Burlington, VT and Portland, ME Foodie Scene
Need some suggestions for odd and delicious places in or around these two cities? I will be spending two days in each city rsat the end of the month. Looking for some awesome restaurants, good beer and other cool stuff. I am willing to travel a little bit outside the cities.
I just spent 5 days in Burlington, and found a few gems: Pistou in Downtown B'ington, Pho Pasteur and Misery Loves Company in Winooski (which seems to have a growing awesome food scene).
Very inventive cross-cultural cooking at both Pistou and MLC; Pistou leans a little French, MLC takes cues from all over. I wish I lived closer to Winooski; I'd be at MLC a couple of times a week! I had a dish of housemade gnudi with lamb bolognese that would make angels sing – so delicate, with a perfectly balanced sauce.
The savory dishes at Pistou were outstanding: beet tartare with raw Spanish mackerel (quickly seared on one surface); garlic risotto with cured/crisped pork belly; perfectly seared hangar steak over smoked farro with 'creamed' spinach. Dessert fell short: a roasted parsnip rolled in cinnamon sugar shared a plate with almond/oat crunch (sort of a crumbled nut brittle) and a smear of dulce de leche blended with parsnip purée. Interesting concept, but in the end WAY too sweet, and the roasted parsnip had a weird texture.
Pho Pasteur is just good, solid, Vietnamese with good prices and (so far) no crowds.
It isn't easy to choose six meals in Portland without a little bit of guidance about what you're looking for, but if I could eat out for every meal for two days (including a Sunday for brunch purposes), I might suggest:
Breakfasts/brunches: Schulte and Herr, Caiola's (those are both just brunch, sadly. For a weekday breakfast, the Good Egg)
Lunches: Pai Men Miyake, Duckfat
Dinners: Emilitsa, Boda (obviously, there are a gazillion great places to have dinner. I chose these because high-end Greek and Thai street food are unlikely to be available where you live, unless you live in Greece or Thailand.)
Since you mentioned beer:
In the Burlington area, I'd make a stop at The Alchemist and pick up some Heady Topper. The folks that judge such things consider it one of the 5 best beers in the world.
In Portland, I'd go to Novare Res to grab a few beers. They have a very well crafted list that includes a hand full of local beers that you won't see in other parts of the country.
Novare and LFK for beer-focused bars. If you want to check out Maine beers less widely available than stuff like Allagash, try Oxbow and Bunker Brewing (especially the Oxbow--it's pretty spectacular)--LFK usually has offerings from both on tap.
Restaurants: the usual suspects can be found by searching these boards--this is a pretty small city, so you'll likely hear the same names pop up often--
A few places for food I like in no particular order: Bresca, Eventide, Boda Thai, Sonny's (sit at the bar--), Bar Lola, Miyake and Pai Men Miyake, and Zapoteca (for the carnitas). LFK has arguably the best barfood kitchen going right now, with one of the best burgers in town and a really good, proper baked mac and cheese. If you're in town for brunch, I like Local 188 (it's a big space with good people watching, and also serves brunch on Saturday as well as Sunday), Caiola, or Sonny's.
I live in the Burlington area and they have great restaurants. If you want a more upscale dining experience Trattoria Delia is amazing. I've also heard great things about L'Amante. A Single Pebble does great traditional chinese food. Penny Cluse Cafe has great breakfast and brunch options.
I enjoyed the Bluebird Tavern in Burlington, VT, as well as American Flatbread (the roasted tomato flatbread is very good). When I was in grad school there, I frequented Vermont Pub and Brewery for their gravy cheese fries.
Myer's Montreal style bagels are unlike any other bagels I've had -- dense and chewy, not fluffy -- never had bagels in Montreal, so I have no idea whether these are good replicas, but they are delicious on their own when they are fresh out of the oven. My faves are the Montreal spice and the sesame sunflower seed.
The Belted Cow Bistro in Essex Junction, VT is a nice place and I enjoyed the food.
My favorite place for brunch is the Inn at Shelburne Farms. Gorgeous setting and you can walk around the historic property while you wait, and after your meal when you are digesting the amazing food.
Along with all the other suggestions folks made for Burlington: Bluebird BBQ (which is a separate restaurant from the Tavern). They have some really good BBQ food. :)
Take the drive down to Waterbury for Hen of the Wood, too. It's only around 25 minutes away from downtown Burlington.
Also, we ate lunch at Misery Loves Company today and it was brilliant. Hands down THE BEST fries I have EVER had in Vermont (I don't like squidgey fries, these were so NOT squidgey). :)