If Anthony Bourdain were taking a road trip from Boston to Montreal...
First summer living in Boston and my wife and I are planning a road trip up to Montreal – New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are all on the table. The route isn’t set and I’m looking for help. Recommendations to any place along the way including Montreal are welcome.
We’re open to all suggestions but we are NOT looking for high end dining - great deals are good, inexpensive is great. Let's put the Chow back in Chowhound. We’re open to anything – we especially enjoy the outdoors (outside dining on picnic tables!), off-the-beaten-path, the weird and the unusual. Not looking for anything fancy, in fact just the opposite. Think Anthony Bourdain type of local spots that might have one great item on the menu and a lot of local flavor – run down seafood shacks, great dive bars, etc.
Suggestions on places to visit, places to stay, and places car camp are more than welcome (great secluded car camping spots would be especially helpful). Links to other threads are also helpful. I’m just starting my research so I’m sure I’ll find lots of good theads to help but I thought I’d get this one out there. Thank you in advance.
You need only take Rte 7 at least up to the Burlington area (then I-89 is fine). You need to check out Bennington, Manchester, Brandon, and Burlington for some of the best eating in Vermont (and in my opinion the country). If you go anywhere it needs to be the Blue Benn diner in Bennington. Nothing is better! Good luck :-)
If you're coming up 89, then I have a list of places in the Montpelier/Barre area that I compiled for some software contractors doing work for my husband's department who are visiting over several weeks.
You can see the list that includes links to the restaurants here:
And here's the text from my list:
Barre - Ed's Barrr-B-Q
This is the best BBQ I've had in the Central Vermont area (outside of my own, of course ;D). The prices are reasonable, the sides are good, the service staff are knowledgeable and pleasant. The ambiance is nice, the dining room is bright and comfortable. Worth heading into Barre for. This is not a good place for a vegetarian.
Barre - El Sol Mexican Restaurant
The prices here are reasonable, and the portions are pretty large. They can be a little slow on service, but they do cook to order. This isn't the best Mexican I've ever had, but it's most certainly the best in the area and the food is tasty.
Barre - Lucia Restaurant
The link for this is to a review of the restaurant, and others comments, on Chowhound.com, because I couldn't find a better site to link to. This is a little pricey, and sometimes the service is uneven, but it's a decent option for dining in Barre. It's an Italian place, and the food is freshly made, served with Red Hen Bakery bread (which is always a good thing). Not worth a special trip if you're in Montpelier. Go to Sarducci's instead. But if you're in Barre for something else, it's worth stopping here for lunch or dinner.
Barre - Simply Subs
They have decent pizza and really good sandwiches. And a sidewalk creemee stand to boot. This is a reasonable option for picking up lunch or dinner while in Barre, but probably not worth making a special trip.
Montpelier - Black Door Bar and Bistro
Higher end, high quality restaurant with live entertainment. Reliably good, though a bit expensive.
Montpelier - Coffee Corner Diner
The prices here are a tad bit high, but the portions are large and the food is good. They shake up their standard menu with interesting specials, and have an actual Chef doing the cooking, not just a short order cook. :) Wonderful for breakfast/lunch, not open for dinner.
Montpelier - Dairy Creme
This is the best cremee stand in the area. They serve various snacky things, like hot dogs and I think nachos, as well, but come for the frozen dessert treats! There is always one non-dairy cremee option on the menu in addition to the five other flavours they offer. If you want a hot dog, go to the guy selling from the cart in the park just a little ways from this stand, though (spring-summer).
Montpelier - Hunger Mountain Coop
This is a local food coop with a lot of prepared food options, and a little cafe, as well as a deli area. It's near to downtown and well worth exploring.
Montpelier - La Brioche Bakery & Café
Wonderful baked goods, nice place for a morning cup of coffee and some pastry. They also have a variety of desserts. The people working here are students at the New England Culinary Institute (which is based in Montpelier). This is a nice option for a snack or light breakfast/lunch.
Montpelier - Langdon Street Cafe
They focus on local product, healthier options, and have many vegetarian/vegan options. They serve mostly sandwiches, but also have breakfast with eggs. Live entertainment pretty much every night of the week. A wide variety of specially blended teas, coffee beverages, as well as unusual soda options. A funky and laid back ambiance, as well. Free Wi-Fi
Montpelier - Positive Pie
The service and food can be a bit hit or miss, and sometimes it is slow to come out. When it's good, it is very good. When it's not so good it isn't awful, but it's not worth the price. They have live performances here. Warning, the website is completely Flash, and I don't see any non-flash options. This is not a bad place to go if you have some time and want to make an evening of it. They also offer take-out at a counter in the back.
Montpelier - Rhapsody Natural Foods
All the vegans/vegetarians I know rave about it. It's a nice little restaurant with a good vibe and reasonable prices.
Montpelier - Royal Orchid Thai Restaurant
From all accounts the Thai food at this restaurant is fairly authentic and very good. The prices are reasonable. They have decent service and a nice ambiance, as well.
Montpelier - Sarducci's
Mid-priced Italian that is freshly prepared. Largely local food, good service. Main dining room is a little loud but the porch overlooking the river is wonderful
Montpelier - That's Life Soup
They have a regularly changing menu, fair prices, and a small restaurant. By all accounts the soups and sandwiches are outstanding.
Montpelier - The Skinny Pancake
Free wireless, not just crepes but other options. Fresh local produce. Great prices, one of the best places in Montpelier. Fantastic food! Free wifi, to boot.
Montpelier - Susan's Kitchen
This is a vegetarian/natural foods take-out place. Freshly prepared every day. Interesting options, as well.
Working backwards from Montreal, obviously you have to do APdC and shop at Quincaillerie Dante and the Jean Talon Market. I strongly recommend staying at Auberge de la Fontaine, lovely location on the Parc de la Fontaine, a ten minute walk (at most) from APdC) excellent breakfast included.
Not sure about the Farmers Diner in Middlebury mentioned by the OP - I don't know it, and I worked there this past year. Middlebury doesn't sound like it's realy on your way. Yes, you can come up 91 to WRJ and go west on Rt 4, then up Rt 7, but you could also go up 89 to Montpelier then wets to Burlington.
Do you know your route?
Just north of Burlington, have breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three) at Libby's Blue Line Diner in Colchester, which gets my vote for best diner ever.
If coming through VT you could try camping at the Falls of Lana, a nice state park off of Rte 7 north of Rutland; in the morning drive to Middlebury for breakfast at the Farmers Diner ... not a historic diner but a new(ish) localvore twist on the theme, well reviewed
Then heading to Burlington, camp at North Beach if you can find space -- it's often full up with Quebecois enjoying the lake life in their RVs -- a good crowd! And get a Michigan Dog at Beansie's, our version of street food, served out of a bus parked at Battery Park in town. If you have time, hit the Sunset Drive-In in Colchester for a double feature.
Once you get to Montreal you'll find an embarassment of food riches. As to where to stay for cheap there, I'm looking too & considering the Auberge Alternative.
Here's some thoughts:
- pick up The Hippo, a free paper that covers food, events etc in the Nashua, Manchester and Concord area - there seems to be some free wine and beer tastings in various places on Thurs nights
- Manchester NH: if it's Sat around 11:30 am, Saigon Asian Market on Maple St has freshly prepared food, reasonably price. I liked the banh mi (sp). Other things have been good (i.e. steamed pork buns) but I'm not sure what some of it is.
- If it's Sat night in July or August there's a church or grange holding a supper someplace. The ones in the Concord NH area advertise in the Sat paper
- 2nd Sunday of every month, all you can eat breakfast from 7-10am in Contoocook NH at the IOOF hall on Rt 127. Take exit 6 off Rt 89. Follow 127 past the fairgrounds. They have a blinking sign out front. Usually have two varieties of homemade donuts. The scrambled eggs are simple but I really like the hobo beans and there's a potato dish that's yummy. I think the price is $5. Afterwards, continue straight on the road and get back on Rt 89 at exit 7.
- if I wanted to spend some money for a really good picnic lunch I would stop at In A Pinch Cafe in Concord NH. They make really good soups and salads. Very good sandwiches, not expensive but not cheap either.
- If going straight up Rt 93, take exit 19 for the Dipsy Doodle. So far, best deal for a lobster roll in NH that we know of. Yummy sweet potato fries but we usually get onion rings.
- off the beaten track for best deal on fried clams and scallops: The Pizza Market in Franklin NH. From Rt 93 take Exit 17, follow Rt 3 thru Boscawen (you'll pass the Smoke Shack in Boscawen NH which we like for bbq things but other folks don't like it as well) continue to Franklin NH. You'll come to a set of lights, go straight to continue of Rt 3A (if you turn right you go over the river into downtown Franklin where there's a good Thai restaurant next to the Opera House/Asian Delight) The Pizza Market is on your left. Our son raves about the size of sandwiches and calzones. Ample servings of clams and scallops - scallops look overcooked but aren't. Market price of clam plate was $16.95 the night we went recently. Very friendly service. The guys at the bar were pretty quiet. Could be considered almost a dive. It's fairly new.
- if you go back to the lights and head into Franklin and continue north on Rt 3 to Tilton, there are free Sunday night concerts at a little island in the river. Concerts start at 6:30. Get there early with a picnic supper and your own chairs. This year's list isn't up yet but it's the Savinia Hartwell concerts. Different type of music each week. Gets pretty crowded. Continue north on Rt 3 and you can get back on Rt 93 at exit 20.
that's about it for my neck of the woods. Good luck and I look forward to your trip report.