The Best New Restaurants and Bars in Ski Country
From Middle Eastern fare to bike bars, there’s a whole new food scene to explore this season thanks to these noteworthy ski country newcomers.
This season, there are plenty of new reasons to eat out in ski country. From long-awaited expansions from beloved establishments like Lawson’s Finest Liquids (their new taproom opened this fall) and Worthy Burger Too into Waitsfield to the arrival of spunky newcomers like Moonwink in Manchester, it’s shaping up to be a great season.
If there’s one thing that stands out about these new spots, it’s the marriage of eating and unique experiences. At Stowe’s Ranch Camp, you can grab a beer or a burrito while you chat with your bike mechanic. At the Wunderbar in Bellows Falls, you can step into a tropical beer garden from the cold January air. Here are some of the best new places to eat, drink and have fun.
In Lyndonville, Burke Mountain skiers and Kingdom Trails riders will have a new place
to get post-ski or post-ride drinks this winter at the Wildflower Inn’s new Spokeasy Lounge. The big windows and the bar seating that faces them make this a great place to grab a local beer and watch the sun set over the Northeast Kingdom.
On Route 15 in Hardwick, and worth a detour, The Scale House started serving up unexpected incredibly fresh seafood dishes like their pan-seared sea scallops over homemade fettuccine with sautéed local vegetables and beurre blanc when it opened in July in the village’s iconic downtown block. Owner Sven Olson also runs svenfish, a seafood distributing company based in Boston. The Scale House is 36 minutes from Stowe, an hour from Burke Mountain and 45 minutes from Jeffersonville.
At Stowe’s Ranch Camp, which opened in June and is owned by MTBVT’s Ryan Thibault, you can have your fatbike worked on while you grab one of their rotating selection of local drafts and pre- or post-ride grub like the Percyrrito, a burrito that features dry-rubbed and braised pork, beans, special maple roja sauce and Vermont cheddar. In fact, you can ride your fatbike right to the cozy taproom from the Cady Hill trail network.
There are also new owners at one of downtown Stowe’s most beloved restaurants, Plate. Aaron and Jennifer Martin, the chef and bartender who helped launch the village restaurant when it opened in 2013, just bought it from owners Jamie Persky and Mark Rosman. The Martins plan to keep the restaurant’s chic but cozy interior largely the same and maintain its farm-to-table roots while expanding its small, tapas-style plate offerings. “We are keeping the same name, same vibe, feel and ideology of California meets Vermont,” said Chef Aaron, who grew up in Hyde Park and ski raced at the Mount Mansfield Academy in high school.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the notch, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery plans to open a bigger production facility and tasting room early in 2019 at the former North Woods Joinery building in Jeffersonville. The new tasting room will abut the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
NORTH CENTRAL VERMONT
In early December, Ana Dan and Paul Weber, owners of the Hyde Away Inn in Waitsfield, open a new Mediterranean joint in Warren called Sage on the corner of Route 100 and Route 17. The restaurant features Mad River Valley ingredients wherever possible in its Middle Eastern, Spanish, Italian and French fusion dishes. Look out for paella, pastas and the family baklava recipe.
Waterbury’s Prohibition Pig changed hands in early December when it was purchased by Eric Warnstedt, owner of the two Hen of the Wood restaurants (one is in Waterbury and one is in Burlington) and Stowe’s Doc Ponds. Prohibition Pig was opened by Chad Rich in 2012 on Waterbury’s South Main Street. The business also includes a brewery. Preliminarily, it looks like much of the menu and atmosphere will remain the same.
Last summer, Worthy Burger Too started serving affordable, dependably delicious grass-fed burgers grilled over Vermont hardwoods and served with Shelburne Farms cheddar cheese at its new location on Route 100 in Waitsfield. The restaurant will largely have the same menu as the flagship in South Royalton with a full bar and ten tap lines. Grab a beer and some of their decadent hand-cut fries for après ski at the end of a day at Mad River Glen or Sugarbush.
Just down the Mad River Path, Lawson’s Finest Liquids opened its much-anticipated timber-frame taproom, brewery and retail space in Waitsfield in October. It’s the perfect place for an after-ski beer and snack, with five assorted plates of local cheeses, charcuteries and pairings to choose from and 14 beers on tap. Sip a Chinooker’d IPA and try its piney, citrusy aromas with a wedge of Pawlet-based Consider Bardwell’s Rupert cheese topped with a dollop of apricot chutney.
Longtime local favorite Gracie’s Café has been replaced by Toast & Eggs, a new diner on Waitsfield’s Main Street. For a pre-skiing bite, try the Hungry Carpenter, a breakfast sandwich with one egg, bacon, ham, Cabot cheddar, arugula and garlic aioli on a house-made English muffin.
If you love the Mad Taco, you’d better check out chef Colby Miller’s new project at Warren’s Hostel Tevere, Mad Burger, which opened in July. Look out for a rotating cast of delicious burgers and crazy sandwiches like the Peanut Butter American, which pairs pork belly with garlic aioli, spicy arugula and peanut butter.
After seven successful years of owning and operating The Common Man in Warren, husband and wife team Adam Longworth and Lorien Wroten closed the restaurant for the last time in the spring of 2018. This season, Longworth will be the new executive chef and Wroten will start as the general manager at the nearby Pitcher Inn.
Sugarbush staple Paradise Deli and Market changed hands this summer, and is now owned by Arik and Elizabeth Keller. The market and deli, which offer local produce, baked goods, wine, cheese and sandwiches was renamed Paradise Provisions and has a fresh new look in the same spot on the Sugarbush Access Road. Avalanche Pub, a wood-fired pizza joint is also expected to open late this fall in the former Terra Rossa building on the Sugarbush Access Road.
Just south on Route 100 is Rochester’s Maple Soul, a new farm-to-table restaurant that serves comfort food with Vermont ingredients (the burger meat is sourced from nearby Riverbend Farm) and infused with a bit of southern flair. Try the pistachio and local honey-crusted Vermont lamb ribs with whipped parsnip and demi-glace.
Across the gap in Middlebury, The Arcadian and Haymaker Bun Company opened a shared space abutting Otter Creek, downtown at the former site of The Lobby, in November. Before a day at the Middlebury Snow Bowl, stop by for a coffee and sweet and savory buns, baked by co-owner Caroline Corrente. Or, after a day at Rikert Nordic Center, enjoy a traditional Italian dinner, prepared by her husband, chef Matt Corrente.
SOUTH CENTRAL VERMONT
As Vail Resorts takes over Okemo, Ludlow has seen a verifiable boom in restaurant openings this year. La Tavola Ristorante, which opened in September, serves authentic Italian dishes like Rigatoni Fantasia, a rich pasta ensemble featuring hearty mushrooms, peas, caramelized onions and prosciutto in a decadent cognac cream sauce. Owners Fernando and Soa Uva have run La Tavola Ristorantes in Provincetown, Mass. and in Marco Island, Fla., and chose Ludlow after hearing about Vail Resorts’ purchase of Okemo.
Du Jour Café opened in July and offers adventurous specials and American staples like its burger, which features local ground beef on a freshly-baked bun with baby greens, homemade tomato relish and sweet potato chips. Chef and co-owner Peter Dickinson once cooked Julia Child an omelet while he was a dishwasher at the Woodstock Inn and Resort. Today, his cooking turns classic dishes on their ear with new twists. His partner in business, and in life, Desiree Gucia grew up in her mother’s kitchen at Ludlow’s Café Delight.
Sam’s Steakhouse also reopened in downtown Ludlow this year after a one-year hiatus under the new ownership of Mark Williams, who previously owned the Chophouse on Pond Street.
For an Okemo tradition, head to Mt. Holly for dinner at the new location of Harry’s Café. After five years in Ludlow, owners Trip Pierce and Debbie Alosi decided to relocate their popular restaurant to its original location in Mt. Holly for its intimate, cozy vibe last spring. Alosi and Pierce have run Harry’s since 1989 and grow many of the ingredients in their home garden. “The idea is to serve farm to mouth and skip the table,” says Pierce, who served 4,500 pad Thais last year, but said the current menu features a lot of in-season local butternut squash, potatoes, and leeks. There, try deep-fried black bean ravioli topped with freshly shaved grilled sweet corn, melted Vermont cheddar and homemade salsa.
Bethel is not exactly a ski town. But if you’re headed north on I-89, there’s now a new reason to get off at Exit 3: Babes Bar. The new bar serves spunky cocktails like “Babes Bitter Morning,” which features SILO Lavender Vodka from Windsor, Aperol, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of simple syrup. Don’t be fooled by the fancy cocktails; Babes Bar co-owners Owen Daniel-McCarter and Jesse Plotsky also offer laid-back vibes and $2.50 Miller High Life drafts.
In Brownsville, you can stop for lunch at the new Brownsville Butcher & Pantry, which was opened by couple Lauren Stevens and Peter Varkonyi at the site of the former Brownsville General Store in September. Varkonyi, 29 and a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, is the chef and is also a trained butcher. Stevens runs the business and store side. They offer affordable breakfast fare like the Broadway Scramble: Vermont chevre, oyster mushrooms, chives, dill and toast as well as deli sandwiches for lunch. Stay tuned for their highly anticipated weekend brunch and dinner menus. It’s the perfect place to grab a bite before or after hitting the slopes at Ascutney Outdoor Center.
If you’re driving north from Boston or New York, check out Trail Break Taps + Tacos, which opened in White River Junction in November 2017. Try the chorizo-spiced, chilled ahi-avocado salad with crispy potatoes, spicy crema and cilantro with one of their 23 draft ciders and beers. For a great cortado, made with Vermont-roasted abracadabra espresso, check out JUEL Juice + Smoothies on White River Junction’s Main Street. The former food truck opened its store this summer with menu items like the Red Velvet smoothie, which features strawberries, raw cauliflower, cashews, dates, raw cocoa powder, beet powder and vanilla.
If sandwiches are more your thing, Phnom Penh Sandwich Station opened on White River Junction’s Main Street in November. Expect authentic Cambodian and South Asian fare, from curries to banh mi, spring rolls and Cambodian iced coffee.
In Bellows Falls, business partners Remy Walker, Alain Martinez and Gabriele Soyka converted a previously empty building next door to the Bellows Falls Opera House into an all-season, indoor-outdoor, community and kid-friendly Munich-style biergarten called the Wunderbar this summer.
The new space features large windows, 30 varieties of indoor plants and a menu chock full of local and global beers, wines and awesome cocktails like the Green Fairy, a classic which features absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and St. Germaine. The tapas-style menu is eclectic, with fun twists on regional treats like yucca poutine.
In Manchester, Rachel’s Gourmet Foods has had a total makeover and is now Moonwink, a Burmese restaurant with a uniquely Vermont twist. It’s a project of ninth-generation Vermonter Wesley Stannard and his wife, chef May Stannard of Yangon, Burma. Specials include mohinga, a stew of catfish flavored with ginger, lemongrass and garlic.
If you’re looking for a gastropub, try Union Underground, in the basement of the Factory Point National Bank building on Manchester’s Main Street. The restaurant opened in May and its owners are father and son team Bill and Steve Drunsic. Try theFiddlehead IPA-steamed PEI mussels or the Perfect Union, a dish of braised duck, spicy local greens, apricot and maple vinaigrette at this plastic-free establishment.
And at Stratton’s BaseCamp, skiers can drink local beers on the roof of this shipping container-turned bar at Stratton’s main base lodge area while watching skiers on the slopes. BaseCamp opened this summer, and this winter, the menu will feature pizza and piping hot waffles.
After a day of skiing at Magic Mountain, swing over to Springfield for dinner at The Copper Fox, a chef-owned farm-to-table Vermont-chic restaurant on
Main Street that opened in May. Try a Rainbow Red from Springfield-based Trout River Brewing Co. with Chef Nick Matush’s pulled pork taco topped with avocado, juicy pea shoots, house-pickled fennel and spicy-sweet shishito peppers.
Over in Peru, Johnny Seesaw’s saw a complete overhaul in 2018 (see page 44). The dining room in the reconstructed roadhouse lodge has all the atmosphere you’d expect from one of Vermont’s oldest ski lodges. The menu features ceviche, braised duck leg poutine with Maplebrook Farm cheese curds and creative deserts like honeydew carpaccio, served with house-made coconut sorbet.
If you’re driving through Brattleboro, be sure to stop at Twin Flames Taqueria, the brainchild of James Casterline and partner Amber Bergeron.
Twin Flames opened in June and the menu features SoCal-Mexican fusion dishes along with authentic Mexican cuisine like pozole, a deep red broth soup seasoned with warming chile ancho and filled with grilled vegetables, purple cabbage and hominy that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day.
Also new in Brattleboro is Yalla Vermont, which serves fare from Israel, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen made with locally sourced ingredients. Chef Zohar Arama of Israel has been selling his homemade pitas and hummus at co-ops and farmers markets since 2015 and opened the restaurant in May. For a sweet treat, try the Malabi, a chilled, creamy pudding infused with rosewater and topped with pistachios, coconut flakes and a sweet syrup
At Mount Snow, Carinthia Lodge will have two new bars this winter. One will be a sit-down restaurant and another will start the morning as a coffee bar and end the day as a slopeside après ski destination with glass doors that open onto a new 9,000 square-foot deck that faces Carinthia Parks. Mount Snow has not yet released a menu, but there will likely be regular live music.