Back in 1991, the Handy family opened Evergreen Eddy’s Wilderness Grill in the then-new building at 70 Marshall Avenue in Williston. Later, they replaced it with a Ponderosa Steakhouse franchise. Now, Sam, Peter and Paul Handy have changed with the times once again: They’ve opened Vermont Tap House in the space.
“We wanted to work with local farmers and brewers,” says Sam Handy, who is returning to independent restaurant ownership along with his brothers. (The team also owns the South Burlington IHOP and will soon open another in place of Rutland’s historic Midway Diner, which closes Sunday.) “We wanted to do something that was different from the chains out here,” Handy explains.
The change is clear from the moment diners enter the Tap House. The walls are covered in big, colorful photos from Bethel’s Imagination Company that portray farmers and brewers, many of whom supply the restaurant. Both wood-fired pizza ovens are decorated with Vermont stonework. “Everything here was purchased in Vermont,” says Sam Handy — a choice that marks a 180-degree turn from the Ponderosa days.
Near the entrance, eight taps shine with names including Drop-In Brewing Company, Fiddlehead Brewing Company and Champlain Orchards. The menu, too, name checks several area farms, and designates as “local” items that may come from different suppliers on different days.
Appetizers include Farmstand Bruschetta, which pairs local tomatoes with Maplebrook Fine Cheese burrata on grilled bread. Popcorn chicken features Misty Knoll Farms meat breaded in semolina and Parmesan. Sandwiches are served on Italian-style rolls from Stewart’s Bakery, just down the road in Williston.
The rest of the menu is given over to the pizza offerings created by chefs Bob Castle and Bill Sawyer, divided into Garlic & Butter, Red Sauce and Chef’s Choice sections. The pies range from Simply Cheese and Margherita to uncommon pizzas such as the El Camino, topped with roasted corn, black beans, tomato, grilled chicken and cilantro.
The new spot has already attracted crowds. Since the Tap House opened last weekend, Sam Handy says, “Each day has been better than the last.”
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Bob Frazier: See you there!
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