Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Restaurant Review...or five

I am very lucky here in Burlington. For those of you that don’t know me, I absolutely love to go out to eat. I like to try new places, but I also have some favorites that I continue to revisit. I like the whole experience – being waited on, having new and different meals prepared for me, spending time with friends and family over the dinner table. When given the choice, going out for dinner (of breakfast, or brunch, or lunch, or…) is my favorite way to spend my extra income.
Thankfully, one of my closest friends here in Vermont, Danielle, feels exactly the same way. Over the past year, we’ve fallen into something of a routine. At least once a week, we get dinner together. If we have a class together, dinner usually falls after that, otherwise, we wing it (sometimes literally…get it…Buffalo wings…oh, never mind). Because of this, we have hit a lot of Burlington’s more prominent restaurants. Of course, sometimes we get lazy and do Chili’s or Olive Garden, but that’s pretty rare. We much prefer to check out the local foodie scene, which is extensive. Some of the notable places we’ve visited include:

Al’s French Fries: iconic and cheap – and a great cremee stand in the summer!
The Kitchen Table in Richmond, VT: One of the most hyped about places around, they focus on local ingredients. The service was outstanding and the atmosphere was great – the restaurant is housed in an old farmhouse with a lot of charm. The food was yummy, certainly not a disappointment, but nothing too special either. The chef’s liberal use of bacon is definitely a plus.
The Icehouse: Deemed one of the most romantic restaurants in Burlington – which I could see, if you watched the sun set over Lake Champlain with your sweetie. Otherwise, this establishment has nothing to brag about. I ordered a spicy seafood dish and asked them to not make it too spicy. Instead, it came out bland. Desserts were satisfying but predictable. The service was a 3 out of 5. Confession: I LOVE Red Lobster. I know, I know – a chain?!? But what can I say? I’d hoped The Icehouse would provide a good substitute, since we lack Red Lobster’s here in the Champlain Valley. Nope – although the décor was similar, Red Lobster’s food is way better. Yes, you read that right.
The Windjammer: This restaurant did provide me with the seafood I was so craving after The Icehouse let me down. The crab legs were great, if not a little pricey, and the salad “boat” is a lot of fun. Service and atmosphere were pleasant, too. The quality of my experience surprised me, considering the restaurant is associated with a hotel – not usually a good sign for culinary excellence.
The Bearded Frog in Shelburne, VT: One of my favorite restaurants so far. The atmosphere here is wonderful – warm and cozy, including a real working fireplace. The service was also really good. My appetizer and entrée were good, too, but dessert was what really shined.

At this point, I need to take a break from my listing to make an important statement. This list is only a small sampling of our experiences. We have also visited Sweetwater’s, Scuffers, The Lakeview House, and Leunigs. The reason I lump all these together is their similarity. Okay service, okay food…but nothing that makes them shine, you know? The menus are also all very predictable. Salads with Vermont cheese, steak, some kind of seafood, desserts that require assembly more that actually culinary expertise. Even the Kitchen Table and The Bearded Frog fall into this category a little, but their atmospheres and service are what set them apart. I know I sound pretty negative right now, and I don’t really mean to – despite my comments here, I still enjoyed my meals at each of these establishments. I am more just making an observation, and would welcome comments on the topic.

That’s a lot of information to take in, and it is only a fraction of what I have to offer – I didn’t even get into breakfast joints yet! That’ll have to be a later post, as I am out of time and energy for the moment (so much for the superfoods diet, huh?). Until next time!


  1. What's wrong with Vermont cheese? I'm fairly sure you aren't knocking the cheese in Vermont, but what's wrong with it being on all the menus? This is Vermont after all...

  2. Just to clarify: I am ABSOLUTELY not knocking Vermont cheese. In fact, I tend to believe that almost any food can be vastly improved by the inclusion of cheese (and those of Vermont are esp. tasty, and some of the best I have ever sampled -- so fresh! So creamy!). I was simply pointing out the similarity of many of the menu items at these restuarants.