Eating out in Vermont is something I always look forward to… There are so many talented chefs hiding out in the Green Mountain State who are creating phenomenal dishes that rival the best of the best in New York City or San Francisco. To celebrate the new year and the ever-evolving food scene in Vermont, I’m compiled a list of my favorite Vermont restaurants that you should try in 2015 if you haven’t already, from casual eats to farm-to-table, fine-dining experiences. I’ve also included Vermont restaurants that are on my personal bucket list for the year. Bon appetite!
5 of the Best Restaurants in Vermont to Try in 2015
1. The Mad Taco, Waitsfield, Vermont: The original Mad Taco—located in a “strip mall” in Waitsfield—is hands down the best Mexican food restaurant in Vermont. The Carnitas Tostada is absolute perfection, and I’m not even exaggerating. The interior of Mad Taco may be a bit
dirty dingy but that’s part of what makes it a popular choice among locals, along with the stellar roasted meats, large portions and array of homemade hot sauces. Plus, the Mad Taco carries some of the best hard-to-find Vermont beers (think Heady, Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead) and recently expanded next door to include a full bar. The sister location in Montpelier is also worth a visit for your next Mexican food fix, although I’m partial to the Mad River Valley myself.
2. Michael’s on the Hill, Waterbury Center, Vermont: In the fall, we were fortunate to dine at four of the most well-regarded, high-end restaurants in Vermont, and Michael’s on the Hill blew away its competition. Although a quick glimpse at the menu will reveal it’s seriously pricey, you can’t beat Michael’s on the Hill for a romantic date night or special occasion. If you’re budget-conscious, try their Gold Tasting Menu, which is $45 for three courses. The polished servers, Parisian-inspired farmhouse decor and impressive farm-to-table cuisine will make the splurge seem worth every penny. Request a table on the porch for beautiful views in any season overlooking rolling hills, and prepare to literally “break bread” with your dining companions.
3. The Common Man Restaurant, Warren, Vermont: Located near the base of Sugarbush between Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen, the Common Man has reinvented itself in the past few years under new ownership. The renovated 19th-century barn bespeaks Vermont with a large stone hearth acting as a focal point, local raku pottery from the Naked Potter dressing up the space and a casual ambiance that welcomes skiers after a day on the slopes. Once a week, the Chef Adam Longworth offers his locally famous pasta dishes. In case you can’t try his meatballs at the restaurant, the Common Man Restaurant recently launched the Common Kitchen Meatball Company, a food truck and takeout service with meatballs ranging from vegetarian meatballs to bacon balls. The Common Man was also just named Vermont’s most iconic restaurant by Thrillist, giving you another reason to stop by for a visit.
4. Hen of the Wood, Waterbury, Vermont: Hen of the Wood is a rite of passage for anyone visiting Vermont. The 40-seat restaurant in an old grist mill in Waterbury has topped my list of the very best places to eat in Vermont for years. Chef Eric Warnstedt turns simple ingredients into masterpieces, showcasing the vibrancy of fresh and local produce, meats and cheeses. The service at Hen of the Wood matches the upscale, yet comfortable decor. Servers are professional, warm and knowledgable; the very best I’ve encountered in Vermont. Make reservations well in advance, as the restaurant is popular among locals and tourists alike. If you’re in Burlington, try Hen of the Wood’s new location next to Hotel Vermont. It’s a much different experience but the food quality matches that of the original location. Peek into the kitchen and walk-in on the way to the bathroom (you might just spot a full pig ready to be butchered… not that’s seriously fresh.)
5. Worthy Burger, South Royalton, Vermont: The sleepy town of South Royalton can be absolutely happening on a random weekday afternoon at the Worthy Burger, a top burger and craft beer destination in the Upper Valley. Visiting the restaurant, which is located on the train tracks in town, always makes me happy. The bartenders are seriously nice, the beer is always fresh and there’s nothing as good as a local beef burger cooked over an open flame and topped with a farm-fresh egg and local brie (well, maybe their special: a Jersey Burger, topped with Taylor Ham or pork roll.). Order at the counter, seat yourself and bus your own dishes. This approach keeps Worthy Burger’s prices wallet-friendly. Don’t miss the Veg Out veggie burger, which changes every day, the beef tallow fries or the selection of four homemade condiments for dipping. (The pesto mayo is my fave.)
10 Vermont Restaurants on My Personal List to Try in 2015:
1. SoLo Farm and Table, South Londonderry, Vermont: Although I’ve been warned the portions are small, I hear Chef Wesley’s flavor combinations at SoLo Farm and Table are magical. I can’t wait to try their Smoky Nor’easter (Maker’s Mark, smoked maple syrup and fresh lime juice), Housemade Burrata (with old smoked Sablefish, citrus and scallion pesto) and the Hand Cut Tagliatelle (with lamb bolognese). I hear it’s the perfect datenight spot, where it’s appropriate to get more dressed up than normal, which I consider a rare treat in Vermont.
2. Misery Loves Company, Winooski, Vermont: If you’re not following Misery Loves Company on Facebook, you should be. The lunch and dinner hotspot publishes some serious #foodporn. I’m looking forward to trying their signature fried chicken alongside some creamed greens and malted beets, or maybe their Vonnegut sandwich for lunch (pork belly, American cheese and fried egg). We’ll also be stopping at the Misery Loves Company Bakeshop for a little sweet treat for the next morning.
3. Silver Fork, Manchester, Vermont: One of my goals for 2015 is exploring more of southern Vermont, including the Manchester area. Silk Fork on Main Street in Manchester is family-owned and quite tiny with six tables and five bar stools. The couple specializes in international recipes—specifically Puerto Rican and German. I hear the service is exceptional, taking ample time with each table to make sure you choose a dish you’ll love. Rumor has it it’s the best food in Manchester!
4. Junction, Essex, Vermont: Chef Shawn Calley is certainly keeping things interesting at the Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa. We’re looking forward to the quirky decor, nightly-evolving menu and an open kitchen at Junction, which is the Essex’s newest restaurant, where we can watch Chef Shawn (who happens to be one of Randy’s old mountain biking friends) whip up a serious five-course tasting meal for us.
5. Peasant, Waitsfield, Vermont: Peasant comes highly recommended from friends who live in Waitsfield. The food is simple and rustic, matching the restaurant’s decor. Although the menu isn’t extensive, Peasant’s specialties—Tuscan Meatballs and Cassoulet of White Beans, Chicken, Sausage and Pork—are just a few of their hearty offerings. Plus, we’re always looking for another reason to visit the Mad River Valley.
6. Istanbul Kebab House, Burlington, Vermont: You know Vermont is a small place when you sell a bedroom set to a sweet couple on Craigslist who happen to be opening a new kebab shop in Essex. Istanbul Kebab House comes highly recommended to me and will soon move to occupy the former Das Bierhouse location in downtown Burlington. I can’t wait to dig into some authentic falafel and mezze platters!
7. Red Clover Inn and Restaurant, Mendon, Vermont: The Red Clover Inn and Restaurant has been on my list to try for years now. I would describe the menu as traditional fine-dining, with choices like Braised Short Ribs, Pan-Seared Trout and Pork Osso Buco, rather than inventive preparations. Sometimes a straight-forward, well-prepared dish is just what you need.
8. Pho Nguyen, Burlington, Vermont: I’m embarassed to say I first discovered pho—and Vietnamese food at large—at Pho Hong in Winooski this summer. I’m on a quest to try even more pho and bun, and a visit to Pho Nguyen, the newest Vietnamese restaurant to open in Burlington, will need to live up to the flavor and budget-friendliness of Pho Hong.
9. Waterworks Food + Drink, Winooski, Vermont: Waterworks Food + Drink is the newest addition to the ever-expanding Winooski food scene and located in the Champlain Mill built in 1912 as part of American Woolen Company’s expansion. With ample vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as dishes including Smoked Fondue, Date & Duck Flatbread and Lobster Mac & Cheese, Waterworks is definitely on our date-night to-do list.
10. Pizzeria Verità, Burlington, Vermont: We’ve tried a few times now to branch out from American Flatbread – Burlington and try hip new pizza place. Sadly every time, it’s been packed. A sure sign of goodness to come! I’ve heard the Mais pizza (fire-roasted sweet corn, crème fraîche, speck, fior di latte, fresh basil, parmigiano reggiano, evoo) is one of their best offerings. Not only do they offer vegan-cheese, they also offer gluten-free crusts.
What would you add to the list? Comment below and share your favorite Vermont restaurants to spread the love!