weekend. I agree that Bistro Henry is nothing special and overpriced. I am going to be heretical here and say the same for the Perfect Wife. Below are our hits and misses. To be fair, except for Swiss Inn, even the misses were okay but just not special or compelling enough for return trips.

            Little Rooster - breakfast and lunch all good, everything on the menu is excellent
            Up for Breakfast
            Gourmet Deli & Lunch - surprisingly good, under-rated
            Laney's - we always get the baby back ribs
            Chanticleer - very special but you'll pay dearly
            Inn at West View Farm - this place is unbelievable, try the short ribs
            Barrow's House - great for dinner
            Inn at Ormsby Hill - great breakfast

            Swiss Inn & Restaurant - maybe I don't know fondue well, but this place was disgusting and had bad service
            Perfect Wife - not sure what the fuss is about
            Bistro Henry - ditto above
            Ye Olde Tavern - just okay
            Johnny Seesaws - just okay, nice atmosphere and setting
            Candeleros - just okay Tex mex, great salsa
            Garlic John's - one step above Prego

            5 Replies
            1. re: giralda

              Enjoyed your "take" on places in Manchester.
              We've been going there twice a yr. for the past few decades also and we agree with many of your hits.
              We especialy like Up for Breakfast and Chanticleer although the latter is a bit pricy we find it a special "treat" when we can sit at the bar,talk to the owners,and have dinner add-on's now and then.
              We haven't hit Laney's as yet but we'll try them next trip up.
              The only "miss" we might disagree with is the Perfect Wife although we like sitting at the bar and just having burgers there.
              We've never had a bad meal there and the place is more like a local "Appleby's " than not.
              Another "hit" for us is Mulligan's where we love just their smoked wings.
              These are some of the best smoked wings we've ever had but the rest of the place is yet another local Appleby's.
              We miss the Black Swan.
              We thought their food was exceptional also and the last time we ate at Angel's the food was fanatatic also(but that was a long time ago.)
              Another "miss" for us is the Reluctant Panther(way overpriced for what you get in a stuffy.cold atmosphere)
              Enjoyed comparing notes with you!!!

              1. re: catnip

                Nice to know we have similar tastes! At the Perfect Wife, we've only eaten in the restaurant, not in the tavern. Maybe we should try the tavern...

                If you have any other Manchester area recs, please send them my way! We're going there this weekend, and we're going to try The Bean and Depot 62.

                1. re: giralda

                  The tavern at The Perfect Wife is just a bar menu operation much like the bar menu at Mulligan's except for the smoked wings that Mulligan's has we like so much.
                  If "The Bean" is the name of the mexican restaurant across from Orvis FORGET IT!!!
                  The old owner,who ran a 1st class opertion, commiteed suicide last Spring and when we got there we had a lousy meal and,if you can believe this(it's true)I we had to tell the "barmaid" how to make a margarita ----in a mexican restaurant!!!
                  How bad is that!
                  The new operator was hiring high school kids to run the place and they didn't give a darn about anything:service,food,ect.
                  We swore we'd never go back and even their salsa,which was very good,was bland and tasteless.
                  We haven't tried Depot 62 yet.
                  Let us know how it was when you get back.
                  We haven't done any other restaurants there lately but we usually stop at Zoey's for a grinder(sub,hoagie,different names for the same thing--LOL)to take home.
                  Zoey's homemade potato chips are great but they must be eaten qucikly or they really lose their taste and texture.
                  We're swinging down through Manchester on the 18th just to have breakfast at Up for Breakfast and then we're heading down to the Mt. Snow area for a few days.
                  Good Eating!!!

              2. re: giralda

                Have to give a cheer for the Gourmet Deli and Lunch. I have been going there for lunch whenever I go to Manchester, lots less by the way than I used to. I think there was a mother daughter combo there initially and I have always raved about their chicken salad. Soups are great as well....

                1. re: giralda

                  giralda, I too love your list. We thought there was something wrong with us for not liking the perfect wife (but didn't try the tavern either)...we'll be up for X-mas and are looking forward to trying the Inn at West View Farm. Thanks for the great list!