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Apr 30, 2008 08:54 AM

Vermont report

I recently tried some places in Vermont for the first time and wanted to share my experiences.

Simon Pierce in Quechee had the best views and ambiance. The service was impeccable from the time we were sat by the host to the end of the meal. This place is top notch with regards to its front of the house staff. The food was very good, but not outstanding however. The salad was a tad skimpy with the Great Hill blue cheese. A salmon, asparagus and Vermont cheddar quiche was fluffy and a bit heavy on the cheese, yet lacking in the other ingredients. The fish soup “Provencale” was generous with the seafood, but was watery and not authentic with the way it was spiced, (no fennel, anise, herbs de Provence, garlic etc.). Not bad, but not a “Wow, this is great!” experience with regards to the food. The meals were reasonably priced.

The Dutch Pancake House in Stowe serves authentic Dutch pancakes “pannekoeken” and, if I’m not mistaken, the only place in New England that does so. The service was personable and the atmosphere was quaint. The pancakes were very good. We tried one sweet and one savory and both were filling and tasty. The food was a bit expensive, but this is Stowe after all.

The Alchemist brewpub in Waterbury serves excellent beer. Known for their hoppy, innovative brews; this place is a must visit for beer aficionados. Many posts on this board speak highly of the food: “better than average pub food” and so on. I didn’t find this to be the case. Although the service was very good and the beer excellent, the food was just ok. The buffalo chicken wings were not juicy and there wasn’t a lot of meat on them. The blue cheese dressing tasted like it was out of a jar. The sweet potato fries were not fresh or “hand cut” on premises. The house-smoked sausage plate is actually sausage made off premises. Overall, don’t expect a fine culinary experience at the Alchemist, I’d recommend to just go for the great beer, ambiance and conversation.

A Single Pebble in Burlington was our best overall experience with regards to personable, enthusiastic service and excellent, authentic Chinese food. You rarely, if ever, find food this good outside of Boston or NYC in the northeast. This is a MUST GO foodie destination. The atmosphere is pleasant and prices reasonable. Thanks Liza for the excellent service (and the nice pebble).

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  1. Thanks for the report. I've been anxious to make a visit to Vermont and have never been to the Single Pebble. Sounds wonderful.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      If you decide to VT, Hen of the Wood ( in Waterbury, I-89 Exit 10 is a must. I have never had a bad meal there! The wine and cheese list are also impressive.

      1. re: travelames

        Just got an award for Best New Chef 2008 by Food and Wine magazine (see July issue)... Expensive though, right?

    2. For a great view, check out the Joy Wah in Bellows Falls. Beautiful view of the River. Really great Chineese food, friendly service, good prices. A place we also want to eat sometime is the patio of Juniper Hill Inn, the view of Mt. Ascutney and the lake below are esquisite. Simon Pearce is my favorite in Quechee, and I agree whole heartedly about it. For great food, and Ambience, I like the Windsor Station (heard it was recently sold), but the view and location is a nightmare. we haven't ever had anything happen to us our our car, but it looks like an area where bad stuff can happen. Although the food keeps us coming back.

      12 Replies
      1. re: BoVT

        Joy Wah has been a disappointment food-wise all three times I've been. I agree that the staff is very professional and friendly and the cocktails are tremenously yummy, but the food is a consistent disappointment for me.

        I think the whole menu is a bit 70's also. Those huge round fried shrimp rings? Egg Foo Young?

        1. re: Bri

          I'm with Bri here, Joy Wah has a neat view, but everything else about the place is right out of the 1970's Americanized Chinese Food movement, with sweet gloppy sauces and the like...

          1. re: kaszeta

            I am sorry, but I really like the Americanized version of Chineese food. The tastes and sauces add familiarity to the unfamiliar and just taste good. I guess that is why they say "To each their own..."

            1. re: BoVT

              What are you sorry about? I also happen to enjoy going to the Joy Wah and have been going to them since they 1st opened the Jade Wah in Brattleboro. We make the trek to Bellows Falls and enjoy not only the food, but the drinks and the family and the view.

              1. re: RichK

                I am sorry that my suggestion drew two "oh that's so seventies" and no longer "hip" responses. In my opinion good food does not go "out of style" BTW the BoVT stands for "Birthplace of Vermont". It is the small town of Windsor, and home to the Windsor Station. We summer/vacation in the Upper Valley area each year and try to stop at the station at least one or two times before we head back to the Boston area. Others that come up with us like the Juniper Hill Inn, and when we ate at the No Name cafe in Windsor it was really good. Windsor last summer was the best kept secret for food, but unfortunately, those places stayed "the best kept secrets" and some have since closed. Windsor is such a beautiful, but depressed town. It seems evertime they get things going something happens and all of a sudden it reverts back to the depressed times. The only constant we have seen was the Windsor Station, and their food has kept us coming back every year for the last 20+ years.

                1. re: BoVT

                  I don't in any way declare myself or pretend to be hip, nor do I assess food from that perspective. The 70's comments was almost an afterthought, but I stand by it. That's the beauty of Chowhound. You get perspectives from all different tastes and then readers can try something for themselves and determine whether or not its their cup of tea.

                  There have been many restaurants on Chowhound that received both positive and negative reviews and it never stopped me from trying them to make my own assessment. Some I ended up agreeing were not worth going back to and others I thought were better than reviewed.

                  That's why no one should apologize or be shamed for having a differing opinion from other posters and I don't see any shaming having been done by me or kaszeta.

                  1. re: BoVT

                    Indeed BoVT, to each their own. That I don't like Joy Wah shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of it, and I try to share my perspective on places (including the ones I dislike) without bashing other people's tastes.

                    I definitely agree with Windsor. I love the town and its charms, and I've had several pleasant dinners at Windsor Station. I also agree that Windsor (and Claremont across the river) seem to be very recovery-resilient, with each step forward quickly matched by a step back.

                    1. re: Joanie

                      Would the one that burned be Brickers? I know they have one in Claremont as well. In the Upper Valley and Lower Valley choices will always be limited. There is just not enough people to support so many restaraunts, unless you capitalize on bringing visitors in for other reasons. Hanover/Lebanon and Brattleboro are the only two places that have enough "critical mass" to support a variety of eateries. When Springfield, Windsor, and Claremont were going full with industry, they had a larger daytime population that would support fine establishments, and some not so fine. Now the streets are empty during the day, which means the restaraunts cannot survive unless they found a small niche.

                      Question, is the full moon cafe ( I believe that is the name) still open in downtown Springfield? They had a good selection of coffey and pasteries, and also sold chocolate, and vanilla coated coffee beans by the bag that were delicious.

                      1. re: BoVT

                        I see much of this discussion has been deleted, par for the course.

                        Yes thank you, it was Bricker's I was thinking of. A standby in the old days.

                        Are you referring to the cafe on the right side of Main St. as you're driving north? Man, I can't remember the name of it for the life of me. I lwas so psyched to discover a cafe to hang out in when I visited. They sold it a while ago and now it's 57 Main (if we're talking about the same place). A little more formal with waitress service during lunch & dinner (doesn't stay open straight thru which bums out the gift shop/art place next door). Haven't eaten there. Across the street is the Apron Strings Cafe which took over that more casual cafe feel. Have only had a scone and my brother had a good sandwich. A little overdone on the cutesiness but a nice place to have in town. But as I wrote in my VT road trip report, only open from 10-2 on Sat. which didn't work with our timing.

                        1. re: Joanie

                          I think so, but our last trip we didn't go south we went north to Lyndonville area from the Upper Valley. Sorry to hear it may be gone, bus such is life in the food business it seems.

                          1. re: BoVT

                            The name of the Spfld cafe came to me the other day, Morningstar.

                            As far as Montpelier goes, I really like it and have never had a problem parking. Doesn't seem fake to me, not sure what that means. It has a few little stores, book shops, a good coffee shop/greasy spoon, cafe, nice restaurant. Not a whole lot obviously, but it feels a little more varied than many other VT towns.

                            1. re: Joanie

                              I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring Montpelier and would add to Joanie's list The Uncommon Market. Fantastic fresh seafood. Also the farmer's market is lots of fun.

        2. BoVT,

          When you say "Hanover/Lebanon and Brattleboro are the only two places that have enough "critical mass" to support a variety of eateries . . ."

          What, in your opinion, well, let me ask you this: Would a kimchi bar see success in either of these two areas. Is this area of western NH, eastern border of VT sophisticated enough for, let's say a place that specializes Turkish cuisine?? I know Hanover has Darmouth and all, but the surrounding areas all still seems a bit conservative or "old New England." Also, what about Montpelier in this regard??? I ask this because in our trek across VT, there didn't seem to be anyhing bordering on cutting edge cuisine or "new" (like a tapas bar).

          PS: although it has gone missing: I enjoyed reading your historical/architectural account of Windsor!

          20 Replies
          1. re: bewley

            Have you tried Shin La in Brattleboro for Korean?

            1. re: RichK

              No, I honestly haven't eaten in Brattleboro. We drove through a few weeks back and it looks like an interesting town. We saw the food coop and a tea cafe and coffee shop, but we plan to go back soon to spend some more time there.

              Is Shin La decent and do they do a good business there??

            2. re: bewley

              The moderators took it down since it wasn't food related, but you can see why I like this area, I am a history buff. As for the question at hand, Brattleboro is close enough to Mass and NH to attract if the food is on the cutting edge. Hanover area, can support some ethnic cuisine, but you are right the really creative places might not be able to make it without a creative and catchy marketing campaign. Unfortunately, the majority of these restraunts start up without enough capital to make it through the first five years of operation. WRJ had an African restaraunt that was really "out there" in terms of offerings, but closed. Many people never even knew it was there. Those that did hated to see it close. Ethnic food eateries could make it if they have the funds to advertise. There is a critical mass for them in Brattleboro and I would say in the Hanover area. However, they have to be good and able to reach their audience. Advertising is always the tough part. As for Montpelier, it is a nice town, but parking is horrible, and there is something phony about it. I can'tplace my finger on, but it seems to "touristy" and not real enough. The UV has real ermonters and New Hampshire folks, down to earth, common sense, and kind. We have taken a day trip or two, but normally stop in So. Royalton, Randolph, Bethel, etc. to eat or wait until we get further north to the Burlington area. Hope this helps.

              1. re: bewley

                The state of Vermont simply doesn't have a huge population density. Our biggest city, Burlington, has approx. 39,000 people, and the extended "metropolitan area" (which includes poplations in three counties) is only 206,000. For all of that, we do OK on the ethnic front. Not great, but pretty good considering that most of the state is still small town and/or rural, with generations of families dating back to the revolutionary war and a tradition of yankee pot roast and tuna and pea wiggle.

                There's a good Thai place in Montpelier, and a couple of very nice upscale, fine dining restaurants there. Burlington has several upscale, fine dining establishments that I'd compare to places in Portland (whose metro population is around 230,000). There are a lot of fine dining establishments in the Stowe area, and from all reports, there are many more further south (I usually travel northish for day trips).

                There's a NY Style Deli in Burlington that is getting good reviews. There's some decent Mexican available in certain places around the state. I can't remember if the Middle Eastern market in Burlington closed, I think it did.

                Lots of great Italian places, but I suppose those aren't really "edgy" or "new" any more. They're barely considered "ethnic" these days, I think. :) I don't know of any really good Greek places within Vermont, and I'm looking forward to my trip to Montreal to slake the hunger for Greek food. :)

                Places that specialize in a single style of cuisine and don't have more mundane offerings often find themselves unable to make ends meet, because it's not all that unusual for a given party looking for a meal to have at least one person unwilling to try unfamiliar foods. So if there's nothing to offer that person, the whole group is likely to stick within their comfort zone.

                What you -will- find in Vermont are a whole lot of restaurants and inns that are using fresh, local produce, and that fresh, local produce is fantastic. Wonderful farmer's markets, too. There's a lot of great small farms that are getting boosts from the local foods movement. Artisan cheeses and breads, as well as responsibly grown meats are everywhere.

                I can get Jamaican and Pakistani food at the Montpelier Farmer's Market. I had a goat curry there once that was to die for. I almost bought some goat meat at Shaw's (in Berlin) Thursday when I saw it there, because of that goat curry, but my house is sooo full of food right now...

                So no, we don't have a lot of restaurants that specialize in "sophisticated" stuff like Turkish food, but if you take the time to poke around and look under the surface, there's a lot more going on. :)

                1. re: Morganna

                  The World Market in Burlington, the eastern market that you mentioned and thought closed, moved a few blocks south to a spot next door to the African market on North.
                  There seems to be an explosion of Vietnamese restaurants in Burlington lately, I can three that have opened in the past two years. Though for the most part these place do tone things down for the Vermont palette. Which leaves me with an unfortunate feeling of "that was o.k., but nothing to jump up and down about."

                  1. re: chilihead

                    Ooh good, I liked that market and I don't get up there nearly enough. We gotta make an effort. I want to support that guy. :)

                  2. re: Morganna

                    As for Montpelier, I find the new Ariel's Riverside Cafe and Bar (formerly Finkerman's BBQ) to be very, very good. I've eaten there on two occasions and was pleased both times. I was particularly impressed with the frito misto plate. Fried seafood (perfectly cooked scallops, shrimp, and calamari) and veggies with a pungent aioli for dipping. The Middle Eastern sampler platter I had on the other occasion was very good as well. The ingredients were very fresh and prepared with respect and care.

                    They haven't been open all that long so make a reservation if you want to try it. Any new restaurant in Montpelier is packed for the first couple of months as all the locals check it out. Whether a place survives or not depends on whether the locals come back. But, at least as far as my wife and I are concerned, Ariel's Riverside is our new "go-to" place for eating out and to entertain friends from out of town.

                    Addendum: The OP mentioned tapas. While not a tapas bar, Arial's Riverside has a number of small meze or tapas like dishes on its menu suitable for ordering in any quantity and sharing.

                    1. re: rcianci

                      It is, however, really expensive, with entrees starting in the $18 per range and going up from there. I know that's not a lot in some metro areas, but that's a lot in Montpelier, where I usually expect to pay less than $15 per (though even at Applebee's you can find things that are $20, I suppose it's not that bad... hrm). Anyway, yeah, Ariel's a -great- food though. :)

                      1. re: Morganna

                        Not saying you're wrong, but I don't recall paying that much. Wish I could find my credit card receipt. We are talking about the new casual place on River St. and not the formal restaurant in Brookfield, right?

                        1. re: rcianci

                          Yeah, I haven't been to the new place, only the one in Brookfield, but our friends went to the new place and I'd asked about the prices, seemed high, but I could be wrong! And the food is definitely great! I wish their website had their menu! :)

                      2. re: rcianci

                        Personally I did not think it was anything special... and like says Morganna (above) expensive... I thought their previous menu (when they were Finkerman's BBQ) was more fun and more different... and nice BBQ!

                    2. re: bewley

                      Brattleboro has the Korean restaurant Shin La (as RichK mentions). Although I didn't particularly care for it, it was good enough for Korean friends, and for my PT who was based in Korea for a few years.

                      There used to be a little take out place that had some Turkish snacks (run by a man whose wife was Turkish), and there's also a Lebanese place called Sarkis Market. Neither had full-on menus, but they had enough to wet the tastebuds.

                      Brattleboro is also home to a couple of Indian restaurants, the best being in a hotel (can't remember the name) on the outskirts of town (the other Indian place is downtown).

                      One of the reasons Brattleboro can support these places is because of the graduate school SIT. With all the changes happening at the school, however, those restaurants may lose their main customer-base, so who knows if they'll be around in the future?

                      1. re: prasantrin

                        The Indain restaurant at the Quality Inn closed a while ago.
                        There are also a couple of Thai places in Brattleboro, one called Thai Garden right off Main Street and the other off Canal Street (Route 5 South) called Anon.
                        I prefer Anon, it is family owned and the food is good home cooking at reasonable prices.

                        1. re: RichK

                          I love the Thai food from the family that has a booth at the farmer's market. With the steamed sticky rice in banana leaves? Is that Anon Thai? I seriously crave that dish.

                        2. re: prasantrin

                          I think it an overestimation of the number of people attending SIT to conclude that would be the reason why ethnic restaurants do well in Brattleboro.

                          Quite frankly its the locals that make these businesses successful and whenever I eat out in Brattleboro, I see many local faces. You underestimate the population and tastes of the greater Brattleboro area residents greatly by implying that a lack of SIT students would cripple the ethnic food establishments here.

                          1. re: Bri

                            I agree with you Bri. Most of the folks I see in the ethnic places are locals.
                            As a matter of fact, I do not see that many SIT students supporting the restaurants in Brattleboro for whatever reason.

                            1. re: RichK

                              I find it very surprising that with all the discussion about Montpelier's restaurants, nobody has mentioned phoebe's.

                              Somewhat new to the area, I was drawn into the restaurant for lunch by a friendly waitress. There is a Mexican pub next door to phoebe's, so, new to the town, I was contemplating my choices (Black Door had disappointed on two consecutive evenings), when a friendly employee (later to learn the assistant manager) lured me in with offering me a copy of that days specials and a divine drink list. I sat in the outside dining area; Nothing like begginning a lustful relationship on a spring-tuesday-afternoon, in early May.

                              A bowl of asparagus, dandelion green, and crimini soup with a topping of feta cheese and chives verified that I has indeed chosen wisely. I travel all over the country for the insurance company I work for, and the flavor of this soup, its texture and presentation, really manifested early spring; the greens bitter, sharp and clean, the mushrooms earthy and luxurious, like velvet. Next course (and another reason I even took notice of phoebes) soft shell crabs (A-frame sign out front had various specials for different days of the week and a sign that read "CRABS". There were no phoebe employees outside (it was 4:00 pm) and I could see everybody inside hustling around, crossing all their T's and dotting all their Is. I asked a waiter at the Mexican joint next door about phoebes and he said that is where he takes his girlfriend when he aces an exam or has a great night tending bar. I further inquired if he knew what type of crabs were represented by the laminated sign on the A-Frame. He asked the date, thought for a moment, and replied, "softshells. Definately. More to follow...

                              1. re: Armegeddon73

                                The Mexican place next door, Julios, is very hit or miss (or at least the last time I was there, which was years ago, I finally gave up on them). You made a good choice. Phoebes is one of those that I'll try sometime when I'm more flush with money, but it's a little on the pricey side for a dinner for us right now (we're currently hemorrhaging money, the joys of home ownership after a hard winter!)

                                1. re: Morganna

                                  I tried Julio's once because Phoebe's was closed. I can now add them to my list of "Mexican" restaurants that are awful in NE.

                      2. I'd echo the description of Simon Pearce (also a great place to buy firsts or seconds of their pottery and glassware) and would like to put in a plug for A Perfect Pear (previously noted at This small gem is great for lunch (perhaps after browsing for bargains at the Copeland furniture studio/outlet next door) or dinner, and it uses fresh local ingredients for an outstanding dining experience.

                        1. We're going to the Bridport area for a week. Any suggestions? Seems like the
                          pickin's are slim except in Middlebury. We are happy with any type of good food -
                          from diners to ethnic to upscale.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: phDuh

                            Trattoria Delia
                            152 St. Paul Street, Burlington 864-5253
                            Black Sheep Bistro
                            253 Main Street, Vergennes 877-9991
                            Café Shelburne
                            5573 Shelburne Road, Shelburne 985-3939
                            Starry Night Café
                            5371 Route 7, Ferrisburgh 877-6316