Hi all! I've been visiting CH for a while now. I really like the new look and feel! I'm a Chef/Owner located in southern VT. I like to eat out, when I can, but am usually stuck going to the same old places for the same old stuff. I'm seeing more and more folks willing to travel some distance to escape the ordinary, searching out "destination restaurants". I'm planning on visiting the Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes VT soon. (No not my place ;-)) For I've heard many good things about the quality, menu, and consitancy. Any others out there worth a trip?
White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport is a true destination restaurant - reserve well in advance, dress nicely, and bring plenty of money.
I like the White Barn Inn a lot, too, and try to get there every other year if I can -- it's special, as is Arrows outside of Ogunquit. But the Maine coast seems a long way from Vergennes, VT. If I were going that far, I'd look to Boston (where I live) for the extraordinary, something worth driving hours for: say, a Speed's hot dog.
For that matter, in the time it takes you to drive to Kennebunkport, you could be in Manhattan, which has more destination restaurants per square mile than any city in North America, the lucky bastards. (At least our baseball team isn't the biggest bunch of chokers in history, small comfort though that may be to a Boston Chowhound; NYC still owns Boston, and the rest of the continent, on the dining-out score.) To a chef looking for an experience, I'd recommend WD-50 on the Lower East Side. Its chef/owner is doing some of that weird-kitchen-science stuff, but he doesn't let novelty, abstruse technique, or dead-cool presentation trump deliciousness. It's a pretty low-key experience with a lot of tasty surprises packed into an hour or so's worth of dinner.
Back in beautiful but swoony-food-challenged rural New England, I had a nice surprise recently on the southern edge of Lake Winnipesaukee in West Alton, NH. A pretty drive with amazing Swiss food at the end: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... Maybe not a capital-d Destination, but remarkable for the neighborhood.
If I lived in Vergennes (the Greatest Little City in America, or something -- one of my best college friends is from there), I'd also consider Montreal for destination dining. Unfortunately, the Chowhound Montreal board is Anglophone, and thus a bit skimpy. I had the *sine qua non* of smoked meat sandwiches on my last visit, at Schwartz's. They dragged an entire 30-gallon tub of uncarved, smoked briskets by us from the back room to the carving station while we were eating: I felt like I'd spotted Jesus in sunglasses on the street.
I've had some fine swanky meals in Montreal -- a dinner at Toque! in its original location in Plateau Montreal was probably my favorite -- but that smoked-meat moment is the one I'll always remember. That, and the roadside-stand poutine in the sticks a couple of hours west of Montreal, with my UN-diverse crew. The locals looked at us like we'd just landed from Mars, but were friendly enough, and the poutine was cheap and awesome.
Depending on how far north you want to drive, The Kitchen Table Bistro in Richmond is great. If your a beer lover you have to hit The Alchemist in Watebury. The beers are amazing. But one of my favorite places is The Common Man Restaurant in Warren (no relation to the NH chain).
Places we go out of our way to eat at:
1)John Andrews Restaurant,S. Egremont,Ma.
2)Inn at Saw Mill Farm,West Dover,Vt.
5)Wade's Diner,Oswego,N.Y. (breakfast only)
7)Shaw's Lobster Pound,New Harbor,Me.(summers lobster rolls)
8)Clipper Inn,Clayton,New York
9)Interlachen Inn,Lake Placid,New York
10)Donnelly's,Saranac Lake,N.Y.(ice cream only)
You will not be disappointed with any of our favorite places.
So little time ,so many new places to try!!!!!
You'll love the Black Sheep - I'm sad that they don't do brunch anymore, but the dinner is fabulous. Starry Night Cafe and Simon Pearce are other VT favorites of mine. I know some on this board will disagree, but I'd say check out A Single Pebble in Burlington if you've never been. For Maine, Havana in Bar Harbor is pretty "destinationy," and there are a bunch of other good places there (Two Cats, Cafe This Way, Jordan Pond House for popovers). Montreal is a fine idea too - try Toque (now THAT'S a great splurge) and Bistro Coccagne.
I used to live in Vergennes and ate at the Black Sheep at least ten times, it is a great place, but I wouldn't drive hours to eat there. A previous poster mentioned Starry Night, and I much prefer it to Black Sheep. Someone also mentioned Cafe Shelburne....it is a good as well, but not outstanding in my opinion...I feel over the last ten years the food has gone downhill.
The Pitcher Inn in Warren, I just love and if you feel like going crazy...try the wine cellar tasting dinner....one of the best meals I have ever had.
Hugo's in Portland is another great choice!
Do try Primo in Rockland, ME....they grow their vegetables right behind the restaurant and it shows in the freshness of the food. Lovely cuisine, attentive staff.