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Burlington/Lake Champlain vacation advice and suggestions

I'm planning a week long trip to Vermont next month (mid-july). We will be staying in Colchester, but are open to day trips and will definitely be taking a day trip to Plattsburgh, NY. My question is threefold:

1.What are the food things that I absolutely must try while I am in the area?
2. Can I find Poutine without going to Montreal? (Didn't renew my passport in time)
3. Is there a weekday Farmer's Market close to Colchester?

I would appreciate any advice or suggestions from those who know the area.


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  1. Must try Trattoria Delia, Love this place. Fantastic service and food, wonderful experience.

    Also, if you feel up to driving, Hen of the Woods in Waterbury (it's just a bit off of Exit 10 on Interstate 89, about a half hour drive from Colchester I'm thinking, give or take a few mins).

    The Burlington Farmer's Market is really good from all I've heard: http://www.burlingtonfarmersmarket.org/ but it is on Saturday.

    The New North End Farmer's Market is Wednesdays... here's a list of the farmer's markets in Chittenden County: http://www.vermontagriculture.com/cgi...

    1. You are in for a treat! What a great area.

      My favorite restaurants in Burlington (just south of Colchester) are:

      Leunig's Bistro - a French bistro right on Church Street
      The Daily Planet -- a funky quasi-vegetarian place downtown
      The Penny Cluse Cafe - great breakfasts

      In Colchester, there is the favorite Blue Line Diner. Don't miss this!

      Definitely take the car ferry from Burlington to Port Kent. It's great on a nice day.
      If you drive south once you get on the NY side, you can take the Ticonderoga Ferry back to Vermont. This is a small open ferry that can carry about 10 cars and gets pulled along on a cable that runs under the water. It's run by a private organization and it's a hoot.

      Here is a link to the Ti Ferry: http://www.middlebury.net/tiferry/


      Libby's Diner
      1 Roosevelt Hwy, Colchester, VT 05446

      Leunig's Bistro
      115 Church Street, Burlington, VT 05401

      Daily Planet
      15 Center St, Burlington, VT 05401

      Penny Cluse Cafe
      169 Cherry Street, Burlington, VT

      2 Replies
      1. re: jlbrown

        I've heard great things about The Rudder Club in Essex, NY. It's the new restaurant at the Essex Shipyard. A short walk through a quaint little town from the Essex-Charlotte Ferry. Great food, and Lakeside dining with reasonable prices.

        1. re: randyshrman

          I also like the Kings Inn in Port Henry, NY if you do head south to the car ferry in Ticonderoga. They have terrific Prime Rib--you'll never leave hungry. They also have rooms for rent as well.

      2. Vermont's best restaurant right now is Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, absolutely worth the 35 minute drive south on I-89 from Colchester. Superb fresh and local ingredients, wonderfully thoughtful menu. Your biggest issue will be trying to get reservations, esp. on a Friday or Saturday.


        Trattoria Delia in Burlington is also superb, and very romantic. However, if you struggle to see in low lighting, be forewarned, it can be very dark in there.


        In Plattsburgh, I love Anthony's, which has very good food and an exquisite wine list. They have a moderate price bistro section, and a more expensive restaurant section. Both are tasty.


        I like Leunig's atmosphere, it is great for people-watching and has a somewhat Parisian feel and look, but the food is rather ordinary and forgettable.

        I'm definitely not a fan of Penny Cluse for breakfast. Overrated, serving up rubber pancakes and generic 3rd-rate bacon, along with a healthy dose of server indifference. Beware.

        1. Here are my thoughts:

          1. This area doesn't have a great deal of "area specific" foods. However, some unique spots are Beansie's Bus (Burlington). Yes, it is a converted school bus that serves Michigans (hot dog with meatsauce) and homemade fries. Certainly unique and memorable. The is also Brigante's snack bar in Colchester that serves Michigans. You will find that Michigans are also known as Red Hots in the Plattsburgh area.

          2. I'm not sure where to find Poutine. I am pretty sure that A&W in Middlebury has it. I would say it is worth the trip as this is one of the last drive-in restaurants left and the food is actually quite good (burgers, onion rings, fries, and great root beer). Worth the 40 minute ride plus you can stop at Otter Creek Brewing on your way.

          3. Not sure about weekday Farmers Markets

          I would suggest the following restaurants:

          1. Kitchen Table Bistro , Richmond
          2. Hen of The Wood, Waterbury
          3. Trattoria Delia, Burlington
          4. Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne
          5. Martone's, Essex (lunch)
          6. Tiny Thai, Winooski (lunch)
          7. Ramunto's, Williston (pizza)
          8. Junior's , Colchester (pizza)
          9. Drunken Noodle, Essex (lunch)

          The culinary star of this area, in my opinion, is cheese. If you like cheese, be sure to try as many local varieties as possible. There are dozens from Cheddar to Chevre. Grab a bottle of wine, a few varieties that are to your taste, a crusty baguette, head for spot on Lake Champlain and you will have a great lunch that can only be served up in Vermont.

          3 Replies
          1. re: TonyO

            The lunch idea of wine, baguette, and Vermont cheese is pure genius. Are there any particular Vermont cheeses you recommend? (I like cheese in all varieties from stinky to sharp to mild)

            1. re: justlauralibrarian

              A few of my favorites :

              Does Leap Goat Cheese: I have yet to have a better goat cheese anywhere
              Shelburne Farms Cheddar: You can sample at the store and pick a favorite (and this could also be a good spot for your picnic)
              Constant Bliss: Not sure how to describe, but remember it was tasty

              There are plenty of good wine shops around (try Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, 5 minutes from Colchester). The Fresh Outlet on Pine Street is also a great spot for cheese, bread, wine, olives, and cured meats. Probably the best place for "one stop shopping" for a picnic.

            2. re: TonyO

              Great list! However, we found the service at Inn at Shelburne Farms rude and snotty.

            3. Without a doubt, eat dinner at A Single Pebble on Pearl street downtown Bton. Gourmet Chinese that is delicious!!
              Penny Cluse for breakfast is a must but can have long lines.

              1. Thanks all! I knew I could count on Chowhound to make my vacation planning more fun. After doing some research, I'm really excited about Hen of the Woods. I expect that it could be the highlight of our trip. And although I suspect I won't have time to try everything on my list, I now feel confident that me and my traveling companions will eat well on vacation.

                4 Replies
                1. re: justlauralibrarian

                  I have never heard a single bad thing said about the food at Hen of the Woods, which, given how particular people can be in a place like this forum, is astounding to me. There's usually ALWAYS at least ONE person who hates SOMEthing about a restaurant. :) The closest thing to a complaint about it that I recall seeing is that it's a little hard for someone who is visually impaired to get around because the stairs are not very well lit. But that's not anything to do with the food. :)

                  I think we'll be going there for our anniversary dinner this year. :)

                  1. re: Morganna

                    Morganna wrote: "I have never heard a single bad thing said about the food at Hen of the Woods,"

                    Well. I have seen several reviews saying that customers weren't served sufficient quantities of it. I haven't been yet, but will find out in 9 days.

                    1. re: velotrain

                      Oh? Can you point them out? To me, that one or two dishes might have been small doesn't qualify as a "bad" review. I, too, have seen people mention that some portions on some things weren't as large as they'd have preferred, but I have yet to see anyone say they wish they'd never eaten there, or that the food wasn't great and the service wasn't great. If someone says "I wish this was bigger" in the middle of rave review, I just don't see it as saying something bad about the place.

                  2. re: justlauralibrarian

                    Hen of the Wood is great and has the rare combination of great food, great wine list, great service, and great food. You will also find this at The Kitchen Table Bistro. I would check both of their websites. You may get lucky and find that they are hosting a special farmers or wine pairing dinner while you are here.

                  3. If you like poutine, I'm guessing you're familiar with good things Quebecois, in which case you may want to know that you can pick up virtually genuine Montreal bagels in Burlington, at Myers Bagels (he used to work at Fairmont bagel).

                    1. Recommendations I second: Penny Cluse (b'fast OR lunch) -- nice staff, warm, pleasant decor, interesting food & good serving sizes; A Single Pebble; and the Inn at Shelburne Farms -- very good food, high-quality local ingredients, and a SPECTACULAR setting esp. if you have a drink on the verandah or lawn . Also, Asiana House on Pearl & Winooski, a block from Church Street, does yummy sushi.

                      Other good grocery sources: City Market (downtown on Winooski) has a small but choice group of VT cheeses, well-chosen wines and breads (try Red Hen), local organic produce, and all the other groceries you want. For more wine, Cheese Traders & Wine Sellers on Williston Road in S. Burlington, probably the widest selection around -- better for the higher-end stuff. (The cheese there, by contrast, is iffy.)

                      And finally, not food-related -- I hope you spend a little time in the Champlain Islands, they are lovely in summer and you'll be close by. Also, the Shelburne Museum is fascinating!

                      I find Leunig's overrated and pretentious for what you get. If you just want to enjoy a meal al fresco on Church Street, you'd do better with Sweet Tomatoes (Italian) or Sweetwater's -- pleasant, straightforward and not claiming to be more than they are.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rasalhanout

                        I agree about Leunig's. I have never been impressed. I find the atmosphere to be noisy and cramped, the food decent, and the bar service ok. Yes, the location is prime which is not all that important to me as I am dining there not buying the joint.

                      2. I was just in Burlington in April. The Skinny Pancake on the waterfront had poutine, but since we were there for breakfast I didn't partake. Look at the "group munchies" section on their menu.

                        The place is mostly a creperie, and they host music some nights. Might be worth checking out.


                        6 Replies
                        1. re: edub23

                          Good thing that you missed the so-called poutine at Skinny Pancake. Soggy, unpleasant fries, brown gravy out of a can, cold cheese curds. Truly awful.

                          Leunigs does indeed suck. "Pretentious for what you get" - true, but only if you actually get what you want. The handful of times that I've been there, it's always "oh we're just out of that" - second selection "we're out of that too."
                          My personal non-favorite was recently when they had a "St Germain Cocktail" listed on the specials board. I'd never had it before and really wanted to try it. The waitress took my drink order and THEN came back to tell me "oh, we had a busy night last night and they ran out."
                          So why was it on the LUNCH specials board?

                          1. re: sophie fox

                            I have to agree with you about the poutine at Skinny Pancake. Though I'm hardly some poutine fan (never had it before last week), I was surprised that the cheese curds weren't all melty. I don't think the brown gravy was out of a can, though. At least, it didn't seem to be to my palate (this was the Montpelier location I was at). The cheese curds were cold, but I have to say that they were -really good- by themselves. :)

                          2. re: edub23

                            The menu for Skinny Pancake looks fun and interesting, but I've been reading about some problems with inappropriately long wait times and possibly unfriendly staff. Can anyone tell me if the food is worth these potential hurdles?

                            1. re: justlauralibrarian

                              I've never had a problem at Skinny Pancake - the staff is always friendly to us and i've never had to wait an inappropriately long time. I think the food is awesome and would be worth it even if those things were true.

                              1. re: justlauralibrarian

                                I've only been to the Montpelier one, and the wait was minimal, even though they were really busy, and they were -really- nice. :)

                                1. re: justlauralibrarian

                                  The wait for food has always been inexplicably slow. But it's a great location, lakeside with outside tables and sunsets, the food is pretty good, and the price is right. I just plan for the wait and enjoy hanging out there.

                              2. When in Plattsburgh be sure to check out the outdoor sculpture at the SUNY campus - I think the Fedora is my favorite; there's also a museum.

                                I agree with Anthony's - I took 16 people there on a bike tour I was leading and everyone was happy with what they got.

                                There's also Iris's cafe/wine bar in the old town that is good.

                                1. Four Corners is an amazing, tucked away lunch spot that is quirky and delightful.


                                  1. Maybe also check out Magnolia's for brunch, (in the area across the street from Vermont Pub & Brewery), recently had a great omelet there with VT cheddar, Maple sausage and apples. Also, if you head to Waterbury, there is the 'Trilogy' of great VT tastings on route 100 towards Stowe. Ben and Jerry's Factory, The Cabot Cheese Company Store and the Cider Mill. A filling way to spend an afternoon. While I've had varied experiences with the food there, when in that area I love to visit the Trapp Family Lodge, one of the most beautiful locations and views IMHO.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: rr2035

                                      I love Leunigs for all the reasons already mentioned. Get a Bellini there. Shelburne Farms is impressive. Tour the grounds while you are there. Sometimes in the summer they offer children's entertainment. Also worth mentioning is the eating on the deck at the Vermont National Country Club in South Burlington. You can have an exquisite meal or lovely pub food.

                                    2. Visit Shelburne Farms, but skip dinner. Very overpriced for the quality.
                                      I have never had a bad meal, or a bad experience at the upscale Trattoria Delia (Burlington), Michael's on the Hill, or Hen of the Wood (both in Waterbury.) For more modestly priced, inventive food in Burlington, I also love Magnolia (localvore, veg specialties, especially good for breakfast), Pacific Rim (great pan-Asian menu, casual, hearty portions) and the Daily Planet.
                                      Bon Appetit!

                                      1. So many great places to eat in Burlington/ Colchester area I'm ready to move from Jersey to live there. New place between Burlington/Colchester - Bluebird Gastropub open 2 weeks has great menu of very unusual "small" plates designed for sharing. Their burgers were probably the best I or my family HAVE EVER eaten. Sneakers in Winooski has good breakfast. Saturday Farmer's Market in Burlington has plenty to sample. Sadie Katz's deli is good if in the mood for it. Bove's in Burlington was part of a Bobby Flay challenge. Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes was fantastic. Need a month to hit all of the places to eat that are good.

                                        1. Wow, no mentions in here of L'Amante? Tied with Trattoria Delia for best Italian in the area, and the two are very different in terms of atmosphere, cuisine style, etc.

                                          Another brand-new spot worth checking out: The Belted Cow in Essex Junction (located in the old Lincoln Inn Coffee Shop, believe it or not...totally renovated and beautiful). Have been there twice and the food was fantastic both times.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: tracy106

                                            Second the recs for Italian at both L'Amante and Trattoria Delia. I give the edge to L'Amante.

                                            I have just recently dined at the Belted Cow in Essex. Great surprise. Excellent food, decent wines, friendly service. Bar. I'll start a separate thread with details.

                                          2. Must try The Bluebird Tavern, a new restaurant in Burlington, which leaps to the top of our list, after years of yearning. Not to knock a few of the other recommendations, but this one is:

                                            Simple, innovative, excellent ingredients and results, reasonably priced, capable and friendly staff, great atmosphere!

                                            Here's the info:

                                            The Bluebird Tavern
                                            (802) 428-4696
                                            Bluebird Tavern 317 Riverside Ave, Burlington, VT 05401

                                            1. No one is saying anything about the Champlain Islands. Our trip to Montreal takes us through the Heroes on the way north. Is there anything we should stop for here (other than gas?)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: seaville

                                                Assuming you mean food:
                                                - Blue Paddle Bistro, in South Hero 802-372-4814
                                                - Ruthcliffe Lodge, in Isle La Motte 802-928-3200

                                                Don't forget maple syrup, cheddar cheese, and apples, though!

                                                1. re: Kaiopect8

                                                  Great! Thanks! I was afraid the place was a wasteland.

                                                  What about a bakery or deli?