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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.

    2. 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!

          2. I completely agree about Bistro Henry. I'd seen some good reviews, and the "bistro" label is often attractive (though I've become quite suspicious of it in the last few years).
            I DID wonder about the name "Bistro Henry" - shouldn't it be "Bistro Henri"?
            I was right to wonder. I've never seen worse service in a restaurant anywhere. I had a reservation, and though it was by no means full, I had to wait at leasts ten minutes for my table - yes, I was on time. After I was seated - a tiny table for two in the middle of the room, very unpleasant! - it took another 15-20 minutes to get water and a menu. I was not asked if I wanted anything to drink, but a box (I'm pretty sure it was a box) of dry old Italian breadsticks was plonked unceremoniously on the table. When the waiter eventually returned, I'd eaten two or three of the dreadful dry breadsticks, and he promptly removed them - BEFORE I'd ordered!!! I had a veal scallopine dish that was dried out, tasetelss, and extremly expensive. I had to wait interminably for my check. An entirely dreadful experience.

            Please note if you are travelling in Vermont that this awful dive is not to be confused with the well-regarded Chez Henri near Sugarbush resort.

            1. My mother-in-law lives just north of Manchester, and we visit with the kids a few times a year, so we've been to many of the places in and around Manchester.
              It's been a while since we've been to Bistro Henry's - when we did go, the food was great, the service was OK, and the prices were just short of stratospheric.
              For breakfast, we really like the Little Rooster, but it's small, so go early or be prepared to wait. Everyone else in our family likes Up for Breakfast, and the food is usually pretty good, in my experience, if a little uneven, and I think a touch expensive for what you get.
              Had some really nice, expensive dinners at Mistral's, but it's been years.
              Same with the Wilburton Inn, just south of Manchester- pricey, but tremendous views.
              Garlic John's, Mulligan's,Zoey's,Sirloin Saloon, etc., etc.- meh.
              Candeleros is OK, but only for addicts who need their fix.
              I've suffered through many dinners at The Barrows House while my father-in-law was alive, have not been back in the past couple of years; I think "colorless" describes both the food and service there pretty well..
              We really like Johnny Seesaw's. up by Bromley Mountain; it's really a more meat-and -potatoes place, though.
              A couple of other places I haven't seen mentioned- the Southern Vermont Art Center occasionally serves a nice lunch- check the schedule to see if they are open.
              We also are partial to The Barn up in Pawlet, but that's a bit of a drive from Manchester.

              1. My wife and I love Bistro Henry. We both feel great about eating there regularly. Sometimes we just have drinks and appys at the bar. ( Sue enjoys escargot ). The Lamb is delicious.
                They've never given us a hard time or forced us to down Pellegrino before ordering.
                Nice crew, great food. Price is about what you would expect. Not cheap but not crazy.
                Jason, it's been a long eight years. You sound a bit sour in general.
                Others in the area,
                Perfect Wife: Dependable and really very good
                Mulligans: informal and good food
                Black Swan: was very good , miss them
                Bean: Has become pretty so so
                Mistrals: My dear. Don't bother. Too full of themselves
                Garlic Johns: Easy and good, never let us down.
                Up for breakfast: How fun on a weekend morning. good stuff.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Richienow

                  Agree with most of what you said Richienow.
                  We like Chanticleer for dinner as well.
                  We always do Mulligans(great smoked wings) and Perfect Wife but Bean ,in our opinion,has gone straight downhill since the old owner killed himself last year.
                  We too miss eating at the bar in the Black Swan and chatting with the nice lady who owned the place.
                  The food was always great there as well.
                  Up for Breakfast is our favoirte but you have to get there early because the place fills up fast.
                  The Rooster is also a good breakfast place.
                  We haven't tried Bistro Henry yet.
                  The posts here help to keep us away and we've never heard much good about Mistrals either.
                  WE abhor the look of the new bar at the Equinox but the drinks are very good but very expensive.
                  The whole "new look " of the Equinox is NYC and out of touch with the "flavor" of Vt.,imo.
                  We find the food at the Equinox medicore at best.
                  We avoid the Reluctant Panther as well;Snobby,very expensive ,and pretentious

                  1. re: catnip

                    "The whole "new look" of the Equinox is NYC"
                    Unfortunately or fortunately, as the case may be, catnip, NYC, Westchester County and those Southern CT Yankees fans are the target audience for the Equinox and the premium shops (never outlets) in Manchester. And let's face it, there aren't enough well-healed gentry north of CT to sustain that shopping pyramid indefinitely. It may seem like glorified Wal-Mart employment but a job is a job is a job these days. Me? I'm hangin' out at Up for Breakfast and The Perfect Wife as usual and Chanticleer on special occasion.


                    Up For Breakfast
                    4935 Main St, Manchester Center, VT 05255

                    Perfect Wife
                    2594 Depot St, Manchester, VT

                    Chantecleer Restaurant
                    8 Read Farm Ln East, Dorset, VT

                    1. re: Harp00n

                      You're right!
                      I kep forgetting that the way Vt. used to look(New Englandy) is not acceptable in many cases to outlanders from the cities who expect to find city styles in what they perceive to be the "country".
                      And,like you said,these are the folks who pay the freight that keeps places like the Equinox going and the "premium shops" as well.
                      Guess my hitting Perfect Wife ,Chantecleer,and Up For Breakfast and avoiding the Equinox and "premium shops" has "warped" my sense of what is local in Vt. any more---LOL.

                      1. re: catnip

                        Yup, sigh, you won't see a Ted's Fish Fry at Malfunction Junction anytime soon. :-D


                        1. re: catnip

                          The Perfect Wife is over rated, at least the lower dining room is - have not been in the upstairs tavern - menu is predictable and seems not to have changed much since our last visit 6 years ago! We went back this fall because we enjoyed it so much then, don't know if ownership has changed or what accounts for the difference but we' won't be going again.

                          Perfect Wife
                          Route 11-30, Manchester, VT 05254

                        2. re: Harp00n

                          I'm up at Stratton every weekend and I agree with Harp. Up for Breakfast is terrific ...not your typical breakfast joint...Perfect Wife is consistently good.

                          Three Clock Inn is great if you want to make the 12 mile hike to South Londonderry.

                          Equinox is great for celebrating Grandma's 90th birthday.

                          1. re: pondrat

                            Up at Stratton every weekend. eh pondrat?
                            I guess that mean you don't need the breadcrumb trail or GPS for navigating anymore. Have you or any of the other Hounds been to Johnny Seesaw's in Peru at Bromley lately? At one point it was a pretty decent option but the service and food turned very erratic later on.


                            BTW, went by it many times but never been to the Three Clock Inn but will on your strong rec.

                            Johnny Seesaw's
                            3574 Route 11, Peru, VT 05152

                            1. re: Harp00n

                              Only ate at Johnny Seesaw's once, about 3-4 years ago, and found it rather pedestrian. Ate there with a friend who's up there for most of the summer and likes the place, and has continued to eat there and finds it consistent. Also has very bland taste preferences.

                              1. re: mjoyous

                                Thanks mjoyous,
                                That pretty much jibes with what I remember from 4-5 years ago.
                                People would go there for the drinks and "the scene", what there is of it, LOL, in beautiful downtown Peru.


                              2. re: Harp00n

                                Yup, teach at the snowboarding school.

                                Don't get to Peru often but haven't heard any buzz about Johnny Seesaw's around Stratton. Do spend a fair amount of time at the Red Fox tavern in Bondville


                                If you can't make it to Three Clocks Inn you should try Serge's upmarket Village Pantry du Logis where he sells many of the dishes from the restaurant for takeout.


                                1. re: pondrat

                                  You know pondrat, I've been meaning to stop in at the Red Fox Tavern probably a dozen times. But it's usually during the summer or early fall when we're over that way and the Jeep just kinda does a sharp right turn into the OutBack at Winhall River rather than a left for the Red Fox. I'm a sucker for their big river-side deck. River? It's more like a creek or stream. But hey, it's a nice peacefully bucolic spot. The food, most times anyways, has been more than decent but not anywhere near knock-your-socks-off good.Their little subterranean pub is also a good place to grabs some apps, watch the Sox and BS with the locals. Being my resident Goomba expert, how's Verde on Stratton Mt.? I've heard lots of good reports and I just know that your Philadelphia Eagles-loving butt has graced their establishment!


                                  Outback Food & Spirits
                                  11 Ameden Lane, Bondville, VT

                                  19 Village Lodge Rd South, Londonderry, VT

                                  Red Fox Inn
                                  103 Winhall Hollow Rd, Bondville, VT

                                  Village Pantry
                                  1 Main St S, Londonderry, VT

                                  Three Clock Inn
                                  95 Middletown Rd, South Londonderry, VT 05155

                                  1. re: Harp00n

                                    I've stimulated the cash flow at all the places you've listed many times....Many nights at Outback and I concur with your review. Funny how the food improves as closing time approaches. I've never been there during an hour or season where I could see a river..It's a great mix of people there what with the locals and the ski-birds that head north on the I-91 flyway every weekend..

                                    Red Fox does have a good restaurant upstairs from the tavern. Pretty standard New England fare with an international twist at times. Usually some Vermont maple, cheese or honey treatment to meats and vegetables as you'd expect. Like going to the Wayside Inn near us.

                                    I've been a huge fan of Verde since the day it opened. I personally think that, of recent, the price/performance ratio has slipped. But if you want high end food without going into Manchester or S. Londonderry, Verde is your place. Oh and the price performance is excellent when our guests take us there in exchange for staying with us on the mountain :) C'mon up Harp !

                                    1. re: pondrat

                                      The only "sport" you'll find me involved with in the immediate area is fishing at Gale Meadows Pond which is probably the best warm-water fishery in Southern VT. and Smallmouth fishing on the West River. What's the matter with Stratton anyhow? There's no beer or chili festivals like Mt. Snow or even Highland Games where I could dominate the Caber Toss competion. As nancyl126 verifies below, there is actually a Winhall River over there yonder beyond the OutBack's deck. It's what's called a freestone river than runs heavy in the spring thaw and becomes a trickle by late spring. I guess you never done what's known as a Duval St. Crawl, aka hands and knees, due east off the deck :-D


                            2. re: Harp00n

                              We've always enjoyed Up for Breakfast - ranted about it in fact. Last visit we encountered something I didn't expect and have never encountered before - rude and lazy attitude on the service side. It was so off putting that we left. Never before had we been driven to walk away while visiting our favorite area in VT.

                              1. re: feelinpeckish

                                Wow-this is a shocker!
                                Did you have one of the older wait staff or some newbie kid?
                                The older ladies that work the place I've found,over the years,to be just great.
                                Sorry you had a bad time of it;hope we don't get the service you got when we go up next trip.

                                1. re: catnip

                                  My friend recently had a pretty bad experience at Up for Breakfast. (We've renamed it "Up Yours for Breakfast." ) Her pancakes were uncooked in the middle, her sausage was overcooked and the service was lackluster. My friend complained (nicely) and they made her new pancakes but the overall reaction they got was that of apathy. I'm not sure who they had working there that day, but the turnover there is so frequent, you never know what you're going to get these days.

                                  1. re: dukegirl

                                    This has never been my experience in many visits - I've always found it friendly and the food excellent.

                        3. Had a great dinner at Outback last Sunday night. kale, white bean and andouille soup, cornmeal crusted fried calamari and their consistently good rack of lamb (with roasted red potatoes and julieened golden beets. The river was really rushing, too

                          4 Replies
                            1. re: Morganna

                              Hi Morganna,
                              Nope. I think it actually pre-dates the chain but your question is certainly understandable.


                              1. re: Harp00n

                                Ooh good, I thought I'd stepped into some alternate chowhound universe there. ;D I'm going to have to keep this place in mind! :) Thanks!

                            2. re: nancyl126

                              Wow...I'm going to have to give upstairs a try again. Love the sound of the soup.

                              Will be nuts there next weekend with the US Open Snowboarding Championships in town. Will look like the bar room scene in Star Wars !

                            3. Justin, your sense of the place is right on. My wife and I dined at Bistro Henry in their old location just down the road and also experienced a very negative situation. Foolishly I stopped by after the move to check out the menu - prices up and the sense that I would not be happy there. The first visit btw resulted in a challange to my refusing the wine offered (it was CORKED, big time). But we still frequent the Manchester/Manchester Center area as we have since our honeymoon many years ago. Other posters have suggested alternatives so I will leave it to them but for casual snacks etc you might try Up for Breakfast on the main street or Zoey's on the rt leading up the mountrain for lunch.

                              1. I'm using this post to select some places to eat in Manchester.

                                Does Up for Breakfast have a website? Is it only breakfast or do they serve other meals?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: wintersummer

                                  I think it's only breakfast. Am not a breakfast eater, but every once in a while I must have their sourdough pancakes, and gladly drive the 1.15 hrs to get there (ok, so we shop afterwords.) The sourdough pancakes are unique--very light and very sour. Served with warm maple syrup. When I was there a few months ago the server, after I ordered, asked if I had ever had them. Seems a number of first timers complain that they're too sour.
                                  Had a really nice eggs benedict there once, and the wild boar sausage is interesting. Fresh squeezed OJ too.

                                2. I took my family to Bistro Henry in 2009. It was terrible - poor service, poor food, inflated prices. Do not be fooled by the other posts, it does not compare to NYC standards at all.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: rcrsszy

                                    it certainly DOES NOT suck - we had a wonderful meal there last night, my steak was prepared perfectly - is it the least expensive restaurant in manchester ... no - but if you don't want to spend the money there are plenty of other places in town to eat. The food was good, the wait staff was attentive and the wines fairly priced.

                                    Bistro Henry
                                    PO Box 1565, Manchester Center, VT 05255

                                    1. re: ctraveler263

                                      Updating this thread. We ate at Bistro Henry last year and found it good. But we wan to try a new and cheaper place in the area this year. Medium priced, good food for supper. Any updates. We are willing to travel within a 30 mile radius of Bondville.

                                      We liked the S V Arts Centre for lunch and will try it again. We also liked Sherries Cafe on Depot street: we have eaten lunch there twice. Inexpensive and good lunch food.