The following short reviews of some of our favorite restaurants and watering holes will help you find a starting place on your quest for Vermont’s finest.
27 State St., Montpelier. Montpelier might be the nation’s smallest state capital, but it boasts a mighty cup o’ joe at Capitol Grounds. Capitol Grounds is both a coffee roaster/wholesaler and a café with the kind of atmosphere you want for meeting and talking, gazing at passersby, or surfing the net with free Wi-Fi. It’s been around for 12 years — long enough to know what customers like. Besides some of the best coffee around, Capitol Grounds offers a nice selection of teas, including chai lattes, plus smoothies, iced teas and coffees, lemonade, and Italian sodas. Try one of the breakfast (eat-in or take-out) sandwiches or burritos, lunch soups, salads, and sandwiches, or one of an ample selection of pastries. No need to worry about the coffee: You’ll find fair-trade and bird-friendly, shade-grown varieties. Open at 6:15 a.m. weekdays; 7 a.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. Sundays. Hours change seasonally. www.capitolgrounds.com; (802) 223-7800.
28 N. Main St., St. Albans. Chef-owner Connie Jacobs Warden offers upscale dining in a charming, Old World environment. Sample microbrews are on tap at the Italian granite bar. On the other side of the restaurant, a lighted, 24 ft. bar was made using the building’s “Twiggs” men’s clothing store sign from the 1800’s. A brick room in the back affords private space for meetings or gatherings, with ample space for dancing. Two private rooms seat up to 75. Chow!Bella supports local farmers and producers and the menu reflects it. The grill features steaks, free-range chicken, salmon, pork chops, or portabella mushrooms. A variety of pastas are offered, each with its delicately seasoned sauce and Bella! flatbreads. Open Monday and Tuesday 5 to 9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Brunch and lunch specials on Sundays 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. www.chowbella.us; (802) 524-1405. 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, Wi-Fi, 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. 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 the spacious banquet room. (802) 476-7722. 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. 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 whole 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; South Burlington and Winooski, (802) 951-9000. 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. Mexicali
On the green at Maple Tree Place, Williston’s Mexicali Authentic Mexican Grill is a popular spot for lovers of the true, tangy flavors of Mexico. Inexpensive and casual, its menu covers the basics, with interesting variations on burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichangas, tamales, nachos, chiles rellenos, and quesadillas. Try one of the homemade salsas, with your choice of zing ranging from mild to XXX hot. Daily specials on food and drinks. Awesome food and fantastic margaritas. Catering available. Open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Two doors down from the Majestic Theater. Stop in before the movie or after the show. www.mexicalivt.net; (802) 879-9492. 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. Crab cakes and Prince Edward Island mussels are favorite appetizers. 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 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 complement 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. •