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Looking for Best Destination Restaurants in VT, NH, ME

CBeth Feb 7, 2012 01:36 PM

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. t
    Tedmom RE: CBeth Feb 7, 2012 04:24 PM

    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
      CBeth RE: Tedmom Feb 7, 2012 04:52 PM

      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
        Tedmom RE: CBeth Feb 7, 2012 05:06 PM

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

        1. re: Tedmom
          CBeth RE: Tedmom Feb 7, 2012 05:24 PM

          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
            RudigerVT RE: CBeth Feb 7, 2012 06:54 PM

            L. A. Burdick in Walpole, NH.

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

            1. re: RudigerVT
              CBeth RE: RudigerVT Feb 12, 2012 01:06 PM

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

        2. re: CBeth
          Campbell05 RE: CBeth Feb 21, 2012 12:13 PM

          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
          Msample RE: Tedmom Feb 9, 2012 06:12 AM

          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. Morganna RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 05:02 AM

          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: Morganna
            CBeth RE: Morganna Feb 8, 2012 07:38 AM

            Thanks, Morganna! Helpful.

            1. re: CBeth
              Morganna RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 04:37 PM

              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
                KellJ RE: Morganna Jun 27, 2012 12:37 PM

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

            2. re: Morganna
              3catsnh RE: Morganna Feb 12, 2012 06:03 AM

              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. m
              meeps2002 RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 08:29 AM

              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
                meeps2002 RE: meeps2002 Feb 8, 2012 08:41 AM

                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
                  Morganna RE: meeps2002 Feb 8, 2012 04:45 PM

                  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
                    KellJ RE: meeps2002 Jun 27, 2012 12:39 PM

                    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
                      lifeasbinge RE: meeps2002 Jun 27, 2012 09:16 PM

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

                      1. re: lifeasbinge
                        Morganna RE: lifeasbinge Jun 28, 2012 06:14 AM

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

                    2. n
                      nancyl126 RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 09:27 AM

                      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
                        MidCoastMaineiac RE: nancyl126 Feb 8, 2012 12:42 PM

                        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
                          CBeth RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 8, 2012 01:26 PM

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

                          1. re: CBeth
                            bobbert RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 05:59 PM

                            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
                              CBeth RE: bobbert Feb 8, 2012 06:27 PM

                              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
                                GyroBall RE: bobbert Feb 11, 2012 12:58 PM

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

                                1. re: GyroBall
                                  bobbert RE: GyroBall Feb 11, 2012 04:52 PM

                                  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
                                    CBeth RE: bobbert Feb 12, 2012 01:05 PM

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

                                  2. re: GyroBall
                                    MangiaMuse RE: GyroBall Oct 21, 2013 05:31 AM

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

                                  3. re: bobbert
                                    southie_chick RE: bobbert Feb 19, 2012 02:16 PM

                                    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
                                  CBeth RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 12, 2012 01:04 PM

                                  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
                                    wendy k RE: CBeth Feb 16, 2012 12:54 PM

                                    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
                                      MangiaMuse RE: CBeth Oct 21, 2013 05:31 AM

                                      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. v
                                  VTer RE: CBeth Feb 8, 2012 03:00 PM

                                  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
                                    mainemal RE: VTer Feb 11, 2012 08:12 AM

                                    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
                                      CBeth RE: mainemal Feb 12, 2012 01:02 PM

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

                                      1. re: mainemal
                                        CBeth RE: mainemal Feb 19, 2012 01:44 PM

                                        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
                                          mainemal RE: CBeth Mar 10, 2012 07:47 AM

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

                                          1. re: mainemal
                                            CBeth RE: mainemal Mar 10, 2012 01:47 PM

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

                                    2. trufflehound RE: CBeth Feb 9, 2012 05:56 AM

                                      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
                                        CBeth RE: trufflehound Feb 12, 2012 01:00 PM

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

                                      2. g
                                        GG Mora RE: CBeth Feb 9, 2012 10:42 AM

                                        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
                                          CBeth RE: GG Mora Feb 12, 2012 01:01 PM

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

                                          1. re: CBeth
                                            GG Mora RE: CBeth Feb 12, 2012 04:10 PM

                                            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
                                              CBeth RE: GG Mora Feb 12, 2012 07:13 PM

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

                                        2. d
                                          Dave B RE: CBeth Feb 11, 2012 10:20 AM

                                          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
                                            GyroBall RE: Dave B Feb 11, 2012 12:53 PM

                                            Burning Tree in Bar Harbor / on MDI is excellent.

                                            1. re: GyroBall
                                              CBeth RE: GyroBall Feb 12, 2012 01:00 PM

                                              Thanks GyroBall--will look into it.

                                              1. re: GyroBall
                                                irwin RE: GyroBall Feb 16, 2012 05:30 PM

                                                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
                                                  veggielover RE: GyroBall Mar 6, 2012 09:01 AM

                                                  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
                                                  CBeth RE: Dave B Feb 12, 2012 01:03 PM

                                                  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
                                                    Shooley RE: Dave B Feb 18, 2012 12:05 PM

                                                    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
                                                      CBeth RE: Shooley Feb 19, 2012 10:24 AM

                                                      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
                                                        lifeasbinge RE: Shooley Jun 27, 2012 09:17 PM

                                                        very much agree on all counts!

                                                        1. re: Shooley
                                                          Joanie RE: Shooley Mar 15, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                          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.

                                                      2. m
                                                        mkfisher RE: CBeth Feb 16, 2012 01:38 PM

                                                        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
                                                          CBeth RE: mkfisher Feb 16, 2012 09:20 PM

                                                          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
                                                            mkfisher RE: CBeth Feb 17, 2012 06:14 AM

                                                            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
                                                              CBeth RE: mkfisher Feb 17, 2012 10:05 AM

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

                                                              1. re: CBeth
                                                                MidCoastMaineiac RE: CBeth Feb 20, 2012 07:19 AM

                                                                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
                                                                  MidCoastMaineiac RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 20, 2012 09:22 AM

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

                                                                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac
                                                                    wendy k RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 20, 2012 10:48 AM

                                                                    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
                                                                      MidCoastMaineiac RE: wendy k Feb 20, 2012 10:54 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        CBeth RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 20, 2012 03:58 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          GyroBall RE: CBeth Feb 20, 2012 05:41 PM

                                                                          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
                                                                          Shooley RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 23, 2012 05:48 PM

                                                                          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. whs RE: CBeth Feb 21, 2012 03:45 PM

                                                              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
                                                                CBeth RE: whs Feb 22, 2012 07:49 AM

                                                                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. whs RE: CBeth Feb 21, 2012 03:48 PM

                                                                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
                                                                  MidCoastMaineiac RE: whs Feb 21, 2012 05:36 PM

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

                                                                  1. re: MidCoastMaineiac
                                                                    greenstate RE: MidCoastMaineiac Feb 22, 2012 04:02 PM

                                                                    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. s
                                                                  southie_chick RE: CBeth Feb 23, 2012 07:23 PM

                                                                  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. h
                                                                    HaroldandMaude RE: CBeth Feb 25, 2012 03:48 PM

                                                                    "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
                                                                      CBeth RE: HaroldandMaude Feb 25, 2012 07:41 PM

                                                                      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. TonyO RE: CBeth Feb 26, 2012 08:42 AM

                                                                      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
                                                                        CBeth RE: TonyO Feb 26, 2012 10:35 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          TonyO RE: CBeth Feb 27, 2012 05:32 PM

                                                                          @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
                                                                            CBeth RE: TonyO Feb 27, 2012 09:46 PM

                                                                            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. a
                                                                        amyamelia RE: CBeth Mar 4, 2012 04:09 PM

                                                                        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
                                                                          amyamelia RE: amyamelia Mar 4, 2012 04:13 PM

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

                                                                          1. re: amyamelia
                                                                            Morganna RE: amyamelia Mar 5, 2012 11:55 AM

                                                                            Elements is closed or closing soon.

                                                                            1. re: Morganna
                                                                              CBeth RE: Morganna Mar 6, 2012 01:26 PM

                                                                              Good catch, Morganna. Appreciated...

                                                                          2. re: amyamelia
                                                                            vjpam RE: amyamelia Mar 6, 2012 08:30 AM

                                                                            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
                                                                              CBeth RE: vjpam Mar 6, 2012 01:26 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                              CBeth RE: amyamelia Mar 6, 2012 01:23 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                amyamelia RE: CBeth Mar 10, 2012 07:03 PM

                                                                                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
                                                                                  VTer RE: CBeth Mar 16, 2012 09:50 AM

                                                                                  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
                                                                                    CBeth RE: VTer Mar 16, 2012 10:43 AM

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

                                                                              2. MidCoastMaineiac RE: CBeth Apr 17, 2012 08:27 PM

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

                                                                                1. MidCoastMaineiac RE: CBeth Jun 26, 2012 07:52 AM

                                                                                  Still curious if this went anywhere...

                                                                                  1. j
                                                                                    JPR RE: CBeth Jun 26, 2012 10:08 AM

                                                                                    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. k
                                                                                      KellJ RE: CBeth Jun 27, 2012 12:48 PM

                                                                                      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. s
                                                                                        sloejelley RE: CBeth Oct 30, 2012 05:59 PM

                                                                                        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
                                                                                          Morganna RE: sloejelley Nov 1, 2012 06:14 AM

                                                                                          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. b
                                                                                          bewley RE: CBeth Nov 1, 2012 10:35 AM

                                                                                          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
                                                                                            Morganna RE: bewley Nov 2, 2012 11:49 AM

                                                                                            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
                                                                                              kdlalib RE: bewley Feb 23, 2013 10:38 PM

                                                                                              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. GJFNH RE: CBeth Nov 12, 2012 07:34 PM

                                                                                              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. g
                                                                                                Grumpy88 RE: CBeth Oct 6, 2013 04:54 PM

                                                                                                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. a
                                                                                                  addiez RE: CBeth Oct 18, 2013 11:56 AM

                                                                                                  Cloudland Farm and Pane e Salute are my favorites in VT

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: addiez
                                                                                                    Morganna RE: addiez Oct 20, 2013 05:42 AM

                                                                                                    Where in Vermont are they?

                                                                                                  2. f
                                                                                                    FestivalFan RE: CBeth Oct 20, 2013 10:33 AM

                                                                                                    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
                                                                                                      Morganna RE: FestivalFan Oct 21, 2013 12:56 PM

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

                                                                                                    2. g
                                                                                                      GG Mora RE: CBeth Oct 22, 2013 06:10 PM

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

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