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People's Palates: 2009 Edition 

7 Nights readers weigh in on where to eat

Everyone’s a food critic on the 7 Nights website. In our online dining guide, readers can leave “comment cards” touting their favorite restaurants or warning others away from places they didn’t find so tasty.

Most of the comments on 7 Nights are about tried-and-true area favorites — A Single Pebble leads the pack with 98 opinions, while Leunig’s boasts 79. But it’s always fun to check up on less familiar eateries and see if they’re worth a drive from where you live. To help out, Seven Days has scoured an entire year’s worth of comments and picked out warm recommendations of spots that opened — or changed chefs — in 2009. The stars indicate the average score the restaurant received on 7 Nights.

Self-appointed tastemakers are indicated by their chosen screen names. Bear in mind, we can’t — and don’t — corroborate their reports of their dining experiences, and we’ve only minimally corrected their grammar and spelling. Want to disagree, chime in or review your own favorite local spot? Visit and tell us all about it.

156 Bistro – 4 stars 156 St. Paul Street, Burlington, 881-0556

“Rmesbj01” says: “Finally, Burlington has a place where I can watch my teams play and not have to deal with drunken college kids. Scallops are hands down the best appetizer in town and the burger is infused with Gorgonzola cheese [and] melts in your mouth! With great food, excellent service and one of the best views in town, I recommend this place to anyone. My favorite places in NYC remind me of 156 Bistro. Finally, Burlington brings the ideal combination of food service and ambiance … [that] a sophisticated sports fan like [me] looks for.”

Ake’s Den – 5 stars 5351 Main Street, Waitsfield, 496-9000

“Samfamfoodie” says: “We ate outside … and had a terrific meal. The Friday Night Fish Fry is not to be missed. The fish was perfectly fried and had a very pleasant hint of beer to the batter. The sweet potato fries are out of this world and the Den Burger was loved by all. My son had his topped with sautéed mushrooms and bacon, and it was the best we’ve had in a long time. Check it out for amazing pub food and great beers.”

1006Asiana Noodle Shop – 4 stars 88 Church Street, Burlington, 862-8828

“Uberlocalvore” says: “Oh, how I’ve been waiting for a noodle house in B-Town! How fortunate we are to have the folks from Asiana House heading up this new venture … We had the ginger tea (YUM!), the fried oysters (YUM!), and I got the kimchi broth with beef and my honey got the tom yum soup with chicken. Both were perfect. The tom yum was perfectly flavored and spicy (just what the doctor ordered!) with wide rice noodles, and the kimchi … with glass noodles and beef was a perfect fit. We were crammed at a table by the kitchen, but we were still comfortable and the service was great … [I] can’t wait to try everything on the menu!”

August First – 5 stars 149 South Champlain Street, Burlington, 540-0060

“Nutrimens Amor” says: “Yesterday I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out what to eat for lunch … and was reminded of August First ... I am kind of a sandwich snob, having grown up in the NYC area. It did not disappoint! I ordered a curried chicken salad sandwich. There was a choice of baguette or sourdough … I went with the sourdough and, boy, was it good. The bread was moist, fresh and delicious. The chicken salad was the best I ever had: perfectly cooked small pieces of chicken mixed with raisins. The chicken was … beautifully seasoned and the raisins give it a delicious sweetness that paired perfectly with the curry. The sandwich is a little pricey at $8.25 (other offerings are $6.50), but is well worth it. [It] came with a nice salad with a delicious, creamy, homemade balsamic vinaigrette, which helped make the $8.25 not hurt so [much]. Overall, a great experience.”

Bar Antidote – 5 stars 35 C Green Street, Vergennes, 877-2555

“Kashore” says: “Good news — same interesting drink selection, knowledgeable staff and appealing décor. Great news — [a] new, bigger location [and a] new menu that is diverse, delicious and cheap. [Our party of four tried] the cheese plate and mussels for apps, and the fish and chips, burger, salad, and quesadilla for entrées. Everyone raved, and my husband swore it was the best burger he’s ever had in VT … As a nonmeat-eater, I appreciated the wide variety of options. [There’s a] great emphasis on local and homemade goods. And we loved the prices — it was a great deal. We will be back often!”

The Bee’s Knees – 4 stars 82 Lower Main Street, Morrisville, 888-7889

“Love2Cook” says: “We stopped at The Bee’s Knees in Morrisville this past weekend … and were delighted with the offerings. My partner and I both ordered from the specials board — she enjoyed a crab cake special (with lots of crab and not much filler!) while I tried the Boyden Burger Benedict — sunny-side-up eggs topped with a mini burger of Boyden Farms beef, all covered with a yummy hollandaise. We will be returning to Bee’s Knees again soon!”

The Belted Cow – 5 stars 4 Park Street, Essex Junction, 316-3883

“TonyO” says: “My wife and I dined at The Belted Cow bistro this past Saturday night. We started with the tartine and [a] roasted beet salad. The tartine is a rich dish with tender smoked pork … tart pickled onions and … a cheddar cheese fondue that all tie together nicely. The salad is among the best offerings in the area, as it is properly dressed and bursting with fresh flavors and textures. Our entrées were the seared scallops (which can also be ordered as an appetizer, a nice touch) and duck breast. The main ingredients, duck and scallops, are paired perfectly with sauces, vegetables and seasonings … The wine list continues to expand with a large selection available by the glass. Desserts are also excellent. We have sampled a few on different visits, including the Bananas Foster Cheesecake. Our server, Nick, was professional and considerate, as has been the case with all our servers at The Belted Cow. Our next visit will be on a Tuesday evening, when John mans the smoker to produce some incredible BBQ. The Belted Cow has made it [onto] our short list of consistently excellent options in this area…”

¡Duino! (Duende) – 5 stars 10 North Winooski Avenue, Burlington, 660-9346

“AK Cook” says: “At last, a place to get fabulous and diverse food suitable for [a] late-night snack, romantic dinner or small party. There is something for everyone here, and the two plate sizes — all priced at 5 [or] 10 dollars — make it easy and affordable to try some of everything. Five dollars gets you a tapas-sized crêpe with chicken and brie, or perhaps Iranian kabobs. [If those aren’t] to your liking try the Cubano sandwich. The portions are larger or [are] paired with salads or fries to make up the 10-dollar plates. The banana ketchup is reason enough to order some fries or plantains! The ambience is romantic, dimly lit and warm feeling from the use of red-toned paints and art. A stunning gold-painted tin ceiling gives off the feeling of being in a cozy, sexy jewel box … Check out the slate and geode bar and the wooden flooring ... The waitstaff and kitchen crew were smiling and perfectly pleasant … [The] only negative was that the music next door at Radio Bean was fairly loud. If you are not into the band that is playing, then it may not be the experience you were hoping for.”

Firebird Café – 4 stars 163 Pearl Street, Essex Junction, 316-4265

“PandJ” says: “My husband and I wanted to go out for an easy but unique brunch on Sunday and chose the Firebird Café. I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict with poblano sauce and my husband got a special egg-and-chorizo dish. Both dishes were delicious, the service was very friendly, and the atmosphere was cozy and bright. I especially appreciated the ... fresh tomato and cilantro salsa on the side of the dish — it provided a perfect balance to the creaminess of the Benedict! We’ll definitely go back. It’s a great alternative to the typical!”

Monty’s Old Brick Tavern – 5 stars7921 Williston Road, Williston, 316-4262

“AJBike” says: “My wife and I went for the first time on a Sunday afternoon … and we were pleasantly surprised: great beer, great service, and the lunch menu is interesting and fun. We were so happy we went back for dinner on Friday, and MAN were we blown away: great appetizers (the ribs are to die for) and possibly the best chicken dish EVER. Yes, it was a special that night, but I asked the chef to leave it on the menu, and hopefully he listens. Do yourself a favor and go there…”

One Federal – 4 stars 1 Federal Street, St. Albans, 524-0330

“StAlbans” says: “I ate here once when the previous owners had it, and … hesitated to go back because I felt [the new owners] could not outdo the last time I dined here. I was terribly wrong, and now I regret not going back before. The meal, Seafood Newburg, was one of the best I have eaten. We had a glass of white wine, they served fresh homemade bread and a salad with homemade dressing, and it was all amazing and delicious. This type of dining experience is found more commonly in the Greater Montréal area, but I am very pleased to find it right here in our hometown. Dining like this is certainly worth the trip no matter where you are coming from. My last comment is about the service: It is rare that you find the quality [of] service we received in any establishment, and to get served in the manner we did was second only to the quality of the meal ... I will go back, soon, I hope.”

Pho Phat Tai – 4 stars 118 Pearl Street, Essex, 288-9996

“StAFoodie” says: “Delicious food and efficient, friendly service! Partaking of their shrimp shumai, red curry chicken and vietnamese fried rice reminded me of eating [at a] restaurant in San Francisco … The décor is very basic, but do not let that or the simple restaurant name confuse you. The quality of dishes offered and the delightful service have me looking forward to our next visit. If you like Vietnamese, Thai, Korean or Chinese food, I am sure you will find something on the menu to tempt you. We are so fortunate to have another wonderful Asian restaurant in the Champlain Valley.”

The Reservoir – 4 stars 1 South Main Street, Waterbury, 244-7827

“Atlas” says: “We had to try this place twice before believing it was true, but YES — Waterbury now has another place for great pub food … Food is served until late, which works for us. Service was above average and very competent. Prices are very reasonable for the quality and amount. Foodies, take note: The food is interesting and fun. The Switchback Fish and Chips was perfection (even the fries), not a note of sogginess and very flavorful. Crab cakes, nacho dip, great. Good wings. Had a turkey burger from the night’s specials and was seriously blown away. Would love for this to be a Vermont Fresh Network pub if possible, with local meats, etc., but have read that it may not happen. Also, we’d love to see the beer selection grow to include more high-alcohol brews … and some top-shelf tequila offerings. Still, we are SO glad that this is here, and really hope it’s here to stay.”

River Run Restaurant – 4 stars 58 Main Street, Plainfield, 454-1246

“Morganna” says: “Last night was the first chance I’ve had to eat at River Run with the new boss and the new cook in place … My husband got roast pork with apple brandy sauce, mashed potatoes, and braised spinach. I got deep-fried oysters on skewers served over a large house salad with two thick slices of fresh local bread. I ordered a side of cornbread and traded that with my husband for his spinach. We shared a piece of pecan pie … Our total bill for the night (which included a soda for my husband and a generous tip) was $40. The pork was a tiny bit undercooked, but well within guidelines and very tasty … The sauce was outstanding. Their cornbread has been vastly improved from before: It is now tender and flavorful … I thoroughly enjoyed the perfectly cooked spinach. My oysters were great. The breading … wasn’t too thick or too thin, and they were fresh and tasty. The buttermilk dressing from my salad went very well with the oysters, too … The bread they served was nicely chewy, and they brought me … real butter, when I asked … The pecan pie was the best pecan pie I’ve had in Vermont in years. They get it from a local woman who lives up the street … Our waitress … was able to answer questions about the specials without having to refer to her notes or ask someone. Any minor errors were quickly and amicably resolved. I strongly recommend a visit to this restaurant...”

Saigon Bistro – 4 stars 119 College Street, Burlington, 881-0550

“RStewart” says: “My first experience with Saigon Bistro was memorable … Upon arriving, we were greeted by a friendly host, who sat us in a window seat, per our request. Almost immediately, the waitress came over to offer us drinks and the list of specials … Saigon Bistro has many Thai dishes on the specials menu. One of these was … red curry duck. My friend ordered the lobster special, and his girlfriend … ordered a large soup (pho). By my estimation, our food was prepared in about 15 minutes … Wow, was I impressed when our plates were carried over to us! My red curry Duck looked like there might be more than half a duck’s-worth of meat on it, and it rested on a colorful mixture of asparagus, sliced red bell pepper and greens, all sitting in a delicious-looking curry sauce. My friend’s lobster dish was a whole lobster! I’ve never seen a full lobster priced at $15.95 in a restaurant before in my life … I used to live in Montréal and tried many restaurants there, but none offered this kind of quality for this price. Since that first visit I have become a regular at Saigon Bistro. When I come in, they [always] smile and jokingly ask me if I want red curry Duck (as I’ve ordered it at least 10 times since).”

Santos Cocina Latina – 4 stars 311 Mountain Road, Stowe, 253-3110

“YummyDenise” says: “Finally made it to Santos last night. Everything I’ve heard is true. The food was very good. We enjoyed every single dish that we tried. The grouper ceviche was amazing, as were the pulled-pork taquito and the codfish stew empanada. Entrées were amazingly decadent: [I] loved the flank steak with mashed roots, and the fried pork cubes were sinful. [My dining companion] could feel his arteries clogging as he ate them, but licked the bowl clean. Time to detox after such an extravagant meal! Loved the décor as well as the music, and it was nice to see some familiar faces both behind the bar and on the floor. A great addition to the Stowe restaurant scene!”

Three Penny Taproom – 4 stars 108 Main Street, Montpelier, 223-8277

“WanderingChef” says: “The Three Penny Taproom is a welcome addition to the VT culinary scene. Good beer, simple room, little pretense, simple, well-executed food at a great price so that you can try everything you want and mix and match with great beers. Try North Coast’s Brother Thelonious with the roasted marrowbones and shaved celery, parsley and mustard seed: The salad kills. We had pickled chard with dill, [which was] tasty and complex, and the cured duck prosciutto was yummy with braised radish … I think they are going to be around for a while, but get there now!”

Tourterelle – 5 stars 3629 Ethan Allen Highway, New Haven, 453-6309

“FoodeeVT” says: “We just returned from a spontaneous dinner at … Tourterelle in New Haven (just north of Middlebury). As folks who often lament the lack of delicious, reasonably priced food in or close to Middlebury, we were ECSTATIC to discover this gem. From the pear salad appetizer to the last sip of coffee, we came away EXTREMELY satisfied. The duck melted in your mouth and the hamburger with frites was one of the best we’ve had (we’ve sampled many!). Love the waitstaff and atmosphere — elegant but not stuffy. The co-owner, Christine, was just delightful — she was genuine and warm. We can’t wait to try brunch! Bon appétit!

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About The Author

Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the former Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a goose,... more


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