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Looking for Best Destination Restaurants in VT, NH, ME

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I'm a journalist working for a new media website and digital magazine launching in March of this year. I'm looking for "destination restaurants" in the northeast U.S.--but trying to limit the pool to rural or small town (or small city) restaurants that aren't especially widely known. They should be the kind of restaurants that stand heads and shoulders above the competition in these more remote areas, and while that kind of quality is always debatable--well, that was the debate I was hoping to see here. I've read many of the posts on "destination restaurants" and I have developed some ideas about what will come out of this question, but I wanted to ask more formally to see if it would cause even more winnowing down...Examples off the top of my head would be Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY (I know, not good for *this* board, but just an example), or a place like Hen of the Wood in Waterbury, VT. They're restaurants that might actually motivate you to get in your car and travel an hour or two--or make a long detour to get in a meal. Perhaps if folks offered a list of their top 5 or so, it might force some hard choices?

I'd love to hear from people who have traveled broadly in VT, NH, and ME and have sampled from a good number of restaurants. If we quote you--or use information generated by Chowhound users--we will give credit in accordance with standard journalistic practices. Thanks much in advance for any help you can give.

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  1. Ssome western New Hampshire destination spots:

    L.A. Burdick's Restaurant in Walpole, NH http://www.burdickchocolate.com/resta...

    Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar in Peterborough, NH http://www.pearl-peterborough.com

    Chesterfield Inn, Chesterfield, NH http://www.chesterfieldinn.com/breakf...

    Pickety Place, Mason, NH http://www.pickityplace.com/

    7 Replies
    1. re: Tedmom

      Thanks for getting it started, Tedmom. Hoping that the subject/title is not simply too broad, but I'm really looking for a fresh debate about the best places in Northern NE. I'll cross-post to Southern NE if this one works, or I'll amend and try again :)... Regardless, thanks much. After some research, I may be back with some questions about why you chose them, what dishes are best, etc...

      1. re: CBeth

        New Hampshire is in Northern New England. Did you mean Northern New Hampshire?

        1. re: Tedmom

          No no, I think I must have confused you. I was just thanking you! Your response was spot-on. I am looking throughout Northern New England... And NH is clearly that :). I'm from Vermont originally, so we're former neighbors. Thanks much... I was noting that I will NEXT look in Southern New England, so I can get a picture of the best New England small-town restaurants. Again, many thanks.

          1. re: CBeth

            L. A. Burdick in Walpole, NH.

            It's quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the world.

            1. re: RudigerVT

              Thanks--saw this pop up twice and already started doing research on it.

        2. re: CBeth

          There is a restaurant located in Barrington NH (home of the famous Calef's Country Store)called the Frank Jones Restaurant and Pub. Amazing food that is fresh, not frozen and not over priced. Not part of a chain but started by a couple who live in the town and has many years experience in the business. They have items such as garlic chicken nachos, fresh, not frozen, haddock Fish & Chips which people say is the best around. Onion Rings like you can't believe, Pan Seared Sea Scallops. I could go on ...Check out their website for more info. They have just been nominated in Best of New Hampshires magazine for Best buffalo wings category, and Best onion ring category. They also carry the original Frank Jones Ale that used to be brewed in Portsmouth Nh by Frank Jones back in the late 1800s. Neat Restaurant with a lot of neat history and food that is incredible.

        3. re: Tedmom

          I've been to Pearl many times, and while it is certainly good , I don't know that I would consider it destination worthy. Part of what sets it apart is that there is nothing else nearly as good in the immediate area.

        4. Trattoria Delia - Burlington, VT. The best Italian food I've had in Vermont. It's fresh, not over powering but flavorful. The service is absolutely the most outstanding I've experienced in the state. They are respectful, polite, welcoming, but non-intrusive. We had our anniversary dinner there (just the two of us). I'd told them when I made the reservation, and they tucked us into a quiet corner. The hostess knew our names without having to check the reservation list and seated us immediately. We were brought two glasses of complimentary prosecco to help us celebrate our anniversary. From start to finish this was truly a perfect meal with outstanding service. Just a caveat, it's not easy to navigate if you're visually or physically challenged. The space is small, and I think that the handicap access is through an unusual route through the building in which the restaurant is housed (but I'm not sure, it may not be accessible at all).

          You appear to already know about Hen of the Wood.

          These are the two restaurants that I have personal experience of that I'd consider worth driving out of your way to go to. Not saying there aren't more, just that these are the ones I know best.

          4 Replies
            1. re: CBeth

              Oh, thought of another one.

              Salt in Montpelier. This is a tiny place, but it has an brilliant, eclectic menu that changes every six weeks or so. They were doing a Medieval menu recently. I really like this place a lot.

              1. re: Morganna

                Yes, yes, yes. Salt is a treasure and well worth a one-hour drive. AND, it's a BYO, too.

            2. re: Morganna

              When I am traveling in the Burlington, VT area I often go out of my way to eat at Starry Night Cafe in Ferrisburg--about a half hour south of Burlington right on route 7. I have never been disappointed with the food or service. Love being able to make a meal out of several "small plates" . And in nice weather the tables outside are delightful.

            3. I really like

              Chelsea Royal Diner or Putney Diner for Breakfast
              J Morgan's for a steak in Montpelier, VT
              Matterhorn for Apres Ski eats/drinks in Stowe
              Windjammer in South Burlington is A++++

              5 Replies
              1. re: meeps2002

                I should add - the Putney diner makes homemade pies of all sorts and is just a cute, old school option for a meal. It's that perfect stop off 89 and great to spark conversation with locals.

                Windjammer simply has the best salad bar (if you could even imagine having a best in that category).

                1. re: meeps2002

                  J Morgans shouldn't even be on a list of places to eat in Montpelier, let alone places that are worth going out of your way to visit. It is mediocre and overpriced. If I had to choose between Shaw's hot case and J. Morgans, I'd go to Shaw's. Fortunately, if I'm in Montpelier, I have plenty of other choices. The only one of which worth going out of your way or driving a couple hours for is Salt. But there's still Skinny Pancake and soon there will be Mad Taco, as well as That's Life Soup, and Royal Orchid Thai.

                  I'm being really harsh here, but every single time people come visit my husband's office on business, I warn them away from there. Every single time, someone decides they want to eat there. And every single time, they report back that they should have listened to me and not eaten there because it was awful in one way or another. The most recent one of these was this last summer.

                  I am unconvinced about their claims of aging and cutting their own steaks, but I doubt they would have the b*lls to claim it if they weren't actually doing it. Even so, not one person I've spoken to in recent years who has had a steak there has said it was anything resembling good. Gristly, tough, over cooked are the usual comments I hear.

                  Meeps, I'd be really interested to hear about the last time you ate there, what you had, and why you think it's worth even leaving the interstate for, let alone driving an hour or two to eat there.

                  1. re: meeps2002

                    I'd have to disagree with these as "destination restaurants." Good value? Reliable? Tasty? Yes, no doubt. But not in the same class as Hen of the Woods (the example given of hte type she's looking for.)

                    1. re: meeps2002

                      J Morgans as a DESTINATION? A perfectly adequate steak, sure, but does that make a destination? By no means!

                      1. re: lifeasbinge

                        I wouldn't agree that they can even do an adequate steak. Their food is overpriced and mediocre.

                    2. If there is anything like Hen of the Wood, I haven't found it yet. Primo in Maine comes close...and we drove 2 1/2 hours each way to eat there. I also like the restaurant at Simon Pearce in Quechee, VT especially for lunch in the summer. Great care goes into the menu, the tablesettings are beautiful, with their glassware etc and the view of the falls is lovely.
                      I had great hopes for Downtown Grocery in Ludlow, VT but it isn't quite there yet.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: nancyl126

                        I was going to offer up Primo (obviously!) in Rockland, Maine. It fits many of your criteria (yes, I'd drive hours just for a meal...and many people do, yes it's in a small city, etc). It's one of the quintessential "destination" restaurants. The only thing perhaps not meeting your criteria is that I wouldn't really call it "not well known". Though I suppose it depends on how you define "well known". Do foodies in NYC and Boston know about it...probably. Do foodies in Spain? Probably not.

                        1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                          I didn't know about it, and I'm originally from VT! So many thanks!

                          1. re: CBeth

                            I've driven an hour and a half from Portland just to eat dinner at Primo so I guess that should count. I've also made the trip to Red's (Wiscassett, Me) for a lobster roll although I probably would not make the trip if the drive itself wasn't so nice.

                            I know of people who regularly come to Portland from Boston just for a meal at Fore Street, Hugo's or Bresca. They will sometimes justify the trip by having lunch at Duckfat which appears often on Boston threads whenever anyone is talking fries. There are many other restaurants in Portland worthy but these are the ones that people probably will drive two hours for a single meal most often.

                            I think The White Barn Inn in Kennebunk also qualifies especially if you want to spend the night.

                            1. re: bobbert

                              Thanks, bobbert. I've been to Duckfat and loved it (yes, fries!). Don't know as much about Fore Street, etc. Much appreciated...

                              1. re: bobbert

                                I grew up in Wiscasset....please...no Red's Eats. Entirely overrated.

                                1. re: GyroBall

                                  It's a really good lobster roll although we use it more as an excuse to take a drive up the coast than as a destination worthy of the trip alone.

                                  1. re: bobbert

                                    Got it bobbert-- lovely drive with a good lobster roll, but the roll itself probably isn't worth the trek.

                                  2. re: GyroBall

                                    I agree about Reds. It is totally mediocre. Can't figure out why people line up for it.

                                  3. re: bobbert

                                    I'll have to 3rd the rec for Budick's in Walpole, NH - great food & staff, & they use as much local product as they can. In Kennebunk, I'd pick On The Marsh over The White Barn Inn - cooler atmosphere / less stuffy (you can even purchase the art on the walls - & pretty much anything else - if you like it).

                                2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                  I've seen Primo a few times on this list now-- and my early research indicates it'll likely make the list. Thanks!

                                  1. re: CBeth

                                    Primo is an excellent choice and a definite destination spot. I'm going to try Hugo's in Portland for my first time and am very much looking forward to it. I've been to Fore Street a few times and love it. Don't forget Arrow's in Ogunquit and The White Barn in Kennebunkport. I live in Portsmouth, NH, and I really can't say that any of our restaurants stack up quite as well... Maybe Ristorante Massimo, and the Black Trumpet gets raves for using locally sourced ingredients.

                                    1. re: CBeth

                                      Primo is an excellent choice. There's also "the bar" there if you can't get a reservation. Be there at opening time. Either way, you can't lose with Primo.

                                3. The Inn at Weathersfield in Weathersfield, VT is definitely worth a drive. The Tip Top in White River Junction, VT is amazingly consistently great...and I have taken many "big city" and picky folks there and they are always pleased as well.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: VTer

                                    I completely agree. I posted a review of this fantastic place here in February of 2009, and I would make the trek from Maine again in a heartbeat.

                                    1. re: mainemal

                                      Thanks VTer and mainemal--when I start seeing agreements, it makes it easier... Appreciated!

                                      1. re: mainemal

                                        Hello, mainemal. Could you clarify-- which of the restaurants are you co-endorsing here. I can't be sure of it... If you have a chance, do let me know.

                                        1. re: CBeth

                                          Sorry not to have responded sooner, CBeth: I was referring VERY specifically to Weathersfield Inn.

                                          1. re: mainemal

                                            Got it, mainemal. No problem about the delay at all--we all get busy! Thanks much.

                                    2. I haven't been in sevral years so I can't vouch for current state of affairs but the Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford VT was outstanding. One of the best meals I ever ate and a lovely inn. On the northern VT/NH border near Franconia.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: trufflehound

                                        Thanks trufflehound--much appreciated. About to do some research into all these suggestions.

                                      2. SoLo Farm & Table in South Londonderry, VT: http://solofarmandtable.com/

                                        Chef Wesley Genovart, formerly of Degustation in NYC; FOH is his wife Chloe, formerly Maitre d' at Per Se.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: GG Mora

                                          Huh-- did not know that Per Se and Degustation had placed some folks out here. Much appreciated!

                                          1. re: CBeth

                                            I wouldn't say either 'placed' them here. Chloe is originally from the area; she and Wes bought the former 3 Clock Inn and renovated it. It's entirely their own (in a most delightful way).

                                            1. re: GG Mora

                                              Ha! No, of course not. Just hadn't realized the connection--sounds lovely. I will look into it.

                                        2. CBeth, almost certainly within your criteria is the restaurant at the Sugar Hill Inn in Sugar Hill, NH. Beautiful, rural location with outstanding food and service. I definitely consider it as one of the best "destination" restaurants in NH.


                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Dave B

                                            Burning Tree in Bar Harbor / on MDI is excellent.

                                            1. re: GyroBall

                                              Thanks GyroBall--will look into it.

                                              1. re: GyroBall

                                                We were at the Burning Tree in July (6-of us) and all of us were totally disappointed. We have been there many times, and always excellent. After we left I said they must of hired a hack chef because all the meals were below average. We WILL NOT return.....

                                                1. re: GyroBall

                                                  I thought of that one too. I have had a few memorable meals there over the years.

                                                  I think that Portland is a destination for foodies in general. We often stop there on our way up the ME coast just for a meal, and I would drive several hours for dinner or lunch at several places already mentioned in Portland.

                                                2. re: Dave B

                                                  Dave B--many thanks. As I've been noting above, I am going to start researching some of these suggestions in the next few days. Still happy to see any more. I will be cross-posting a similar query to the Southern New England boards as well, so I can a better sense of destination restaurants across the whole of New England... Thanks!

                                                  1. re: Dave B

                                                    I would second New Hampshire's Sugar Hill Inn--been there twice and loved it both times. Agree on Primo in Rockland, Maine, too, and I would add a new restaurant to the midcoast Maine list: The Lost Kitchen, which started out as a private supper club and is now a restaurant in downtown Belfast. And, I would add In Good Company to the downtown Rockland list, too. Getting back to Vermont, I've had a lovely meal at Downtown Grocery in Ludlow and I also love Pane e Salute in Woodstock. At the latter, the owners are growing grapes to make their own wine, and Deirdre Heekin, the wife of the duo, has been making all sorts of Eau de Vies, etc. (See her book "Libation: A Bitter Alchemy"); Pane e Salute has a wonderful simple/elegant/rustic approach to Italian cuisine, and a terrific all-Italian wine list.

                                                    1. re: Shooley

                                                      Shooley--thanks, this is very good info indeed. Happy to see Sugar Hill Inn has come up twice. We are already talking to the folks at Primo and Hen of the Wood (which has had several mentions). Will research Pane e Salute (sounds great), Lost Kitchen, and Downtown Grocery (believe that is the second mention for that as well). Very good list, most helpful.

                                                        1. re: Shooley

                                                          I ate at Downtown Grocery last weekend and it was definitely very interesting. And very expensive. I'm from Boston and the prices were equal or above nice dinners in town w/ several things in the low $30s. But a wide variety of interesting appetizers and entrees and a great cocktail list. The place was slammed and backed up early on a Sat. which delayed the meal (and everyone coming in after us) but definitely worth trying.

                                                      1. My wife and I plan to drive from Boston to Kennebunkport in the spring to try Earth. We're big fans of Ken Oringer's food, so we have high hopes for this place.

                                                        Also, not sure I'd consider Blue Hill at Stone Barns not widely known. Dan Barber is a pretty big name in the food world. I believe his restaurant in the city has 3 Michelin stars. And for that matter, they've filmed multiple TV spots at Stone Barns, including an episode of Top Chef.

                                                        10 Replies
                                                        1. re: mkfisher

                                                          Yes, that's true, I generally agree, although I think I'd argue that Blue Hill in NYC--where the Obamas dined--is the truly well-known one. There are plenty of true foodies, of course, who know about a lot of these restaurants... but poll folks who merely like really good food, and I'll bet they'd be hard-pressed to tell you where Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located, and I'll bet there would be many who couldn't place the name at all. I was with a friend the other day who loves great food and is always out and about in NYC at trendy places, and he had no idea that there was a Blue Hill out in Tarrytown. The goal of this exercise is really to remind folks that there are plenty of great restaurants they can pair with trips out of town, and plenty of restaurants worth leaving town for... Much appreciated, mkfisher.

                                                          1. re: CBeth

                                                            I guess my point is kind of moot now that I think about it some more. Melissa Kelly of Primo was on an episode of No Reservations. Ken Oringer of Earth was just on Bizarre Foods America. If you're doing truly great stuff these days, the media tends to find you.

                                                            1. re: mkfisher

                                                              ha-- yes, that is true. and folks on chowhound know a ton about all of these chefs and restaurants.

                                                              1. re: CBeth

                                                                Heck, if you're coming to the midcoast anyway for the Primo piece...you could parlay that into midcoast piece - I would argue that the entire region could be viewed as a foodie "destination". I could say the same about Portland, though I think you have to define the term "destination"...since you could argue that Portland isn't really "remote", nor "small".

                                                                We have at least 3 James Beard nominated or winning chefs in the Rockland/Camden/Rockport area:

                                                                Ravin Nakjaroen of Long Grain in Camden was nominated for best chef Southeast in 2008...and Long Grain is absolutely fantastic. Hands down the best non-sushi Asian I've had in Maine at least.

                                                                Brian Hill of Francine Bistro (Camden) and Shepherd's Pie (Rockport) was nominated for best chef northeast. Both are great though I tend to like Shepherd's Pie better.

                                                                And of course Melissa Kelly at Primo won for best chef Northeast back in 99 I believe.

                                                                I used to go to the Lost Kitchen supper club in Belfast while it existed, but I don't think you can quite qualify the new restaurant as a destination restaurant yet...too early to tell. Good food no doubt, but a little "green".

                                                                I do agree with Shooley above, Melody Wolfertz at In Good Company in Rockland is absolutely fantastic (she was in the same CIA class as Melissa Kelly)...it's one of my "go to" places for sure...worth a check...though it's debateable as to whether or not it fits the definition of a "destination restaurant" like Primo does...

                                                                1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                                                  I should have said 3 winning or semi finalists...not simply nominated.

                                                                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                                                    This is great information for me... we have a cottage in Lincolnville, with easy access to all the restaurants you mentioned! I can see what I'm going to be doing next time I'm in that neck of the woods, although it's sometimes hard to leave the cottage & go much further than the beach or the Hatchet Mountain Publik House in Hope!

                                                                    1. re: wendy k

                                                                      Hatchet is a great place for sure. I also love sitting on the patio at the Edge (in Lincolnville) and drinking $2 pints of Andrews Pale Ale (based in town) and eating a great collection of apps. I used to love Sunday pizza night...but the new chef got rid of it...

                                                                      1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                                                        Hey MidCoastMaineiac--we recognize coastal Maine as one of the major destinations in the Northeast, and think of it as a must-see for Americans in general. We've actually assigned several sections of coastal Maine to writers, who will be covering it through the spring and into early summer. Loving your breakdown of the area's best restaurants...

                                                                        1. re: CBeth

                                                                          Please show some love to Sarah's in Wiscasset, and the Sea Basket (also in Wisc.) for the coast's best fried seafood and amazing lobster chowder. Cook's on Bailey Island.

                                                                        2. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                                                          MCM--unfortunately, I've heard that the new chef at the Edge has not done well for place, which is sad--we loved it when Brian Dame was the chef.

                                                            2. I know this is geared more toward resort destinations, but Republic cafe in Manchester NH was just selected a James Beard Award 2012 semifinalist, and owners Ed Aloise and Claudia Rippee were nominated as Best Restaurateurs in the Northeast.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: whs

                                                                Hello whs--No, we are willing to consider any restaurant you might consider travelling for. I have yet to see Republic mentioned in this series of responses, so thanks for this...

                                                              2. James Beard Northeast Best Chef 2012 shortlist:
                                                                Jamie Bissonnette, Coppa, Boston
                                                                Jason Bond, Bondir, Cambridge, MA
                                                                Kara Brooks, Still River Cafe, Eastford, CT
                                                                Penelle, Megan, and Phoebe Chase and Ted LaFage, Chase’s Daily, Belfast, ME
                                                                Tim Cushman, O Ya, Boston
                                                                Krista Kern Desjarlais, Bresca, Portland, ME
                                                                Jeffrey Gimmel, Swoon Kitchenbar, Hudson, NY
                                                                Gerry Hayden, The North Fork Table & Inn, Southold, NY
                                                                Brian Hill, Francine Bistro, Camden, ME
                                                                Dano Hutnik, Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca, Lodi, NY
                                                                Liz Jackson, Libby’s Bistro, Gorham, NH
                                                                Matt and Kate Jennings, La Laiterie, Providence, RI
                                                                Serge Madikians, Serevan, Amenia, NY
                                                                Demos Regas, Emilitsa, Portland, ME
                                                                Bjorn Somlo, Nudel, Lenox, MA
                                                                Champe Speidel, Persimmon, Bristol, RI
                                                                Danai Sriprasert and Nattasak Wongsaichua, Boda, Portland, ME
                                                                Bill Taibe, LeFarm, Westport, CT
                                                                Sai Viswanath, DeWolf Tavern, Bristol, RI
                                                                Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, VT

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: whs

                                                                  That misses the big one, Melissa Kelly is a semifinalist for Outstanding Chef (i.e. Best in Show).

                                                                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

                                                                    Home Hill Inn, in Plainfield NH, (about 30 minutes from Dartmouth College) is an out of the way place to dine that you can spend the night in. We live locally and since we have never stayed there I can't vouch for their accommodations but their chef is doing some of the most innovative and delicious cooking in the Upper Valley. Cannot recommend it enough for dinner or Sunday brunch.


                                                                2. Here's a couple in western Mass that I've heard good things about:
                                                                  BT's Smokehouse, Sturbridge - people don't think of Mass as a BBQ haven, but teams from Mass have won The Jack Daniels BBQ cookoff twice in the past 4 years!
                                                                  The Student Prince, Springfield - German food / old school bar.

                                                                  1. "but trying to limit the pool to rural or small town (or small city) restaurants that aren't especially widely known."

                                                                    Haven't really heard many of these mentioned on this thread. ....just sayin'

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: HaroldandMaude

                                                                      Hmm, not sure what you mean, HaroldandMaude. Almost all of the restaurants on this thread are not widely known outside of the folks on Chowhound. But I agree that it goes back to how you define "well known." Amongst hard-core foodies, of course, any restaurant in the U.S.--in small or large cities--will eventually become a known entity. That's a problem on this board, because most folks who regularly visit Chowhound can also name virtually any restaurant that's won a James Beard award in the last 5 years. But as I said the other day, mention Primo in Rockland, Maine, to folks who are just normal "foodies" (but not nearly as devoted to it as the folks on this board), and you'll draw a blank stare. I tried it recently, and my New York City foodie friends had no idea. Mention Burdicks in Walpole, NH, and you'll have folks scratching their heads. All of which goes to show that New York City foodies don't know as much as they say they do... Or maybe it's just better to say they might be pleasantly surprised. If we can help people identify amazing restaurant options as they travel around the northeast--places they really had very little idea about--then I think we'll be very happy. This thread, so far, has been very useful to us. Much appreciation to everyone who has contributed....

                                                                    2. Additional Vermont Recs:

                                                                      1. Kitchen Table Bistro, Richmond, VT : outstanding food, ambiance, and service
                                                                      2. Belted Cow Bistro, Essex Jct.: worth a visit just for the Smoked Pork Tartine
                                                                      3. The Essex, Essex Jct.: newly renovated and improved, great spa, and nice rooms for a stay
                                                                      4. L'Amante: Burlington, Vt: one of the classiest options in VT, great food and wine list
                                                                      5. Hen of the Wood, Waterbury: outstanding food, service, and ambiance

                                                                      The strengths of Vermont are Cheese and Beer. Many restaurants source locally (meats, grains, beer, produce) and wine lists continue to improve.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: TonyO

                                                                        Thanks, TonyO. We've been hearing about the Belted Cow, and know L'Amante... Good to hear you seconding. Hen of the Wood has been assigned...

                                                                        1. re: CBeth

                                                                          @CBeth: be sure to let us know where we can read your work when it launches in March. Hopefully some of our local gems will experience an increase in business during the upcoming "mud season" here in Vermont ! For convenience purposes, The Kitchen Table Bistro is only about 10 minutes from Hen of the Wood and is really spectacular. If you have any questions fee free to email me directly at tony AT independentvendinginc DOT com.

                                                                          1. re: TonyO

                                                                            We'll try to let everyone know. It's been invaluable to get feedback on Chowhound. It's a truly unique, really passionate audience. A real pleasure to listen to...

                                                                      2. TonyO mentioned all of our favorites in VT except for Michael's on the Hill on Rt 100 in Waterbury (though close to Stowe). Excellent local/seasonal foods, expertly prepared with creativity and delivered in style. Enjoy!

                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                        1. re: amyamelia

                                                                          Oh, I almost forgot another favorite: Elements, in Saint Johnsbury, VT.

                                                                          1. re: amyamelia

                                                                            Elements is closed or closing soon.

                                                                            1. re: Morganna

                                                                              Good catch, Morganna. Appreciated...

                                                                          2. re: amyamelia

                                                                            I would second Michael's on the Hill. Probably our favorite spot in the state...consistently excellent, innovative food, elegant service, lovely folks who run the place. No "we're too cool for you" vibe like we've sometimes gotten at Hen of the Wood (though I love their food). Had an amazing dinner at the chef's table at "Amuse" at the Inn at Essex...basically you put yourself in the chef's hands for $70 and he produces some truly wonderful, locally sourced and inventive food. Have heard great things about Claire's in Hardwick, but haven't been. Cannot recommend Rabbit Hill Inn, though. Was hugely underwhelmed by both quality of food and (undeservedly) snooty service. Simon Pierce's restaurant in Queechee also gets raves, though I haven't been.
                                                                            Good luck! Please post when you come out with your article, as we'd all like to hear about the winning restaurants!

                                                                            1. re: vjpam

                                                                              Hello vjpam-- thanks for the response. We've heard about Amuse a few times now, and thanks for the second of Michael's. If you are comparing it favorably with Hen of the Wood, that's great news...We will certainly forward around links as we finish up. Takes a bit, but we're looking at a June story (summer issue), with possible "outtakes" before that time. Again, thanks...

                                                                            2. re: amyamelia

                                                                              Thanks, amyamelia. Good to hear that you and TonyO have so many overlaps. Tends to suggest there's something there. Much appreciation for chiming in...

                                                                              1. re: CBeth

                                                                                Happy to help, CBeth. A number of my friends rave about Crop Bistro in Stowe. I haven't tried it yet so can't speak for it directly. Maybe others here on CH have been?

                                                                                1. re: CBeth

                                                                                  Two quick mentions: I was most disappointed at Pane et Salute in Woodstock, VT. It is way over-priced and thinks too much of itself. Food was acceptable, not wow. If you're in the Simon Pearce neighborhood( i,e. Quechee, VT), The Parker House Inn shares a parking lot. It also is not cheap but each dish is carefully prepared, delicious and interesting. it is chef-owned, in a charming old inn.

                                                                                  1. re: VTer

                                                                                    Thanks, VTer. A few names in there I recognize. Much appreciated!

                                                                              2. Where can I read about my beloved Primo?? =)

                                                                                1. Still curious if this went anywhere...

                                                                                  1. Great responses here. For SWNH I would add Nicola's in Keene in addition to Burdicks in Walpole. Concord NH has Spoon Revolution. Perhaps the best vegan place I have ever been to. If you are in Concord, you should most definitely try it out. Portsmouth is a city of restaurants with many outstanding places. I always like Jumpin Jays Fish Cafe.

                                                                                    1. I don't believe I saw Bluebird Tavern, in Burlington, which recently relocated to downtown, on St. Paul Street. Locally sourced, creative small plates and large plates. House made charcuterie. We have never ever been disappointed. Just went last week and they've settled into the new space nicely. Great service and lovely new setting. Focus on the food.

                                                                                      In in the Northeast Kingdom, one of the places that sparked the food love fest in Hardwick, Vermont is Claire's. Read about it here. http://www.clairesvt.com/ Very simple setting, stripped and bare, actually, but the food is incredible, fresh, great respect for the ingredients, a lot of pickled, preserved, smoked and home-made offerings to complement the mains. We've driven there from Burlington, which for us, at least, makes it a destination restaurant by definition! :-


                                                                                      Bluebird Tavern
                                                                                      86 Saint Paul Street Burlington, VT 05401
                                                                                      (802) 540-1786

                                                                                      1. Go to Hugo's in Portland Maine. Maybe someone else has already mentioned it, and if so, great, if not, look them up. I've been to many of the restaurants listed, including Hen of The Wood, and none of them hold a candle to it(none of the ones I've been to). Don't get me wrong, Hen of The Wood is very good in a rustic sort of way, but Hugo's is on a different level. I traveled from Montpelier just to eat there on my birthday, and it was one of the best meals of my life. Elegant, but not overly worked or contrived. Perfect complimentary plates. I'd suggest the starter menu since the chef there (at the time) had the skills and knowledge to define an amazing experience from start to finish. I think there was one course out of 8 that wasn't delicious, but even that was still pretty good. It's been a couple years, so maybe it's lost some of it's luster, but it had already been there for ten years when I went.
                                                                                        Oh, and I've heard pretty good things about the Kitchen Table. Anything to do with the Culinary institute is often hit or miss, but if you happen in on a good shift of students and profs, it can be an unexpected delight (though that's rare these days). J Morgans is mediocre at best; but their serving sizes are Flintstones worthy--so it's good for a nervous laugh. Skinny Pancake makes the worst crepe I've ever had--thick and tough and chewy with a heavy, leaden, under-seasoned and stringy meat filling; and their sides may be fresh, but they also run the gamete from unimaginative to just plain bad (raw root vegetable slaw with no dressing or seasoning--crunchy?).
                                                                                        For a great burger and fries, go to Three Penny in Montpelier--they also usually have some interesting sides (killer fried oysters, fried chicken livers, and assorted house pickled veggies--simple but fresh and good--especially with a Heady Topper to wash it down!)

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: sloejelley

                                                                                          I couldn't disagree more with your assessment of Skinny Pancake. I can understand not caring for the style of their crepes, but I've never had any problem with any of the fillings or sides they serve. I prefer a heavier crepe for a savoury dish. I wouldn't have used the word "leaden". I find them sturdy and able to stand up to the things stuffed inside.

                                                                                          I found Three Penny overpriced for what you got, and the burgers we had were OK but I woudln't call them great. I did like the fries though, they are one of the best places for fries ever.

                                                                                        2. We ate at Hen of the Wood a month ago and were blown away by the food and service. Top notch. I wish I had eaten at Hugo's when Rob Evans was at the helm, I hear mixed reports now.

                                                                                          I've tried the Skinny Pancake at both locations and though the crepes are good, their service is terrible (both times). I would classify the service as uninformed and aloof.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: bewley

                                                                                            I'd have to agree with the service comments at Skinny Pancake. I tend to think it's a problem with management hiring hipster college kids for the most part, and not training them up right.

                                                                                            1. re: bewley

                                                                                              As a fsemi-frequent Skinny Pancake visitor, I'd definitely agree with that statement. Service is terrible. Disaffected hipsters who have no interest in customer service. It's the one major drawback of the restaurant.

                                                                                            2. In Burlington VT there is a Chinese restaurant called A Single Pebble. The tables have lazy susans to encourage sharing. Their Dim Sum and tasting menus are fun, and excite the taste buds! Definitely try the Dry fried green beans. We have detoured there when driving up to Canada, and have eaten there when we were in Burlington for concerts.

                                                                                              The other place that came to mind is LA.Burdick's in Walpole, NH. I see someone else agrees! I have a hard time not ordering the beef stew - with olives and mashed potatoes. Everything is so fresh. I don't know if all the meat is local, but I know some is. A few times ago I even had bone marrow there. After a wonderful meal, they bring you a chocolate to top it off. Then...go into their chocolate store. You have to buy their signature mice to bring home and eat them by holding their ribbon tail! Burdick's also celebrates Bastille day and Octoberfest. Walpole is a gorgeous little town. Afterwards, wander into Walpole grocery store next door.

                                                                                              1. Two best restaurants in NH, easy,, The Inn at Pleasant Lake in New London and Tim-Bir Alley in Littleton. I, nor my guest,
                                                                                                could not find fault with any part of the meal or service. Any suggestions for an up coming Bday outing.

                                                                                                1. Cloudland Farm and Pane e Salute are my favorites in VT

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                                                                                                  1. Would suggest Carpenter & Main (that's also the address) in Norwich, VT. Would second the previous mentions of Rabbit Hill Inn in VT, also Delia's in Burlington; for breakfast Magnolia and for sandwiches August First, both in Burlington.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: FestivalFan

                                                                                                      By "Delia's" Do you mean Trattoria Delia? :)

                                                                                                    2. Was there ever a final report on this, after so many of us offered up our input?