The following short reviews of some of our favorite restaurants and watering holes will help you find a starting place on your quest for Vermont’s finest.
Vermont’s restaurant scene represents a panoply of regional and international flavors. It’s possible to take a tour of the world without leaving the state. To help you embark, we have gathered, in the next few pages, a small taste to whet your appetite. We’ve included a short write-up of each restaurant to get you started. Bon appétit.
The Spot — 210 Shelburne Road, South Burlington. This surfy little place in a 1950s Phillips 66 batwing gas station building offers an experience you won’t find elsewhere in Vermont: surfboards, palm trees, and tropical fish. Think “West Coast of New England” vacation ambiance. The menu is fresh, local, and colorful. Try the Huevos Rancheros for breakfast or, for lunch, The Peahi fish tacos. The dinner menu changes seasonally, and starts at 5 p.m. with a full bar, Switchback on draft, and a healthy selection of wines. Open seven days a week, with on-site parking. Free Wi-Fi. Breakfast daily until 3 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (802) 540-1778; www.thespotvt.com.
Inn at Shelburne Farms — 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne. One of Gourmet magazine’s “Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in 2007.” The restaurant showcases food of the season, grown sustainably at Shelburne Farms and on local Vermont farms. Menus reflect classic culinary techniques and traditions with regional influences, and incorporate the freshest ingredients including Shelburne Farms’ own Cheddar cheese, made from the milk of its Brown Swiss herd. The Marble Dining Room and its terrace are open to the public for breakfast, dinner, and Sunday brunch. They provide a spectacular view of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, and the formal gardens of the historic Inn, built in the 1880s as the home of the Webb family, who founded Shelburne Farms. Open May 6 through Oct. 17. Reservations required: (802) 985-8498. www.shelburnefarms.org.
La Villa Bistro — 3762 Shelburne Road, Tenneybrook Square, Shelburne. This charming, 60-seat, bistro-café offers soft lights, jazz music, a full bar, and a Mediterranean menu featuring gourmet pizza, made-to-order pasta dishes, panini, and creative grill entrées. A Fresh Network partner, this family-owned and -operated restaurant prides itself on serving local burgers and free-range poultry. Pastas are made in-house. The featured ravioli dish changes daily. Try the smoked Alfredo, made with sautéed Italian meats, garlic, smoked mozzarella, tomatoes, spinach, and fettuccine. You’ll enjoy the creative lineup of pizzas. Eat in or take out. Grab a bottle of wine or beer to take home at Enoteca Wine & Provisions next door. La Villa hours, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Sundays 4 to 8:30 p.m. www.lavillabistro.com. (802) 985-2596.
Leunig’s Bistro — 115 Church St., on the Church Street Marketplace, Burlington. Experience Leunig’s and you’ll believe its motto: “The spirit of an Old World café in the heart of downtown Burlington.” It has charming decor, creative food, and a well-appointed bar. At the corner of Church and College streets, Leunig’s offers a prime spot for downtown people-watching (or for being seen). Leunig’s special-blend coffee and fresh orange juice make a great start for Saturday or Sunday. Serving lunch, dinner, and brunch. Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (802) 863-3759. www.leunigsbistro.com.
Junior’s Italian —
85 South Park Drive, Colchester, left from Exit 16 off I-89 North; and 176 Main St., downtown Burlington. Known as “Vermont’s Little Italy,” Junior’s is family owned and operated, offering classic recipes from the Old Country. This destination spot for authentic Italian has something for everyone: casual fine dining (inside or out), traditional pizzeria, scrumptious bakery, full-service bar, Wi-Fi, and space for private events. Open for lunch and dinner; dinner reservations recommended. For dining room/reservations (802) 655-0000; pizzeria, take-out, and delivery (802) 655-5555; catering and bakery (802) 655-5282; downtown Burlington (802) 862-1234. For more information and menu, go to www.juniorsvt.com.
Joyce’s Noodle House — 5 Carmichael St., Essex Junction. For dining in or takeout, Joyce Fong, the chef-owner of Joyce’s Noodle House, creates lip-smackingly authentic Chinese dishes generous with vegetables. Joyce’s will make any menu item a vegetarian one on request. Specialties are dim sum Mandarin-style, Cantonese meat, spicy Szechuan and Hunan dishes, and noodles — soft, crispy, fried, in soups — delicious noodles. The menu includes several Thai dishes, and combination dinners are served all day. Full bar. No MSG is used, and Joyce’s cooks with only 100% vegetable oil. Prices are reasonable, and credit cards are accepted. (802) 288-9828. www.joycesnoodlehouse.com.
Pauline’s Café and Restaurant — 1834 Shelburne Road, South Burlington. Chef David is the creative energy behind one of the area’s best-known chef-owned restaurants. Pauline’s has been serving locals and tourists alike for over 30 years. Whether you’re seeking an intimate dinner for two or entertaining large groups of family, friends, or clients, the restaurant offers a fine-dining experience in a casual, comfortable environment. Menus feature many locally raised or foraged edibles from the Lake Champlain basin. Famous for its Maine crab cakes, Pauline’s also offers local free-range chicken, organic American beef, and farm-fresh vegetables in season. The wine list is carefully chosen to complement the food and features many biodynamic and organically produced wines from around the world. Dining options include a casual café; relaxed, elegant upstairs dining rooms; two private party rooms; an outdoor patio in season; and a cozy bar. All dining venues are wheelchair accessible. Reservations are recommended. (802) 862-1081; www.paulinescafe.com.
Toscano Café/Bistro — 27 Bridge St., Richmond. Opened in 2003 by Chef Jon Fath and his wife, Lucie Bolduc-Fath, this cozy little bistro offers Old World charm in downtown Richmond, a short, 20-minute drive from Burlington. Lace curtains, fresh flowers, and the soft glow of candlelight create a romantic ambience. Toscano’s Rustic Mediterranean menu features fresh seafood, local and imported cheeses, made-in-house desserts, fine Italian wines, and Vermont microbrews. Enjoy favorite appetizers like crispy artichoke hearts with lemon aioli or beef carpaccio with baby arugula. Dinner entrées include the house-made sweet Italian sausage with roasted peppers and vegetarian options such as handmade ricotta gnocci with Vermont chèvre. Open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday; dinner Tuesday through Sunday; brunch Sundays. Call for reservations and info: (802) 434-3148. www.toscanocafe.com
Three Brothers Pizza & Grill — 973 Roosevelt Highway, Colchester. This is a family owned and operated restaurant right off of Exit 16 in Colchester. The focus here is local, with familiar suppliers such as Cabot Cheese, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, and Shadow Cross Farms. Still, authenticity reigns, as meats like mortadella and capicola come straight from Italy. This is a menu inspired by the brothers and their friends, and it includes a long list of pizzas, plus calzones, stromboli, pasta dishes, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, wings, salads — something for everybody. You can dine in, take out, or request delivery. The brothers offer catering, too. Nine domestic and micro-brews are on draft. Open seven days: Sundays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to closing. (802) 655-5550; www.threebrotherspizzavt.com.
Mexicali Grill & Cantina — On the green at Maple Tree Place, Williston’s Mexicali Grill & Cantina is a popular spot for lovers of the true, tangy flavors of Mexico. Inexpensive and casual, its menu covers the basics, with interesting variations on burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, tamales, nachos, chiles rellenos, and quesadillas. Try one of the homemade salsas, with your choice of zing ranging from mild to XXX hot. Daily specials on food and drinks. Awesome food and fantastic margaritas. Catering available. Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Two doors down from the Majestic Theater. Stop in before the movie or after the show. (802) 879-9492. www.mexicalivt.net.
The Windjammer — 1076 Williston Road, South Burlington. Specializing in steak, seafood, and prime rib, the Windjammer has been a local favorite since 1977, and for good reason. The beef is aged for four to six weeks for optimum flavor, marbling, and tenderness. The prime rib is seasoned, then slow-roasted all day, making it a house favorite. And the seafood is as fresh as you can find anywhere. Every entrée includes a trip to the boat-shaped salad bar where over 40 items of the freshest local produce are available. An extensive wine list, with more than 100 labels, has been selected to complement the menu. (802) 862-6585. www.WindjammerRestaurant.com.
The Upper Deck Pub — South Burlington. Located above the Windjammer Restaurant is a family-friendly, sports-themed pub that offers its own, extensive menu featuring steak and seafood plus a great selection of burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers. Complementing the menu is the Upper Deck’s broad wine list and a variety of microbrews on draft. (802) 862-6585. www.windjammerrestaurant.com/ upper-deck-pub.shtml
Rozzi’s Lakeshore Tavern & Restaurant — 1072 West Lakeshore Drive, Malletts Bay. Open since 1990, this locally owned and operated eatery with a nautical theme is full of surprises. The menu features a hearty list of seafood classics such as fried perch baskets, and lobster Benedict on Sunday Brunch, in addition to prime rib and a long list of sandwiches. The full bar offers domestic beers and microbrews plus a new wine list. But here, the burger is king, with a separate menu — 30 of them, made with a half pound of Angus ground beef. Try the K2 Burger marinated in Rozzi’s own K2 Ale. Chicken can be substituted for beef, and the list includes veggie burgers. Yankee magazine listed it in its “Best of New England’s Local Secrets” and it won Best Burger Menu. Big-screen, high definition TVs bring all the sports action to fans. Lunch from 11 a.m. on; dinner from 5 p.m. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. www.RozzisLakeshoreTavern.com. (802) 863-2342.
Leonardo’s Pizza — 83 Pearl St., Burlington; 1160 Williston Road, South Burlington. Leonardo’s Pizza is a local, family-owned and -operated company established in 1990. It has been voted “Best Pizza” by several local surveys. Leonardo’s offers a pizza with whole wheat dough crust made with King Arthur organic flour. A member of the Vermont Fresh Network and Local First Vermont, Leonardo’s offers traditional, gourmet, and vegetarian pizzas; salads; bread sticks; and five flavors of chicken wings. Free delivery, business charge accounts, and online ordering at www.leonardosonline.com. Open seven days a week: Burlington, (802) 862-7700; South Burlington and Winooski, (802) 951-9000.
• To make your restaurant part of the next Dining Out, call (802) 862-4109.