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Keene, NH vs. Brattleboro, VT: How would food scene factor in to moving decision?

Getting ready for a mid-summer move to the area (from central Michigan- a food desert if there ever was one; thus, my expectations for food are at rock bottom, and can only go up from here). We are weighing many factors in choosing to live in either Keene, NH or Brattleboro, VT, but one of them is where we will spend most of our time eating and drinking when we go out. Our food tastes are fairly broad, tending towards preferences for Italian, Indian, Thai, craft beer and good bar food, vegetarian-friendly. Really, we have spent a lot of time driving all over Michigan looking for fresh, locally sourced, homemade food and want to have easy access to this type of food, with minimal chain restaurants dotting the landscape, in whichever town we end up in. I've been reviewing some of the postings here but haven't been to either town yet. Would be curious- if you had to pick which town you spend more time in, to what extent is that decision based on food and drink? What makes one town "better" or "more fun" than the other? How often would you be willing to drive to one town for its food/bar scene if you lived in the other town, and how annoying would the drive be? Which one has the best beer bars and access to unique craft beers in grocery stores? Thanks for any opinions on this...

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  1. I am not interested in starting a big war here. But... :)

    Vermont is a pretty big center in the "localvore" movement. Vermont is generally more liberal in issues of ecology and carbon footprints than in NH, and it tends to have more people who believe along those lines. NH tends more towards conservative in those areas, when compared to VT.

    There are farmers markets, and farm stands, and farms with stores all around Vermont, and from what I've heard, there is more diversity in Brattleboro than from what I've heard about Keene (but I am NOT an authority on EITHER location). Isn't Brattleboro the place where that new Mexican restaurant has opened up recently? Pretty sure that's the one I keep toying with driving down to visit just for the sake of it. :)

    When we moved to New England from Alaska, we were trying to decide between NH, VT, and ME for where we'd move. We ended up speaking with two people who (brother and sister) had lived in all three states between them, and they both said we'd probably be more comfortable in Vermont for a variety of reasons.

    All that being said, I know there are farm stands and farmer's markets in NH, there are farms with tours and shops, there are agricultural festivals, etc. It's not an awful place, and it is beautiful (even if they DO allow some of that beauty to be spoiled by billboards, no billboards in VT ;).

    Both are college towns, right? I think we'd looked at Keene specifically when we were moving (this was back in 1992), because college towns can often end up being more welcoming to strangers. :)

    Anyway, welcome to the area! Summer's a good time to move here, give you time to get settled before the snow flies. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Morganna

      While I agree with everything Morganna has stated, I'll add that Keene is a picture postcard beautiful New England town. The downtown pumpkin festival would be enough to make me want to live there. Brattleboro, not so much. That said, both towns are really close to each other. Not sure it really matters. Find something in the general vicintiy and take advantage of both.

      1. re: Morganna

        True, but Keene is more of a college town than Brattleboro will ever be. The restaurant scene is probably equal in either town.
        Most Vermonters will be found shopping in Keene on the weekends because of the variety of stores available there.

        1. re: RichK

          I'm willing to bet that's less about the variety of stores than it is the lack of sales tax.

          1. re: Morganna

            No, I don't think so. Keene has so many more stores than Brattleboro will ever dream of having. Have you been to either town recently?

      2. I've only been to Brattleboro. My brother Steven K-Brooks lives there. There is a large food co-op at the intersections of Canal St. and Main St. A farmers market sets up shop in the parking lot. Check the website www.ibrattleboro.com My brother and his wife are vegans and they've lived in Brattleboro for more than twenty years.

        1. We live so close yet far away! If you are doing much cooking, I would also look into sources for Asian ingredients. Nashua NH has a nice little Thai market on Rt 101A. There is a larger Asian market in Manchester NH. Nashua would be closer to Keene. Both cities also have some other small ethnic markets. I live just north of Concord NH so I do some ingredient shopping when I'm in the Manchester or Nashua area but so far have only been able to find galangal in Portsmouth NH on the seacoast.

          Hopefully some locals will answer some of your questions. I live in a small town but there are several small farmstands near me including one dairy farmer who sells fresh corn. There are also several orchards/berry farms in my area which make purchasing local very simple. There's some nice farmers markets on Saturdays but that is one day of the week that I'd prefer not to get in the car (until dinner time).

          1. Brattleboro has an Asian market, an amazing co-op, a butcher and two fish markets (although one is decidedly better than the other). There are also two grocery store chains - Hannafords (preferred) and Price Chopper. Restaurant-wise there are Thai, Korean, Mexican and several classic breakfast/lunch places. There is also Italian and Indian but their food is ho hum. Many of the eateries use local, organic food from farms nearby. There used to be a Jamaican-style vegan restaurant that was amazing but they seem to be MIA these days. There is an art house theater and a regular theater. Tons of art featured in all the shops and a monthly gallery walk to feature that art.

            There is a year-round farmer's market and the downtown is definitely attractive with tons of shops and beautiful old buildings. The kind of shops that are owned by locals and have been there for years. I almost never shop in Keene. Maybe once a year I'll head to Target. But everything I need I can get in VT and support my neighbor's businesses.

            Keene is the home of big box stores galore - Home Depot, WalMart, etc. And Keene is a tax free state (sales and state). If big box shopping and not paying taxes is important to you than you should definitely move there.

            I have lived in NH and VT and prefer VT for all the reasons stated in this thread.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bri

              Though others have written with more details than I could add (and you can see my preference by my name), Brattleboro and Keene have very different "vibes"...as do NH and VT. I think Bri stated the contrast very well. You will have to come and get a feel of the two towns. BTW, dfrost...we can get fresh galangal and other Asian ingredients at the Woodstock Farmers Market (actually a small grocery...not your traditional "farmers market" ) in Woodstock, VT...at least right now. Don't know if that would be closer for you.

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