Our area boasts a considerable and diverse number of restaurants per capita, many of them exceptional. The following short reviews of some of our favorites are meant to help you find a starting place on your quest for Vermont’s finest.
The Belted Cow
4 Park St., Essex Junction. A casual American eatery has blossomed in the space formerly occupied by the Lincoln Inn’s coffee shop at Five Corners. Proprietors Caitlin Bilodeau and John Delpha completely renovated the kitchen and redid the dining room, which seats 85. Delpha, an award-winning chef trained at Johnson and Wales, earned his executive chef chops at some of Boston’s finest kitchens. Bilodeau is an Olympic fencer and former national human resources manager. The menu features American bistro fare with a strong emphasis on seasonal products and local flavors. Think prosciutto-wrapped Pete’s salad greens with shaved fennel and scallion vinaigrette, or roasted halibut with spring peas, fingerling potatoes, pea-shoot broth, and garlic scapes. Don’t miss the grilled flatbread with duck confit, blue cheese, fontina, and black figs. The couple offers off-site catering and in-house banquets. Open Tuesday through Thursday 5 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 to 9 p.m. (802) 316-3883; email@example.com.
1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne. One of Gourmet magazine’s “Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants in 2007.” The restaurant showcases food of the season, grown sustainably at Shelburne Farms and on local Vermont farms. Menus reflect classic culinary techniques and traditions with regional influences and incorporate the freshest ingredients including Shelburne Farms’ own Cheddar cheese, made from the milk of its Brown Swiss herd. The Marble Dining Room and its terrace are open to the public for breakfast, dinner, and Sunday brunch. They provide a spectacular view of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, and the formal gardens of the historic Inn, built in the 1880s as the home of the Webb family, who founded Shelburne Farms. Open May 8 through Oct. 17. Reservations required: 985-8498. www.shelburnefarms.org. Joyce’s Noodle House
5 Carmichael St., Essex Junction. For dining in or takeout, Joyce Fong, the chef-owner of Joyce’s Noodle House, creates lip-smackingly authentic Chinese dishes generous with vegetables. Joyce’s will make any menu item a vegetarian one on request. Specialties are dim sum Mandarin-style, Cantonese meat, spicy Szechuan and Hunan dishes, and noodles: soft, crispy, fried, in soups, delicious noodles. The menu includes several Thai dishes, and combination dinners are served all day. Full bar. No MSG is used, and Joyce’s cooks with only 100% vegetable oil. Prices are reasonable, and credit cards are accepted. (802) 288-9828. www.joycesnoodlehouse.com. Junior’s Italian
Two locations: 85 South Park Drive, Colchester, left from Exit 16 off I-89 North; and 176 Main St., downtown Burlington. Known as “Vermont’s Little Italy,” Junior’s is family-owned and -operated, offering classic recipes from the Old Country. This destination spot for authentic Italian has something for everyone: casual fine dining (inside or out), traditional pizzeria, scrumptious bakery, full-service bar, WiFi, and space for private events. Open for lunch and dinner; dinner reservations recommended. For dining room/reservations (802) 655-0000; pizzeria, take-out and delivery (802) 655-5555; catering and bakery (802) 655-5282; downtown Burlington (802) 862-1234. For more information and menu, go to www.juniorsvt.com. Leunig’s Bistro
115 Church St., on the Church Street Marketplace, Burlington. Experience Leunig’s and you’ll believe its motto: “The spirit of an Old World café in the heart of downtown Burlington.” It has charming decor, creative food, and a well-appointed bar. At the corner of Church and College streets, Leunig’s offers a prime spot for downtown people-watching (or for being seen). Leunig’s special-blend coffee and fresh orange juice make a great start for Saturday or Sunday. Serving lunch, dinner, and brunch. Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (802) 863-3759. www.leunigsbistro.com. Leonardo’s Pizza
83 Pearl St., Burlington; 1160 Williston Road, South Burlington. Leonardo’s Pizza is a local, family-owned and -operated company established in 1990. It has been voted “Best Pizza” by several local surveys. Leonardo’s recently introduced organic wheat dough made with King Arthur Organic flour. A member of the Vermont Fresh Network and Local First Vermont, Leonardo’s offers traditional, gourmet, and vegetarian pizzas; salads; bread sticks; and five flavors of chicken wings. Free delivery, business charge accounts, and online ordering at www.leonardosonline.com. Open seven days a week. Burlington (802)862-7700 or S. Burlington and Winooski (802)951-9000. Lucia’s Italian Restaurant & Bar
276 N. Main St., Barre. Lucia’s serves classic Italian comfort food in the Neapolitan style. Try baked ziti, lasagna, manicotti, or eggplant Parmesan straight from the oven, or choose one of the many sauté items made fresh to order, such as pasta primavera, chicken piccata, shrimp Fra Diavolo, or veal saltimbocca. The large dining room features warm Mediterranean earth tones on the walls, red-and-white checkered tablecloths, and a friendly, casual atmosphere welcoming locals and travelers alike. Lucia’s will accommodate private parties from 15 to 150 people in the extensive banquet rooms and will tailor menu choices accordingly. Visit Lucia’s for lunch, dinner, take out, or to meet a friend at the bar for a cocktail after work. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner. Now booking private parties, rehearsal dinners and company functions in their spacious banquet room. (802) 476-7722. Pauline’s Café and Restaurant
1834 Shelburne Road, South Burlington. Chef David is the creative energy behind one of the area’s best-known chef-owned restaurants. Pauline’s has been serving locals and tourists alike for over 20 years. Whether you’re seeking an intimate dinner for two or entertaining large groups of family, friends, or clients, the restaurant offers a fine-dining experience in a casual, comfortable environment. Menus feature many locally raised or foraged edibles from the Lake Champlain basin. Famous for its Maine crab cakes, Pauline’s also offers local free-range chicken, organic American beef, and farm-fresh vegetables in season. The wine list is carefully chosen to complement the food and features many biodynamic and organically produced wines from around the world. Dining options include a casual café; relaxed, elegant upstairs dining rooms; two private party rooms; an outdoor patio in season; and a cozy bar. All dining venues are wheelchair accessible. Reservations are recommended. (802) 862-1081; www.paulinescafe.com. Three Tomatoes Trattoria
Serving rustic Italian cuisine to rave reviews for 20 years, Three Tomatoes features signature pasta dishes, thin crust pizzas, antipasti, salads, fresh seafood and more, all with a focus on wholesome local food products from Vermont and New Hampshire farms and food producers. Fine Italian wines, casual atmosphere and friendly service. Large parties are welcome. Seasonal outdoor dining is available at both locations. Join the Frequent Diner Club online or in person. With additional locations in Rutland and Lebanon, N.H., you’ll find out why Three Tomatoes is called, “Your passport to Italy, right in your hometown.” 83 Church Street, Burlington (802) 660-9533. Maple Tree Place, Williston (802) 857-2200. www.ThreeTomatoesTrattoria.com. Toscano Café/Bistro
27 Bridge St., Richmond. Opened by chef Jon Fath, a 1995 graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, and his wife, Lucie Bolduc-Fath, this cozy little bistro offers Old World charm in downtown Richmond, just 20 minutes from Burlington. Fresh flowers on the tables and soft candlelight create a romantic ambiance. The menu features rustic Mediterranean cuisine with fresh seafood and veal, fine Italian wines, and Vermont microbrews. Appetizers include crab cakes with saffron aioli, and Prince Edward Island mussels with white wine, plum tomatoes, and basil. Entrées include wild mushroom ravioli with Gorgonzola sauce, cedar-plank roasted salmon with maple balsamic glaze, vegetable Napoleon, and chef’s choice beef tenderloin filet. Soups and desserts, such as crème brûlée and cappuccino chocolate mousse, are made in-house. Open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday; dinner Tuesday through Sunday; brunch Sundays. (802) 434-3148. The Windjammer
1076 Williston Road, South Burlington. Specializing in steak, seafood, and prime rib, The Windjammer has been a local favorite for over 30 years. The beef is aged for 4 to 6 weeks for optimum flavor, marbling, and tenderness. The prime rib is seasoned and slow-roasted all day, making it one of the house favorites. The seafood is as fresh as you can find anywhere. Each entrée includes a trip to the boat-shaped salad bar with over 40 items of the freshest local produce available. An extensive wine list with more than 100 labels has been selected to compliment the menu. Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; dinner Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Reservations suggested. (802)862-6585. www.WindjammerRestaurant.com.