These 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.
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.
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. Healthy Living Café
222 Dorset St., South Burlington. Healthy Living’s fare has expanded considerably since 1986, when the owner put out a Crock-Pot of vegetarian chili to entice customers shopping its aisles. Since moving a few years ago to its new, airy, and beautiful space, Healthy Living and its café have garnered a well-deserved reputation for an eclectic mix of foods, served to hundreds of shoppers and diners every day, including Sunday brunch with live music. The café’s staff has grown to 40, and the menu features ethnic specialties; vegetarian and vegan options; local meats; custom-built sandwiches and panini; and breads, desserts, and pastries from the in-house bakery. Hands-on classes and demos are conducted regularly. The menu changes frequently, but always offers fare that’s pleasing to the eye as well as the tongue and the soul. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; hot bar lunch/dinner 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday brunch 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. www.healthylivingsupermarket.com/cafe; (802) 863-2569. Rocky’s NY Pizza
Taft Farm Shopping Plaza, Williston; 39 Park St., Essex Junction. Brooklyn native Terrance “Rocky” Leary opened the area’s first Rocky’s pizza parlor in 1994. It grew to be one of Chittenden County’s top destinations for New York–style pies. The Williston location opened in 1999, soon to be followed by one in Essex Junction. Early in 2011, John and Logan Howe bought the Williston location and have incorporated their restaurant experience and a fresh taste spin to the menu. The star, of course, is still Rocky’s genuine New York–style pizza. Check out the Specialty Pizzas like The Vegetarian eggplant pizza or Rocky’s Irishman, with potato, onion, and bacon and a pesto sauce. Or venture away from pies to the famous Rocky Rolls with marinara, calzones, subs, or Pasta a la Rocky. A party room is available. Open at 10:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday; Sundays at 11. www.rockyspizzavt.com. Williston: 878-5556; Essex Junction, 878-4441. 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. 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. The Barn Door Weddings & Events and 1824 House Inn
2150 Main St., Waitsfield. This former farm-to-table restaurant was so popular as a special event facility, the owners decided to give catering the lead (except for Bar-B-Q Mondays). The four-season property features an eight-room country inn, with 8 acres of grounds steeped in Green Mountain landscape. There’s an area for tented events, and lots of room for all kinds of activities. The authentic Vermont barn will surprise you with its full catering capabilities. The owners’ other family business include Occasions Catering, The Linen Shop (for linen rental), and Village Porch Bistro & Bar Catering. Choose a wedding, large or small, inside or out; a fund-raiser or wine tasting; a holiday party or corporate picnic; an anniversary or birthday celebration; family reunion; a business retreat; or a getaway group vacation. Thursday through Monday, 5 to 9 p.m.; www.thebarndoorvt.com or 1824house.com; 496-7555. Capitol Grounds
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 (eat-in or take-out) breakfast 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. 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. 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. Belle’s Café
On the Green at Maple Tree Place, 121 Connor Way, Williston. Since 2004, Belle’s has been the place for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. The new owner, Heidi Brousseau, has retained the old-time atmosphere, reminiscent of Vermont country stores and filled with the fragrance of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, muffins, croissants, and Belle’s locally famous oatmeal bread. Sandwiches are made to order. Try the French Toast Bake for breakfast, topped with fruit preserves and cream cheese frosting, served with maple syrup. Or for lunch, Belle’s is one of the few places in Vermont to find a Cubano sandwich, grilled on Italian white bread. And Belle’s desserts — think “scrumptious Napoleon” — will keep you coming back. Belle’s offers delivery and pickup, and catering for corporate lunches, staff meetings, and holiday parties. Open from 8 a.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m. Sundays. 872-2802. Inn at Shelburne Farms
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 6 through Oct. 17. Reservations required: 985-8498. www.shelburnefarms.org. 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, baked haddock Provencal with grilled polenta, butternut squash gnocci with Calvidos, 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. — To make your restaurant part of the next Dining Out,