A fellow foodie friend of mine was shocked I hadn’t been to Worthy Burger, a craft beer and burger bar in South Royalton, Vermont, a small village in the Upper Valley that’s home to Vermont Law School. I’m always on a mission to find the best burger in Vermont and also have driven many miles to get my hands on some of Vermont’s top craft beers. For a burger to rank high on my list, it must 1) be good, local beef that’s seasoned well, 2) be cooked well, meaning a true medium rare to rare, and 3) have flavorful add-ons. Simple, right? And some good condiments don’t hurt, either.
Worthy of a Visit
Today was dreary, the first fall day that necessited exchanging flip flops for Danskos and digging out a chunky sweater to keep warm. We decided to hop in the car and head for the mountains, thinking Worthy Burger would be a good destination for a late lunch. Plus, I was due for a burger (being married to a vegetarian, I hardly eat meat anymore, which for the most part doesn’t phase me… but every once in awhile, this girl needs a burger!).
To find Worthy Burger, you’ll drive alongside South Royalton’s green and over some train tracks, to the old freight station that now houses the restaurant. Walking up to the place, it doesn’t look like anything special. That’s usually the case in Vermont. The best places don’t have a fancy facade… inside, it’s a whole other story.
At Worthy Burger, all of the food is local, purchased from farmers to cut down costs. There’s counter service (you order your food at the register, pick it up when your beeper goes off and help yourself to condiments of your choosing) to cut down on labor costs. You seat yourself; we opted for the bar with a thick cement countertop, swivel bar seats and purse hooks (I always judge a restaurant on whether it has hooks or not). The bartenders were welcoming, ready to offer us a sample of one of their 15 craft beers on tap.
Worthy Burger’s Menu
Worthy Burger has a small menu, allowing the chefs to waste very little. The burgers, including the Worthy (a simple beef burger), Turducky (turkey and duck confit), Fish’Wich (today a fresh salmon patty) and Veg-Out, are all cooked over open flames. According to their website,
The “Food Dude,” Executive Chef Jason Merrill, is always searching for the “Worthy Difference” in everything he prepares, something elemental that turns his high quality, farm fresh ingredients into a special experience. For him, there’s nothing more elemental than cooking over a hardwood fire, creating unique flavors you just can’t get with gas.
The open flame gives all of the burgers a distinct and delicious smokiness. Today, as part of their special Quebec weekend, they were offering a Poutine Burger (nested potatoes, cheese curds and gravy over a patty), as well as truffle fries and a few Quebecois beers on tap. We opted for a Worthy (with brie, bacon and jalapeños, all add ones for a buck for so) and a Veg-Out, a puree of beets and grains, all housed within a portobello mushroom, and topped with Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm. Both were divine and ready by the time we finished our 12-ounce pours of Hill Farmstead’s Edward.
The food at Worthy Burger is simple, there’s no doubt about it, but there’s a reason why it was packed at 2pm on a Saturday. It’s definitely worth the trip, no matter where in the state you’re coming from. We both deemed our burgers the best we’ve had in Vermont in years. In addition to the food, the beer list is extensive and one of few places in the Upper Valley where you can get Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s, Zero Gravity, Foley Brothers and other lesser known beers from the area.
There’s also a certain energy to the place that just makes you feel good. You can’t help but smile and want to take your time with your food and drink, enjoying the atmosphere. When we were settling up, I asked one of the bartenders if everyone leaves happy… he said the food coma most people leave with makes his job easy. We will certainly be back to experience it again. Rumor has it Freight House Brewing will be up and running soon… like we needed another reason to visit 😉
- The website says Worthy Burger is cash only, but there’s a sign over the bar saying they’re just kidding. They now take credit cards, even Amex.
- The kitchen is open, so if you’re seated at the bar, you’ll get to the see the chefs working their magic, taking a blow torch to the burgers to melt the cheese and raising and lowering the grill for the perfect temperature.
- With 15 beers on tap, the bartenders are more than happy to give you a sample. Worthy Burger also offers half pours for 16 and 12 ounce beers if you’re up for trying a few from their extensive selection.
- Vegetarians beware: the fries are cooked in beef tallow. The “Veg-Out” and beer are so good though that you won’t miss the fries.
- All beef burgers are cooked to be pink the middle, a true medium to medium rare. Eat what the chef serves you, whether you prefer more well done or rarer. It’ll be delicious, however, it’s cooked. Promise.
- If you’re gluten free, all of the burgers can be served over a large salad, with housemade caesar and oven-roasted garlic vinaigrette as your dressing choices.
- Don’t miss out on the condiments! If you sit at the bar, you’ll be given Spicy Ketchup, Spicy Mayo, Pesto Mayo and Dijon Mustard for your burger. Malt vinegar and homemade hot sauces (along with water to quell the heat) are in the back by where you pick up your food.
- If you can’t stand the heat… don’t order the jalapeños! I’m usually tough, but my burger had a full roasted jalapeño on it and boy was it spicy.
- If there’s a line to order, don’t turn around. It’s well worth a few minutes of waiting, and you’ll likely need a few minutes to decide what toppings to add to the burger of your choosing. Plus, the line moves quickly. Worthy Burger is quite efficient… a well-oiled machine.
- If you’re in Woodstock, visit Worthy Kitchen, a craft beer and farm diner, featuring comfort foods like wings, nachos, fried chicken… I’ve heard the Worthy Doughnuts are oustanding.
56 Rainbow Street, South Royalton, Vermont
Monday – Wednesday: 4pm – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday: 11:30am-10pm