If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Vermont with extra time to explore its small towns, covered bridges and winding country roads, be sure to set aside time for some local dining. And while the city of Burlington has a great selection of restaurants, consider a meal in a more rural setting. Thanks to its abundance of locally farmed and foraged produce, dairy, wild game, and livestock, destination dining options are scattered throughout Vermont’s hills and valleys. Here are a few that stand out in the northern half of the Green Mountain State.Read More
13 Destinations for Lovely Local Fare in Northern Vermont
A baker’s dozen of rural restaurants that showcase stellar local cheese, vegetables, meat, beer, and more
1. The North Hero House
Just over an hour south of Montreal, the North Hero House Inn and Restaurant is another Lake Champlain Islands favourite. The fare is straight-forward New England comfort food (clam chowder, anyone?) done right, with options like a burger made with locally-raised beef, topped with Cabot Vermont cheddar, and house-made pickles. Then there’s pork tenderloin crusted with blue cheese from the nearby Boucher Family Farm, served with whipped sweet potatoes, and honey-glazed roasted beets.
2. Blue Paddle Bistro
Located in the summer-destination town of South Hero in Vermont’s Lake Champlain Islands, this down-to-earth bistro has seasonal hours, so check those in advance. It’s open for dinner year-round, with chef Phoebe Bright offering a menu of approachable Vermont comfort food that includes grilled rib-eye steaks with local cheddar mashed potatoes, burgers, and monthly Sunday brunches. In summer stop by for a lobster roll with french fries, or crab cakes with tartar sauce and mango chutney.
3. The Inn at Shelburne Farms
A summer destination, open May through October, this preserved 19th-century Vanderbilt mansion offers panoramic views of Lake Champlain. One of Vermont’s original farm-to-table fine dining restaurants, the historic inn’s menus are created based on the properties’ garden harvest. Expect to see the farm’s acclaimed aged cheddar, plus local lamb and pork. If you have extra time, visit the farm itself, meet the cows, feed the calves, and see how the delicious cheese you just ate is made.
4. Misery Loves Co.
With its standout food, cocktails and close proximity to downtown Burlington, MLC often gets looped into the city’s guides. But it is, technically, across the river in Winooski in an unassuming store front on Main Street. Its interior is simple, but the food and drinks are not. The restaurant sources produce from their own farm, In the Weeds, in North Hero where they grow vegetables, flowers for garnishes, raise hens for eggs, and tap maple sap. (Some of that gardening will soon be moving to local community gardens in Winooski.) Expect dishes like roasted monkfish in pancetta consommé, bone marrow spaeztle and cabbage, or family-style fried chicken with honey butter. Then there are unique sides like hay grilled carrots with spiced honey and hay ash: Here, the chef burns hay, sifts the ash into a fine powder and lightly sprinkles it over the carrots before plating them, adding a slight mineral-like flavour.
5. Guild Tavern
Part of Burlington’s reputed Farmhouse Group, Guild Tavern offers the same high standards of food and service the group in known for, albeit a little further away in neighboring South Burlington. The menu is everything a Vermonter could want on a cold winter day: poutine with hand-cut fries, cheddar cheese curds, and drenched in gravy, wood-grilled tenderloin tips drizzled with demi-glace and served with Brussels sprouts and creamy whipped potatoes. Burgers are made from local Shelburne LaPlatte beef topped with roasted mushrooms and Jasper Hill Farm’s famous Bayley Hazen blue cheese. It’s also an excellent choice for a romantic dinner date — try the prime sirloin for two, which is carved tableside, and served with caesar salad. It’s rounded out with classic cocktails featuring local spirits and beer on tap.
The Essex Resort and Spa has been a culinary destination since it opened decades ago. There are several dining options on site, the most notable being Junction. This high end dining room centres around an open kitchen designed to entertain patrons as they enjoy main courses like confit rabbit leg over butternut squash purée, and braised bison short rib over heritage Abenaki corn polenta.
7. The Jericho Café & Tavern
This local favorite situated in the hills of rural Jericho draws in neighbors with its New England comfort food like warm Vermont goat cheese and kale salads, Yankee pot roast, and New England-style baked haddock. Its off-the-beaten-path locale near Mount Mansfield makes it tourist-worthy as well, as it’s likely the best nearby place to grab a drink after a long hike up Vermont’s highest peak. Try one of many local beers on tap or a craft cocktail like Smuggler’s Notch gin Ciderhouse punch. The food might be casual but chef Evan Leavy, who previously helmed the kitchen at Burlington’s Ice House restaurant, is serious in his approach, operating the restaurant’s in-house smokehouse and dishing up one of the most popular brunches around.
8. The Kitchen Table Bistro
This homey bistro is located in a historic brick farmhouse originally built in 1795 by Vermont’s first governor Thomas Chittenden; it was later used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Chef owners Lara and Steve Atkins bring experience from La Toque in California’s Napa Valley, and here, they’ve earned semifinalist nods from the James Beard Awards for several years in a row. The couple sources ingredients from a community of neighboring farmers and foragers, with the exception of fresh herbs, which are grown in the bistro’s garden. They make use of the summer bounty in colder months by preserving summer fruits, vegetables, and foraged mushrooms. The end result is comforting dishes like cider-steamed mussels with grilled bread, smoked bacon, and aioli — perfect after a long day of skiing at nearby Bolton Valley.
9. Pitcher Inn Dining Room/Tracks
This historic Civil War era lodging house is a now a Relais & Chateau property. Beyond featuring the areas’s most luxurious accommodations, the Pitcher Inn recently renovated its restaurant, creating a modern-yet-cozy green-walled dining room complete with a wood-burning fireplace, cherry wood tables, and a thoughtful yet simple menu of locavore fare. An award-winning 500-bottle wine selection and craft cocktail program pairs well with chef Jacob Ennis’ creative cooking (he regularly uses the dining room’s fireplace to roast ingredients). Alternatively, for a more casual experience at the inn, head downstairs to Tracks for burgers, charcuterie, couches, and cocktails.
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10. Hen of the Wood
Waterbury Village Historic District, VT 05676
Chef Eric Warnstedt opened the original Waterbury location of this now-famed restaurant in 2005, putting Vermont on the national culinary map with multiple James Beard Foundation Awards for his groundbreaking farm-to-table menu served within the walls of a restored historic grist mill. Warnstedt and co-owner William McNeil transformed that mill into a warm modern dining room with a patio overlooking the rushing waterfalls of Graves Brook. Fifteen years later, the menu still draws locals and tourists alike, while paying homage to an array of local farms, cheesemakers, and more. The food may be uncomplicated, but experiencing dishes like local fried rabbit with sunchokes, crème fraîche and grilled radicchio is nothing short of extraordinary. The bar is just as much of a reflection of this ethos and quality with a beverage program offers locally-sourced beer, wine, and an impressive list of craft cocktails.
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A yoga studio by day, music venue by night, with bar and restaurant mixed in might be the most quintessentially “Vermont” place around, with some seriously community-focused vibes , and a barn that can be rented for weddings. Despite all these distractions, the restaurant portion of the barn is a destination all its own. The beverage menu is a celebration of all things brewed, aged, and bottled in Vermont, with a seriously well-executed cocktail program. The unpretentious food menu includes everything from satisfying burgers to ramen bowls (imagine après-ski with of a hot bowl of tender chashu pork in a rich broth) to lighter vegetarian options like turmeric-roasted cauliflower.
12. Michael's on the Hill
This chef-owned restored 1820s farmhouse in Waterbury Center offers locally-sourced fare from acclaimed Swiss-born chef Michael Kloeti, with front-of-house operations by his wife Laura. Kloeti, who formerly worked at legendary restaurant Lespinasse in New York’s St. Regis Hotel, brings his European roots and a refined approach to this rustic-romantic dining room, with dishes like spice-roasted venison loin with red wine braised cabbage and chestnut spätzli. The Kloetis routinely collaborate with their farmer friends to discuss upcoming menus and plan the growing and cooking seasons — and they’re serious about it. Case in point: The list of nearby cheese makers (including Sage Farm Goat, Barn First and Jasper Hill) is so long that the restaurant rotates it constantly to feature them all.
Produce is the muse and the star at this charming State Street restaurant in Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier. But don’t be swayed by chef Crystal Madiera’s focus on plants: She proves that local and sustainable meat and fish have a place on the table as well, with dishes like venison dumplings with ginger, soy, and cranberry balsamic. Madiera’s famous savoury bread pudding is available soaked in both beef or vegetable bone broth, and is always oozing with Vermont cheeses.
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