Boston Magazine | By Emma Kopelowicz
From farm-to-table brewpubs to Himalayan cuisine, these Green Mountain State restaurants tower above the rest.
Just south of the Canadian border and situated on Lake Champlain, Burlington makes for a captivating New England getaway all year round. No matter the season, it’s hard not to fall in love with the charming shops on Church Street or the impeccable views along the waterfront. What really makes the place special, though, is its array of innovative restaurants making the most of their access to high-quality, fresh ingredients grown right in the Green Mountain State. Ahead of your next (or first) trip to Vermont’s biggest (but still little) city, we’ve whittled down the many amazing choices to 10 of the very best.
There is no shortage of live music venues in Burlington, but the South End district’s ArtsRiot is by far the most unique. In this renovated warehouse, you’ll find art galleries, performance spaces, and a counter-service restaurant serving global-inspired sandwiches for dinner and similarly eclectic vittles, like kimchi scrambled eggs, for Sunday brunch. In addition, ArtsRiot was recently acquired by brewing aficionado Alan Newman (who co-founded Boston Beer Company’s beer-business incubator, Alchemy & Science), so the can and draft selections are top-notch.
400 Pine St., Burlington, 802-540-0406, artsriot.com.
Chef-owner Chiuho Sampson left a career in photojournalism in Taipei for culinary school in Vermont and never looked back—until, that is, she took over A Single Pebble in 2008 and rediscovered her love for the cuisine of her childhood. Now the rest of us are smitten with the family-style Chinese dishes on the menu. From sliced marinated beef coated with a thick Cantonese-style sauce to cellophane noodles with minced pork and tree ear mushrooms, each dish folds in bold flavors. Can’t shoulder the burden of choosing what to order? The nine-course chef’s tasting will put your appetite in good hands.
133 Bank St., Burlington, 802-865-5200, asinglepebble.com.
At this Burlington gastropub, the extensive list of draught and bottled beers is as noteworthy as the food menu showcasing the bounty of Vermont’s many small farms. The meat for the lamb burger, for instance, comes from nearby Tamarack Farm; the pork for the schnitzel, meanwhile, is procured from Vermont Heritage Grazers, which raises top-quality Berkshire hogs. (Don’t worry, vegetarians, you’re covered with great grub, too.) Dig in from a seat at the gorgeously carved wood bar, or while hanging out in a heated outdoor beer garden that feels like a friend’s back patio.
160 Bank St., Burlington, 802-859-0888, farmhousetg.com.
Chef Eric Warnstedt rose to fame as the farm-to-table king of the Green Mountains in the early aughts, and scoring a table at the James Beard Award nominee’s original Hen of the Wood restaurant in Waterbury continues to be Olympic sport-level difficult. Fortunately, more diners have been able to experience his rustic yet upscale culinary creations since a Burlington location opened inside Hotel Vermont in 2013. Its post-modern barn aesthetic—consider the beautiful, geometric wood-beam ceiling and sleek hickory tables—perfectly complements Warnstedt’s cooking. Think: cauliflower with pickled habanada pepper, scallop crudo with crispy potato and pickled pears, and ribeye for two with preserved peach jus.
55 Cherry St., Burlington, 802-540-0534, henofthewood.com.
If you want to simulate the feeling of Mediterranean sunshine on your skin, take a seat at Honey Road’s bar during golden hour. Between the rays filtered through the bright glass awnings, eclectic lamps lining the ceiling, and marvelous mezze from James Beard Award-nominated chef-owner Cara Chigazola Tobin—including harissa chicken wings and lamb-stuffed dolma—you’ll feel instantly transported to a chic Turkish café. Before you head home, though, save room for a sweet ending to your meal: saffron and pistachio sticky buns, maybe, or a scoop of orange blossom and walnut baklava ice cream.
156 Church St., Burlington, 802-497-2145, honeyroadrestaurant.com.
Hen of the Wood isn’t the only destination-worthy restaurant at Hotel Vermont. See: Juniper, which offers a similarly laidback yet refined dining experience. Local produce and dairy define the delectable small plates, covering everything from roasted carrots with pistachio hummus to Montreal-spiced brisket poutine. The main dishes, meanwhile, are rich, decadent, and come with two sides apiece, so whether you’re in the mood for mushroom ragout with chèvre gnocchi or duck confit with honey truffle cranberry demi-glace, bring a hungry crew and order accordingly.
41 Cherry St., Burlington, 802-651-5027, hotelvt.com/juniper.
If you ask any Burlington local where to grab a fabulous meal, odds are they’re going to point you to Leunig’s. After all, this French-leaning Church Street institution has become the prime day-to-night dining destination (and people-watching spot) in downtown Burlington. In the morning, grab a fresh croissant and a zippy espresso shot from its café-like kiosk, Leunig’s Petit Bijou. Later, return to the main dining room for a lunchtime cup of onion soup gratinée made with beef and duck broth. And when you’ve finished exploring the city, cap off the evening with a plate of steak frites and glass of merlot in true Parisian style.
115 Church St., Burlington, 802-863-3759, leunigsbistro.com.
Your weekend trip companions may not be too enthused about standing in line—and there will be a line—at this beloved local brunch spot (a magnet even for influential political figures, apparently). Convince them to wait it out, though, because any complaints will end as soon as they take a bite of the seasonal gingerbread pancakes, so-called “Bucket-o-Spuds” (homefries in nacho form), or chili-lime chicken leg served with coconut rice. Best of all, while their mouths are full, you’ll be free to say, “I told you so.”
169 Cherry St., Burlington, 802-651-8834, pennycluse.com. Penny Cluse has since closed operations.
Just a block-and-a-half away from busy Church Street Marketplace is this down-to-earth Himalayan and Nepalese joint. The intimate 20-seat space is perfect for a quick lunch date in between window-shopping stops, so pop inside to browse a menu featuring several varieties of momo (steamed dumplings) served with a tantalizing sweet tomato sauce. You’ll probably notice lots of chicken tikka masala orders going out, too, but we recommend refueling with the hearty, garlicky Sherpa stew, which will keep you full until dinner.
119 College St., Burlington, 802-881-0550, Facebook.
Burlington is the smallest biggest city of any state in the country, so it’s perhaps a bit surprising that it has such a large number of craft breweries. Zero Gravity earns 10s across the board for suds like its lush, citrus-hinted “Conehead” IPA, best enjoyed at the spacious taproom’s magnificently preserved antique bar (which was once featured in a John Wayne movie). Thanks to the brewery’s recent merging with neighboring restaurant Great Northern, the beers are now also enjoyed alongside contemporary bar fare like roasted eggplant báhn mì or “dirty” fries with smoked pork, sweet chili aioli, and spicy pickles.
716 Pine St., Burlington, 802-497-0054, zerogravitybeer.com.