My review of trip to Waitsfield/Warren/Sugarbush
Overall restaurants were fine, not great. That puts the reviews in perspective that I read elsewhere. e.g. "above average" in Sugarbush area may be merely average in New York. Also the restaurants I went to have entrees < $20 for the most part, vs. say the Pitcher Inn which I did not go to but probably was much, much better.
- Chez Henri: Best in the area, but not mindblowingly better. Kitchy ambience works somehow.. it feels like it shouldn't but it does. Mountaintop location great if skiing. We went for lunch (didn't return to skiing). Burger was very good (but not special). French Onion soup very good (I don't have big FO soup game to qualify whether as special etc.). Girlfriend's salad seemed fine enough (area restaurants all had good salads). Service bad. Two waitors.. 1 is great, 1 is a bona fide disaster. We had the disaster. Mixed up order, took too long to bring stuff, forgot to bring stuff.. all over the place without being anywhere at the same time. Good menu/variety.
- John Egan's Big World & Pub: Not really a pub so much as a restaurant with great beer selection/bar. Suprisingly was the 2nd best menu out of spots we went to. They brought out same olive oil/garlic dish with the bread as the Spotted Cow -- I wonder if same owners? Food was good. Again not great, but we weren't expecting much. It was nice to get a good menu.
- Spotted Cow: Was expecting much much more than what it was. Limited selection of comfort food made well, but not special at all. Some folks talk about how this is the best restaurant ever etc... definitely not the case. Spaghetti meatballs, or shrimp scampi type food... very limited vegetarian options.. girlfriend was pretty unhappy.. Would go back with expectations very much in check (well executed comfort food at reasonable prices, but not special place). Would go to Egans Pub before this though.. I think quality there was almost as good, with better ambience and better hours. Sounds like Spotted Cow is more like a breakfast/lunch spot. A good place to know about but don't consider this to be a special at all... so I disagree with a lot of other reviews on this place.
Places didn't go but wish I did:
Michaels-good-to-go. Stopped by, but no on-site seating. Really unique menu for the area and reviews/menu suggest well executed. Take-out menu I grabbed copy of didn't mention any Jambalaya. vegetarian options include bean subsitute and 2 seitan dishes. my vegetarian gf didn't find them appealing so we didn't do take out.
1824: menu looked nice and given how spotted cow/chez henri fared, I left thinking this might fill in the gap of fine dining in the area. location is not in the center of things and I think that furthers the idea it might be a few levels better than spotted cow etc.
We've enjoyed The Common Man. Great cosy, open-beamed barn dining room. Super friendly staff (who ran to the kitchen to get a dessert recipe for us). The menu doesn't change often, but has enough variety to keep most happy. Appetizer of venison gnocci was the big winner last visit. Prices well below the Pitcher Inn.
Also to try - The Warren General Store for truly awesome sandwiches.
I've been meaning to try The Green Cup, looks to specialize in local foods, yadda yadda.
Oh, what a helpful set of reviews! We head up that way about twice a year, in the winter. My memory's a little fuzzy, now, but I think I remember 1824 being just okay (probably pretty good for the area, but just so-so if you're coming from NYC... sorry... I guess that sounds terribly snotty). I did really love a restaurant we went to in a converted mill that's within a pretty close drive of all of these places. I'll have to look up the name, again, unless someone can help me out. Bruni at one point did a review. They had some wonderful cheese selections and pairings...
The food at the Common Man was nothing to write home about, IMHO. [I was, admittedly, on a misguided healthy food kick that night and might've ordered grilled tofu instead of something they do much better.] But the house-brewed beers were undeniably excellent.
[Edited to add]
Aha, the restaurant in a converted mill is called Hen of the Wood -- and I guess it was Bittman who wrote the review: http://bitten.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/h...
Anyway, it's in Waturbury and very good. The preps are deceptively simple, but the quality is comparable to the much more famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
Another perspective with more recent visits.
This is our third year in Mad River Valley (MRV) for ski season and have just started to venture out to more restaurants in area as our eldest is now able to do some babysitting. While I'm no Michelin guide reviewer, I cook a lot and can tell good food from so-so food. My view on restaurants near ski resorts is usually you get over priced and mediocre food, so normally I set the bar lower when we go out and tend to cook in more up North. Nicest thing we've discovered in MRV is standards are a little higher as it seems to be a foodie haven (unfortunately prices are still high).
Green Cup in Waitsfield (right by covered bridge) http://www.greencupvermont.com/ Just got to visit for 1 st time after many strong recommendations from friends who rave about their breakfasts. Went for dinner 2 Sunday nights ago and it was very,very good and rates with some of the better small Boston restaurants (in both quality and price). It is a small place (maybe a dozen+ tables) and only open Sat, Sun, & Mon. nights for dinner. Brief but eclectic wine list ( after selecting a white I commented on rarity of an Austrian Rose - sold by bottle but they offered to open one and sell me a glass - quality, dry wine) with several good beer choices (even had hard cider option). Wait staff was friendly and attentive (waitress caught a kitchen mistake and quickly produced a missing puree for one dish). Food was well balanced, tasty, and interesting, our portions were ample enough but could see where some smaller plates might not be satisfying enough for some. All in all, some of best food I've tasted in valley, disclaimer in that I've only been here once and have never been to Pitcher Inn.
Common Man http://www.commonmanrestaurant.com/ - on German Flats Road couple of minutes drive from Sugarbush (Dinner Tues-Sat) is rock steady, good quality, great subdued atmosphere. Perfect for "romantic dinner" but not so precious that you wouldn't go back just about any night. I have to confess I've only eaten at the bar (not a good planner - they are always booked by time I call) which is at one end of this massive converted barn with a big old fireplace hearth at other end. Last time (just before New Years) I had the Lobster Risotto which was rich but very good. Was extremely jealous of my Wife's Wild Mushroom Ravioli (sauce was excellent) - beet salad also excellent. In half dozen visits haven't had a bad plate. Very good food (not most innovative) and in great atmosphere.
Chez Henri - Considered a good old French standby in a funky location right by Sugarbush mountain. In my mind definitely not best in area but has solid core of fans. If you are looking for some French Bistro fare this is the place . I had a disappointing lunch last year (made mistake of ordering a special which was a hearty pork stew with whipped potatoes but most of the chunks of pork had what was the consistency of undercooked pork rind attached - massive turn off). One of my sons had a burger which he said tasted "funny" but fries were very good ( think they tried to sneak in some onion and a splash of wine on a sauteed burger but what else would you expect in a French Bistro). Was there with a big group a couple of Fridays ago for dinner and have to say food was much better, I had the Duck (chose other sauce - not the fruit one) which was excellent (legs were done confit style and breast seared perfectly) sides were okay but, cold, small and forgettable, the wife had some eggplant dish which she said was only so-so. Tablemates nearest me had a roast Elk special (he was a beef guy - said it was good but his portion looked small and he was soon eyeing everyone else's plates) and the steak (which got good reviews). Table had ordered some cheese fondue for appetizers which I usually like (everybody else at table seemed to like it) but this had too much of a "wine" taste for my likings (I like a more Swiss/Austrian style - years ago there was a great Swiss restaurant in downtown Stowe , VT, will have to check that out again)
Mint, a Restaurant/Tea House which specializes in Vegetarian Vegan food fills location where Spotted Cow in Waitsfield (close to Green Cup) once was . They have small menu but post recent specials on their blog at http://www.mintvermont.com/ , while I like to eat my veggies, I'm no vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination but I've got to try this place as it seems to have interesting food and gets the whole MRV "funky back to earth VT ex-hippies meets NY Beautiful Styling People" vibe (yes it sounds oxymoronic but that's the deal in them thar hills where Bogner chic meets duct taped puffy jackets on some of the best slopes in the east)
Big Picture Cafe in Waitsfield is the perfect dinner & a show (or live music) location. Went expecting first run movie (only place in valley to see one) and tolerating mediocre food - boy was I surprised - really good food with wide family friendly yet funky selections, killer baked goods & desserts and could bring coffee & dessert into theater (more like a lounge with couches and extra chairs when they fill up). Reminds me of some of the high end retro diner places which have become so popular. Just like MRV a combo of local comfort food with a few exotic options. Can't wait to get back but not always showing family compatible movies - will go back just for food though.
Go to American Flatbread at Lareau Farm on Rte 100 between Warren & Waitsfield http://www.americanflatbread.com/ for some of the best flatbreads you'll ever taste (cheese is $13, everything else $15-$20) made right in front of you in a giant wood fired oven which sits center stage in middle of very bare bones barn like restaurant (it is their production facility during week to make frozen flatbreads which you can buy at Shaws for $10). Only open Friday & Saturday 5:00-9:30pm and "don't take reservations" but start taking names at 4pm (if you want your choice of times get there by 3:45). As earthy-crunchy (thank god not Vegan) as you will find in a thriving business. If you have to wait for your table you can get a beer, wine, or hand crafted soda ("No Coke, No Pepsi!") and on nice nights hang out by the fire pit outside (bundle up & don't forget the gloves - that applies until almost June). Save room for the "Warmed in oven" Apple Pie with ice cream it is killer - kind of cool seeing your order get put in oven right in front of you.
Good choice for Soup and Sandwiches at lunch is Easy Street Cafe on Rte 100 between Warren & Waitsfield (attached to Purple Moon Pub) http://www.easystreetmarket.com Been many times for lunch & never had a bad sandwich or soup here, they also do breakfast and dinner (ambitious menu gotta try soon).
Egans Pub in waitsfield - okay family friendly bar/restaurant, a couple of notches above standard burger joint, definitely try to be more ambitious with some successes but again pricey (more of a disconnect on price-value spectrum). Have had burger (decent) mussels (pretty good - not enough bread for sauce mopping) and goulash (okay but better version served at Castlerock Pub at Sugarbush).
Terra Rosa on lower end of Sugarbush Access Rd. is a newer (in old space) restaurant . I have only tried once last summer but had an okay rack of lamb with decent risotto (slightly too charred) not sure it was anywhere near worth $27 My only concern was price seemed high & they didn't seem to have enough kid options to bring family (pasta& meatball for $16 seems a bit out there and only other "safe" choice was the $13 cheese pizza) http://www.terrarossaristorante.com/.
Can't go wrong with sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches/burritos at both Paradise Deli (Philly Steak and Philly Chicken are very good) on Sugarbush Access Road (no seating except picnic tables outside in nice weather) and Warren Country Store (excellent smoked salmon/Boursin sandwich "Smoke on the Water" and killer baked goods) on main drag in middle of tiny Warren (very Norman Rockwell location - limited indoor seating great deck over river in nice weather).
Good resource for area restaurants is following B&B page which has some local knowledge and seems to update frequently http://www.westhillbb.com/restaurants...
DH and son were in the Mad River Valley earlier in the month and this is their second hand report on 3 dinners there (breakfasts were at their B&B and lunches on the mountain). Details are a bit sketchy since I was not there:
American Flatbread: Flatbreads were really good, good atmosphere. They would go back.
Common Man: Delicious, well executed food, but the attitude of the staff was condescending and unhelpful. In particular, 2 members of the group wanted to split a pasta dish for a 1st course. The server stated that they could not divide the pasta into separate plates in the ktichen, but did bring an extra plate for them to divide at the table. Also, no locally brewed ales or beers on the drink menu; server promoted one made in San Diego. Seems pretty odd at a restaurant that touts its locally sourced food that you cannot get a Switchback or similar local brew. Doubtful that they will return.
The Alchemist in Waterbury: Enjoyed the brew, the food and the atmosphere. Would go back.