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Nov 19, 2008 09:39 AM

Visiting Vermont for a week...

I am staying in Montpelier for a week and I hope to make it out for a few nice meals. I was thinking about Hen of the Wood and Restaurant Phoebe. Are these good choices or is there something better out there that I should not miss? Also, I recall there being a fairly good Thai place in Montpelier. Is it still there and is it worth going to? Thanks...

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  1. I hope you're not staying at the Capital Plaza, but if you are, don't give in to the temptation to eat there. ;)

    Both of the above are good choices. Hen of the Wood is in Waterbury, but it's not that far a drive.

    Also check out:
    Royal Orchid (the Thai place you allude to above, on Elm street downtown Montpelier)
    El Sol (Main Street, Barre, decent Mexican food, not fast food)
    Ed's Barrrbq (Main Street, Barre, good smoked meat and nice sauces, I wrote a review of this place not too long ago)
    Sarducci's (Main Street, Montpelier)
    Coffee Corner for breakfast and/or lunch (really good diner)
    La Brioche for some baked goods, maybe a croissant and coffee (I don't eat there much but what I've had has been good)
    There's a good soup place for Lunch and Dinner on Elm Street across from the Thai place, I think it's called Stone Soup but I'm not 100% sure on that.

    Some folks recommend Black Door (Main Street, Montpelier) but I've never been there and the prices seemed a little high to me.

    I recommend avoiding J. Morgans (in the Capital Plaza hotel), Julios, Angelinos, and China Star.

    Village pizza is adequate but not if you're hoping for anything resembling NY style pizza. It's functional pizza, nothing more. Positive Pie is very uneven in how good it is, so I can't recommend it without reservation. I also prefer the pizza from Village Pizza over Positive Pie (possibly because I prefer meat on my pizzas and it seems a lot of the servers/cooks there are really uncomfortable with the whole idea, and so don't treat their meat dishes very well).

    I keep meaning to see if that Indian place is still there at the Ecnolodge, and if it's any good, but I keep forgetting to do it, so there's supposedly an Indian place up about two or three "blocks" from the Shaw's supermarket (heading -away- from downtown on what becomes route 12), but I don't remember the name, and don't know for sure if it's still there. :) Or, if it's still there, if it's any good. :)

    Anyone else know?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Morganna

      Nothing like ordering a sausage and pepperoni pizza and getting "attitude" as an additional topping. The next vegan that rolls their eyes when I place my carniverous order is going to get force fed a 24 oz Porterhouse !

      1. re: TonyO

        Tell them that your ancestors killed to reach the top of the food chain. Shut's them up every time.

      2. re: Morganna

        I'm curious why you say "don't stay at the Capitol Plaza and don't eat there"
        Yes, there are some tiny rooms. The "Colonial rooms" are spacious and nice. I would certainly ask about what KIND of room you're getting. Second, I would certainly say "don't eat there if you're in a hurry." It does take forever. Some waitstaff are a lot more professional and helpful than others, but the food that I've had has been good to very good, and I've eaten there quite a few times.

        1. re: sophie fox

          I've eaten there many times over the years, and I've always found the food adequate, but not more than that. I also have strong objections to the unfair labor practices of the owners. But primarily, my advice comes from years of experience being "stuck" eating there for lunches, knowing people who have worked there for years, and knowing something about the owners and how they cut corners. The food isn't worth the price when there are much better places just up the block or down the road a bit.

          1. re: Morganna

            OK, thank you, I remember hearing this before - that staff is treated unfairly. I don't know if avoiding it will make it better, and it could easily be argued both ways. Yeah - I've been "stuck" there for meals, too!

            1. re: sophie fox

              I suppose that is one viewpoint about the staff there. My viewpoint is that the staff is generally attitudinally challenged, they peddle their political agendas about a union on the customers, which makes for an unpleasant experience.

              I think the food there is pretty ordinary, and it's not a place I'd especially recommend. But the staff needs to shoulder some of the blame, too, because it isn't just a "management beats on the waitstaff" kind of thing.

              1. re: signothetimes53

                Actually, it is. My best friend worked there. I never heard it discussed while I was there, I heard about it because I socialized with my friend. Certainly some of the staff are not the best, but part of that is because the owners managed to force out the competent folks who actually called OSHA about various violations, and those who were working to improve things, and who finally were trying to get union representation because things were so bad. But the owners bullied and threatened and basically made it so unpleasant for folks that they either left or were completely cowed into submission. FYI, My friend is one who left.

                I dunno, maybe things have improved in the last X years, but I seriously doubt it, and I refuse to reward that kind of treatment.

                But fortunately, it's not like it's a great restaurant or anything. It's adequate at best, but usually barely that. When there are so many other, better, places in Montpelier, this should still be one of the last folks go to, just 'cos it's not worth it.

                1. re: signothetimes53

                  I'm gonna have to side with Morganna on this one. The owners are truly nasty people and their food is mediocre to bad. Which leads me to wonder, is there a good steakhouse in North Central Vermont?

                  1. re: rcianci

                    Around three years ago we were given a gift certificate to The Steakhouse. We hadn't been there in, oh, like ten years, before we got the certificate. We had a decent meal there. The steaks were good, cooked the way we liked. It doesn't have a great ambiance, the prices seemed a little high, and the salad bar is just, odd. Like a nod to a salad bar rather than one anyone's put any thought into, really. I can't remember for sure but I don't think the rolls were made on premises, I think they were just "heat and serve" type rolls (but you could have as many as you wanted, they were in a warming thing by the salad bar! ;) The dessert bar was eh, as well. :) So I guess the answer to your question is no. If I were really hungry for a steak, I might go there again, but more likely I'd just buy one at the store and make it myself. Though the steaks there -are- better than the steaks pretty much anywhere else (not hard to be better than Applebees, though ;).

        2. i grew up in Vermont.
          I actually recommend the Black Door. While a bit on the pricey side, their bistro menu and daily flat bread specials are a bit more on the affordable side. And if you can handle a little pricier meal (I doubt any of the entrees go near $30, if I recall correctly), it is completely worth it. Every time I come home, I always go there. The service is wonderful and I have never been disappointed with the food. Let me repeat, they probably have some of the best food in all of Montpelier.

          I also recommend That's Life Soup (which the previous poster mentioned under the name of Stone Soup). Since there is a lot of soup in their portion, I recommend getting that half soup with either a salad (they have this AMAZING wasabi vinagrette) or one of their many delicious sandwiches. The service is always wonderful, it's a quaint/homey/comfortable space and the food has never been a disappointment. It is another place that I always make a point of visiting while up visiting friends and family.

          La Brioche is absolutely fabulous. It's run by the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) and one of the best food gems in Montpelier. Pastries, rolls, muffins, cakes, and soups are amazing. Good for lunch or an indulgent snack.

          A cheaper coffee shop is Capitol Grounds. Good coffee and tea, good vegetarian chili, and windows over looking the river and crowds walking past. Drink coffee with the locals.

          Another good coffee shop (with the best eclairs in Montpelier) is Gisene's (sp? It has an owl out front.) It is owned by Sandra Bullock's sister. This is of no consequence, because after you have their eclairs all you'll be able to remember is just how amazing those eclairs were and you'll be figuring out when you can come back and get more.

          I believe the Indian restaurant at Econolodge has shut down. But Rhaspody (in between the two video rental shops) supposidly has a good vegetarian bar and the best sushi in Montpelier area. Consider I think they are the only ones who serve it. . . I've never been. But I have friends who are regulars there.

          Many people love Sarducci, but I find the food to be a second rate, poor imitations of Italian and the restaurant is always overcrowded and loud in an unpleasant why. It is hard to get a table and even harder to hear your table after sitting down. If you have ever had half decent Italian, you should not go here. It would be a severe disappointment.

          Also, when you are up in Montpelier, make sure to check out Burlington. There are many a good restaurants there.

          My recommendation for Burlington is A Single Pebble (make reservations if its a weekend). It's gourmet Chinese food. I'm not talking the greasy take-out we're all used to. This food is to die for. Impeccable service and I've never ordered anything I do not enjoy. They're famous for their small dish green beans and lychee nut martinis, but you cannot go wrong there with anything you order. Their sweet and pungent walnts are, in my opinion, a must. They also let you mix and match your sorbet and sauces, I recommend getting the coconut sorbet with the raspberry sauce. This place, much like the Black Door and That's Life Soup, is an absolute must in my book. When showing people Vermont, I feel that I have failed if I have not shown them those three places.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dylpickles

            I simply have to differ with you about Sarducci's. When was the last time you were there? Yes, it's loud, not for a romantic dinner, but the pasta I had there this summer was fresh, the salad was great and fresh, the service was attentive and knowledgable, and the ingredients were locally sourced. Maybe they've changed since you've been?

          2. Another good choice for Montpelier is Ariel's Riverside Cafe just off River St. About the same price point as The Black Door and IMHO with far better food.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rcianci

              Oh I always forget to mention them! :)

            2. As far as restaurants in and around Montpelier go:

              You're right to be thinking about Hen of the Woods, because it is wonderful. Be sure to get a reservation early on!

              Sarducci's - have only had a drink there, it was incredibly loud, deafening, impossible to have a conversation.

              Coffee Corner - excellent diner, don't miss it

              La Brioche - like other NECI places, VERY uneven - can be good, very good, or quite poor. I got a brioche there the other day that tasted like it was two days old - dried out, dull, not enough salt.
              If you want pastry, you want to go to Gesine up on Elm Street - Rt 12 North. Everything is wonderful. The golden egg is deathly but a great way to go out.

              Sadly, I recommend avoiding the Wayside in Barre. I've had very good, very cheap meals there in the more distant past, but lately it has been bad and slow. I had chicken a la King with broccoli that tasted like it was straight out of a can, and none too warm. I haven't had breakfast recently, but that could be safer.

              River Run in Plainfield is fun and good Southern food - a little more than 10 miles away - open for breakfast and lunch, closing at 2 PM. Great hushpuppies!

              You're not far from Waterbury and Waitsfield, as well as Stowe, and Burlington is not too far. Lots of possibilities! Enjoy!

              4 Replies
              1. re: sophie fox

                You think River Run's hushpuppies are great?! I suppose I knew that someone around here had to, because they steadfastly refuse to add any onion to recipe which seems to imply that they have a following. I can't stand them, myself. The BBQ at Ed's BarrrBQ is better than River Run, too. Ed's actually smokes low and slow for at least eight hours. I know personally that the River Run BBQ is barely smoked at all, only for a short time, and on a cook top smoker not with a real pit smoker, like Ed's. It's not -bad- it just isn't as good as Ed's.

                1. re: Morganna

                  Honestly, I didn't remember whether they had onion or not - just that they were good and I was darned surprised to find decent hushpuppies in Plainfield. I haven't tried Ed's, but I like the BBQ sandwich at River Run.

                  1. re: sophie fox

                    You don't need to remember. ;) My best friend makes them. :) She's from the south, and has been begging them to let her put onion in them, but they won't let her. I can't stand 'em because I find them dry and flavourless. Onion helps keep them moist and adds a lot of flavour. I'm glad, for their sake, that someone likes them though!

                    1. re: Morganna

                      Ok, I have to post a redaction. :) My husband ordered the hushpuppies this last Wednesday when we were there for trivia night. They started making them smaller (so they'd cook all the way through), and there was actual onion in them! They weren't half bad! So the hushpuppies at River Run aren't awful and I'll probably order them myself next time I'm there. :) They were better than the corn bread. ;) They have good burgers, too. :) Local ground beef.

              2. Hen of the Wood is my favorite restaurant in Vermont and probably my favorite "fine dining in the US" restaurant at the moment. The food is very good, the service is really great, and the possible wine parings are fantastic. Atmosphere and decor are fist rate.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Just as close as Hen of the Wood, on the other side of Waterbury is Michael's on the Hill - for a fine dining place I think it's even better than Hen, which is very good.

                  I'd avoid the sushi at Rhapsody at all costs, unless you're into the sort of worthy hippy stuff that tastes like a burlap bag - I don't think they use much if any actual fish, and last time I was there they used brown rice in the rolls.

                  1. re: Yankunian

                    I think you finally helped me find something I wouldn't eat for money: brown rice makizushi!

                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    We dined at The Hen of the Wood last week and it was tremendous. Crispy fried oysters, smoked duck, seared hangar steak, and a great wine list coupled with great service in an inviting atmosphere make for a great night out.