From romantic meals in vintage dining cars, to comfort food in cozy taverns, to seasonal cuisine in sprawling converted farmhouses, there is no reason not to eat well in Vermont. Vermont is a sparsely populated state, and its culinary scene punches far above its weight. Vermont has been one of the beneficiaries of the farm-to-table revolution, and the continuing trend of big city chefs, brewers, and makers fleeing north in pursuit of a slower pace, more space, cheaper rent, and fresh produce.
This, combined with the region’s natural, rustic beauty, makes Vermont a destination for inspired, fresh food. Here’s a list of 15 places that you won’t want to miss.
At American Flatbread, it’s all about the dough. Here you will find a variety of artisanal pizzas, each one cooked in their “primitive wood-fired earthen oven.” This place has become a Burlington go-to, and for good reason. Their dough is light and crisp, and their toppings fresh and inventive. They have multiple locations around the state, but the Burlington location is also a small brewery. American Flatbread’s new-age pizzas like the “Medicine Wheel” or the “Power to the People” are balanced by its old-school brick aesthetic and red and white checkered tablecloths. It’s a combination that works.
Owner-chef Michael Kloeti is no stranger to accolades. He was voted Vermont’s first “chef of the year.” After training in Switzerland, he embarked on a culinary journey that led him to work at renowned restaurants around the world, before eventually opening his own in Waterbury Center, Vermont. This 19th century farmhouse-turned-restaurant is surrounded on all sides by rolling hills, farmland, and gardens. Each area of the house offers a different ambiance. The romance of the place is undeniable, but the food is the true star. Michael’s serves “Continental cuisine” and claims to offer the “true farm-to-table dining experience.” Tasting menus are available in addition to the surprisingly extensive dinner menu and cozy bar.
This rustic-chic eatery occupies a charming little storefront in downtown Winooski. The restaurant’s creative, new American cuisine, modern cocktail menu, and hip vibe, draw a younger crowd. On the menu you’ll find a constantly changing combination of moderately-priced, small plates, pastas, and more expensive larger entrees, all prepared with—you guessed it—local, seasonal ingredients. The food is sophisticated, with an emphasis on presentation, but the restaurant is still evoking a down-home feel. At Misery Loves Co., it’s called “supper,” not “dinner.” Perhaps that says it all. Stop in and check out their brunch and happy hour as well.
Sometimes you just want a burger and a beer. The Worthy Burger, in South Royalton, can fulfill these cravings and then some. Housed in a rustic, converted train station, the Worthy Burger offers simple, fresh burgers and sandwiches and a meticulously curated craft-beer selection. Worthy Burger uses a wood-fire oven, fueled by Vermont hardwood, claiming that Vermont’s cold weather causes trees to grow slower, resulting in a denser, hotter-burning wood and better tasting food. Needless to say, the sweet smell of wood smoke lingers in the air year- round.
In the little town of Vergennes, in western Vermont, you’ll find Black Sheep Bistro. This romantic, French-inspired restaurant is oozing with European charm. The menu is meat and fish forward, but can accommodate most food restrictions. Dishes like the brie and bacon chicken breast, and the roasted duck with buttermilk bleu cheese and cherry port sauce are rich and hearty, but deeply satisfying. All the entrees are $22, but the portions are generous. This is a place to indulge. Reservations are highly recommended, especially in the summer months.
Hen of the Wood proprietor's Eric Warnstedt and William McNeil say that their goal is “to provide a true Vermont Dining experience.” In doing so, they’ve maintained a commitment to sustainability and supporting local artisans and farmers. Their intimate, barn-like space is the perfect atmosphere to indulge in their refined, new American offerings. Their beer, wine, and cocktail list is first class and their service, along with their food, is widely regarded. Their menu rotates daily, but always features inventive dishes like coriander roasted cauliflower or hanger steak with smoked potatoes and charred scallion. Location in Burlington as well. Reservations are recommended.
Just north of Burlington, you’ll find the quaint little town of Winooski. Housed in a converted textile mill, Waterworks Food and Drink sits at the very edge of the Winooski River, offering patrons creative American cuisine and unobstructed river views through floor to ceiling windows. The seasonal menu offers decadent comfort food like Vermont lamb and mushroom poutine, as well as produce-forward, vegetarian-friendly dishes like roasted maitake mushroom quinoa. Sip a tasty libation from their comprehensive beer and wine list and proper cocktail menu while gazing at the easy-rolling river.
Even outside of little Wilmington, Vermont, Dot’s Restaurant is legendary. Dubbed “A National Treasure” by Gourmet Magazine, this casual eatery, marked by its trademark, florescent red sign, is popular among tourists and locals alike. After being essentially destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the town rallied to rebuild the local institution. Dot’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and while the traditional American fare might not be fancy, it’s something special. The sense of community is palpable here, and the whole family will find something to love on the menu. The award-winning chili is a must.
There are times when a place’s atmosphere is so grand and opulent, you just have to indulge. The dining room at the Castle Hill Resort and Spa, near Okemo Mountain, is one of those places. Their four-course prix fixe menu is peppered with upscale classics, like beef wellington and slow-roasted rack of lamb, but dishes like the chef’s vegetarian cassoulet, prepared in part with foraged mushrooms, ensure that there is something for everyone. This is the place to go in the Ludlow area if you want to feel regal. The ambiance of the fireplace and Tudor-style architecture are stunning, and the food is of equal note.
The farm-to-table theme continues with this adorable combination restaurant and general store. J.J. Hapgood is the longest continually-running general store in Vermont. This little gem, nestled in the heart of Peru Village, carries a variety of goods from local purveyors including, firewood, cheeses, produce, beer, wine, and penny candy for the kids. Try one of their thought-out, wood-fired pizzas. The pizza is made with house-made dough, from locally-sourced wheat, and served with a variety of toppings, including Vermont cured sausage and apple, wild mushroom, and cherry stone clams. J.J. Hapgood is a carefully-curated slice of country charm.
As new, modern eateries continue to pop up around Vermont, it’s sometimes nice to try something a bit more traditional. Ye Olde Tavern is about as true to Vermont’s Colonial, New England heritage as you can get (entrees come with cranberry fritters and Vermont maple butter). Serving what they call “Continental Fare,” this inn and restaurant dates back to the 1790s and is chock-full of rustic, Yankee charm. Here you’ll find delicious takes on New England favorites like pot roast, chicken pot pie, and seafood chowder. Fridays are venison night. This place harkens back to a different era, one of early-bird specials and mashed potato sides, and it’s great. Ye Olde Tavern knows what it is trying to do and does it right.
Vermont is known for their beer and with good reason. If you are looking for a dark, friendly brewpub vibe, look no further than Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier. Their extensive, Vermont-centric tap list covers more than all the bases. However, it is the Three Penny’s food that sets it apart from other brew pubs. While their limited menu is dominated by sandwiches and burgers, their dedication to quality is apparent, especially in their extremely popular burger—lauded as the best in New England.
Simon Pearce’s Quechee restaurant is hardly a secret. Voted one of the most romantic restaurants in America by Travel and Leisure, who can deny the appeal of enjoying inspired new American cuisine back-dropped by the Ottauquechee River waterfall and covered bridge? This alone is not a hard sell, but when you tie in the fact that Simon Pearce is a truly renowned restaurant, they hype makes sense. Everything about this space works: from the beautiful, yet simple bar to the bright, brick interior, to the accompanying shop below. After enjoying your meal, served on their beautifully-crafted glassware, head downstairs to watch the glassblowers at work. Simon Pearce is truly an experience.
While the commitment to supporting local agriculture is apparent in Vermont’s food scene, SoLo Farm & Table takes it step further. Although they remain hyper-vigilant in their support of local suppliers, many of their ingredients come directly from their own farm. At SoLo Farm & Table, nothing is left to chance: their pasta, which is a highlight on the menu, is made in house, and the meat is often sourced from their farmers up the street. Instead of buying cuts of meat for their meals, SoLo often buys the whole animal. Their dedication to sustainability earned them Vermont’s first Green Restaurant Award. And of course the food is incredible.
T.J. Buckley’s takes two concepts and combines in a way that is truly unique. The restaurant is an intimate, romantic spot that sits in a vintage dining car in downtown Brattleboro. While most dining cars are home to greasy spoon diners, T.J. Buckley’s is vastly different. The restaurant's open kitchen lets you watch lauded chef-owner, Michael Fuller work to prepare his ever-changing, organic, seasonal dishes. Fuller has been called a “pioneer in seasonal cooking” by New York Magazine. He is a classically-trained chef in the French tradition with a knack for foraging. This locavore's dream only seats 18, so be sure to make reservations.