Dining on a Dime | Bite Club | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Dining on a Dime

Friday, November 16, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Vergennes Laundry by CK

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 12:46 PM


Rice bowl at Vergennes Laundry by CK - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Rice bowl at Vergennes Laundry by CK
The choice was between three cider donuts dusted with cinnamon sugar and a rice bowl. I eyed the former and picked the latter.

These brunch options at Vergennes Laundry by CK are $12 each, tax and gratuity included. The donuts, $4 apiece, were mighty tempting, but I thought I should start my Sunday with a little nutritional balance. As it turned out, I was rewarded with a creatively delicious meal built in a bowl.

A fried egg, garnished with microgreens, topped a bowl of rice and kidney beans. The rice was sautéed with achiote paste, coloring it a pale orange and flavoring it with a touch of nuttiness. Tomato wedges, cucumber slices and kimchi were set around the bowl's perimeter, lit up by a scoop of lusciousness: avocado pureed with onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. The spoonful of avocado, thick and smooth, served as a paste to be apportioned with each bite. The rice bowl is here to stay, said Christian Kruse, 34, chef-owner of the restaurant.

“I’ve taken it off the menu one time,” Kruse said.  “And I was told [by customers] not to ever again.” 

Kruse grew up in Westford and graduated from Rice Memorial High School. He became interested in cooking when he lived on Church Street and watched the action in the open kitchen at the New England Culinary Institute restaurant that was on the Marketplace. He then enrolled at NECI.
Menu board at Vergennes Laundry by CK - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Menu board at Vergennes Laundry by CK
Kruse purchased Vergennes Laundry in the fall of 2017 from Julianne and Didier Murat, who ran the bakery and café for seven years. He spent a month renovating the space before opening his restaurant last December. He changed the name slightly — from Vergennes Laundry to Vergennes Laundry by CK — and the offerings more than that. 

Cappuccino at Vergennes Laundry by CK - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Cappuccino at Vergennes Laundry by CK
Though the café still serves baked goods, coffee and espresso drinks in the morning, as well as more substantial meals, Kruse added dinner service five nights a week. Like the breakfast/brunch menu, dinner prices include tax and tip; a three-course dinner is $39, dishes are available a la carte, too.

The former executive chef at Basin Harbor Club,  Kruse is cooking at both ends of the day. He arrives at Vergennes Laundry by CK  at 5 a.m. and is typically there until 10 or 11 at night.

“The labor pool of cooks is tough in this area,” Kruse said. “There are a lot of restaurants, and we’re all fighting for the small amount of cooks that are available.”

There’s another reason Kruse spends so much time in the kitchen: “I love what I do," he said.
Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: food@sevendaysvt.com.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Kerry's Kwik Stop

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2018 at 2:53 PM

Roast beef panini with fries from Kerry's Kwik Stop - HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • Hannah Palmer Egan
  • Roast beef panini with fries from Kerry's Kwik Stop
If you're looking for a fast and hearty midday meal, follow a contractor to their lunch spot. The fare may not be the healthiest — odds are, it won't be. But it'll fill you up, usually with something tasty, and almost always at a reasonable price.

Knowing this, I was relieved when I filed into line at Kerry's Kwik Stop, on St. Paul Street in Burlington during the lunch rush a couple weeks back. In front of me were an array of men in dusty steel-toed boots; some of them wore the neon yellow vests often donned by road crews. Excellent, I thought, starving.

Above the ordering counter, a chalkboard menu offers hot and cold sandwiches stuffed with McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli meats, along with burgers, hotdogs, corndogs, chicken tenders and fries loaded with chili or cheese and gravy. In the summer, there's outdoor seating and a full menu of ice cream and other frozen treats.

For lunch on a cold late-fall day, I went with one of the weekly specials: a pressed roast beef sandwich on ciabatta with horseradish mayo and provolone ($8.99). This usually comes with chips, but since it was blustery and overcast outside, I added a pint of hand-cut fries ($2.49) and a 99-cent cup of coffee because hey, why not. (All coffees, regardless of size, are 99 cents at Kerry's)

On line for lunch at Kerry's Kwik Stop - HANNAH PALMER EGAN
  • Hannah Palmer Egan
  • On line for lunch at Kerry's Kwik Stop
It's worth noting that coffee at Kerry's is the real deal. The store offers two organic roasts from Vermont Coffee Company, along with several additional options, flavored or otherwise, from other local roasters. And it's brewed strong enough so you can really taste it, but not so strong that it gives you the shakes. Just right — and hot, hot, hot.

So about the food: It was good — the sandwich had lots of meat, the horsey mayo added nice zing, and the red onions gave a touch of sweetness. I wasn't impressed by the bread, but it did what it needed to do. And the fries were crunchy and scattered with just the right amount of salt. I  stuffed a few in my sandwich — just like my contractor husband taught me to do many years ago — sipped my coffee, and gave thanks for the sustaining pleasure of a simple, working-class lunch.

Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: food@sevendaysvt.com.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Mirabelles Café

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 12:28 PM

Chili and salad - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Chili and salad
Amid the deluge of detritus on Facebook, an image of truth and beauty lit up my feed the other day. It was a chocolate cupcake topped with a mound of vanilla frosting and decorated with sparkly numerals: 28.

“Happy Birthday to us!” the accompanying text read.

Mirabelles Café & Bakery turned 28 this week. The occasion provided a good reason — though not a necessary one — for lunch at one of Burlington’s best restaurants.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Pho Dang Vietnamese Café

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Pho rau - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Pho rau
Cold weather hit hard and fast this week — just in time to freeze out the Dodgers and warm up with soup.

If you're looking for a bowl of soup to be a meal, the thing to eat is pho,  Vietnamese noodle soup. I headed to Pho Dang Vietnamese Café in Winooski, which moved in July from its home of 11 years to new quarters a few blocks north.

The restaurant at 348 Main Street, roughly double the size of the original, is a cheerful and buzzy space currently decorated with goblins and pumpkins. All 14 tables were full the night I dined there, with a steady flow of people arriving. I found a seat at a shiny wooden bar by the front door and within a couple of minutes was served a pot of tea.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Dining on a Dime: UVMMC Garden Atrium

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 4:25 PM


Carrot fritters and roast vegetables - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Carrot fritters and roast vegetables

A voluntary trip to the hospital is not a bad thing. Such an outing comes with benefits if the destination is the Garden Atrium café at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Cost and personal choice are two of the pluses. Local and fresh are two more. With a longstanding commitment to sourcing local ingredients, UVMMC purchases food from more than 70 regional farmers and producers, according to its website.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Philo Ridge Farm

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 6:54 PM

Meatball hero at Philo Ridge Farm - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Meatball hero at Philo Ridge Farm
Update October 18, 2018:  Food at Philo Ridge Farm is available for takeout as the farm addresses its waste-water permitting, according to farm officials.

When I pulled into the parking lot of  Philo Ridge Farm in Charlotte the other day, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to dine on a dime at its market café. After all, I squeezed into a space (which was hard to find) between a Mercedes SUV and a Volvo station wagon. A silver BMW arrived not long after I did.

I learned not to judge a café by the cars in its lot. As it turns out, it was no problem at all to eat lunch here for $12.  The difficulty was deciding what to get.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Friend's Nepali Restaurant in Winooski

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 4:27 PM

Stuffed tomatoes at Friend's Nepali Restaurant - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Stuffed tomatoes at Friend's Nepali Restaurant
When my computer was getting fixed last week in Winooski, I ducked into a restaurant for lunch across the street from the repair shop. What a lovely surprise!

Friend’s Nepali Restaurant opened six weeks ago at 212 Main Street in Winooski. Its chef and co-owner, Ram Kadariya, started the restaurant after cooking at Central Market in Burlington.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Nomad Coffee (South End Station)

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 2:13 PM

Early autumn lunch at Nomad Coffee in Burlington - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Early autumn lunch at Nomad Coffee in Burlington
The menu at Nomad Coffee (South End Station) is a seasonal road map as well as a choice of meals. Chef Suzanne Podhaizer presents two lunch options: late summer or early autumn. From there, the selection narrows to meat or vegetarian, brown rice or greens.

I visited the little café on Flynn Avenue last week — a time span in which the temperature dropped from the 90s to sweatshirt weather. Hoping to nudge summer along, I ordered Podhaizer’s autumn creation: roasted squash, caramelized onions, greens, cider sauce and toasted pecans. I chose lentils over chicken, and these were served hot in a mug on the side. I spooned the lentils onto my veggies bite by bite, forming a kind of mini-stew on my plate and delighting in a flavorful and healthy, all-local $10 lunch.

Podhaizer, a former food writer at Seven Days, was chef-owner of Salt Café in Montpelier for five years. At Nomad, she is collaborating with owners Andrew Sepic and Nicole Grinstead to bring food to their second coffee/espresso/tea business — the first one opened in Essex Junction two years ago.

The new café, open weekdays from  7 a.m. to 3 p.m., is at the end of a hallway in the Flynndog building. It occupies the space that formerly housed the South End outpost of Chef’s Corner. Customers order at the counter and food is delivered to your table. The restaurant opens onto an outdoor deck that has several picnic tables, quiet and lovely in late summer and early autumn.

Podhaizer continues her seasonal theme this week but she presents a new menu, offering spiced beef or black beans with mashed potatoes, roasted bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and summer squash (late summer) and chicken or lentils with winter squash, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and brown butter cider sauce (early autumn).

She told me she plans to expand the menu slowly but will continue to make weekly veggie and meat specials to eat with greens, grains or a combination of the two.

On my way home from Nomad, I stopped to talk to a man who I’d seen eating lunch there. Kim Hubbard, a program manager at the Howard Center, told me he discovered Nomad in place of Chef’s Corner, where he used to eat.

“I just like the food over here,” Hubbard said of Nomad. “I like it plated and served. It’s quiet and the people are really friendly.”  He ate last week's late summer lunch, meat version ($12): spiced beef with roasted tomatoes, corn, summer squash and red pepper-parsley sauce.

“It was quite wonderful,” Hubbard said. “They have a niche there, and I hope people find it.”

Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: food@sevendaysvt.com.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Citizen Cider

Posted By on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 at 4:44 PM

Mushroom tacos at Citizen Cider - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Mushroom tacos at Citizen Cider
"What’s for dinner?" could be the most-asked question around. "I don’t know yet" is the standard answer — and it’s the one I got at around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning when I called Citizen Cider to ask what the  $10 special was for the weekly Supper Club.

The nonanswer, though a bit surprising from a restaurant, was nonetheless familiar. Who knows what’s for dinner until about half an hour before you start making it?

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Dining on a Dime: Otter Creek Bakery

Posted By on Sat, Aug 11, 2018 at 8:11 AM

Otter Creek sub - SALLY POLLAK
  • Sally Pollak
  • Otter Creek sub
The home opener of the Middlebury College football team is six weeks away. It’s time to start pre-gaming for Panthers football.

No, I don’t mean drinking beer in the back of  your car or grilling sausage at the stadium parking lot. I’m talking about an anticipatory trip to  Otter Creek Bakery, a lunchtime oasis not far from the college football field. The café’s Otter Creek sub ($9.50) — akin to an Italian hoagie — and chocolate chip/walnut/orange cookie ($2.50) together form a top-notch, filling meal.

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