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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Closed: Outback Steakhouse and Vermont Sandwich Company

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 4:13 PM

The closed Outback Steakhouse in South Burlington - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • The closed Outback Steakhouse in South Burlington
Two area eateries have closed over the last 12 days: Outback Steakhouse in South Burlington and Vermont Sandwich Company in Williston.

Vermont's sole Outback Steakhouse closed permanently on Sunday, May 24, confirmed the location's managing partner, Tonisha Farrell, over the phone. She said that the restaurant's 40 to 50 part- and full-time employees were all receiving severance.

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New Indian-Himalayan Restaurant Opens in Burlington

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 3:46 PM

GBG Indian Kitchen on Riverside Avenue - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • GBG Indian Kitchen on Riverside Avenue
Three Vermonters originally from Nepal were finally able to open their Indian and Himalayan restaurant in Burlington last week.

Its name, GBG Indian Kitchen, combines the surname initials of co-owners Prashant Gharti, Dal B. Bhujel and Binod Gurung. The trio rented the building at 471 Riverside Avenue in Burlington on January 1, but the pandemic held up permits and renovation of the former Dunkin' Donuts, Gharti said.

The three owners, who are related, have all worked in the hospitality field.  "We are family together, and we have experience in the kitchen, in food and beverage management and in marketing," Gharti said.

"When we analyzed what was here, we saw that [the] Indian restaurants are outdated," he continued. The restaurateurs plan to distinguish themselves by preparing "every recipe we know well" fresh from scratch, Gharti said. 

The wide-ranging menu includes familiar Indian restaurant staples such as biryani, kebabs, curries and breads. Gharti noted that the biryani rice is steamed with a traditional technique, and the breads and kebabs are made in a clay tandoor oven. Himalayan offerings include momos, squat dumplings filled with vegetables, chicken or beef.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner for takeout and delivery only, until regulations allow dining in. The building has no outdoor dining space.
Information: GBG Indian Kitchen, 448-3653.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Short Order for Restaurants: Two Months Closed, Two Days to Open

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2020 at 2:17 PM


Spot on the Dock in Burlington on Friday evening - LUKE AWTRY
  • Luke Awtry
  • Spot on the Dock in Burlington on Friday evening
Jackie Oktay has been busy homeschooling her kids, converting two restaurants to takeout businesses, and keeping 40 people employed. So she missed the news on Wednesday that restaurants could open for outdoor dining on Friday. They'd been ordered to stay closed for two months as part of the state's effort to rein in the coronavirus.

Oktay, co-owner of Istanbul Kebab House in Burlington and Tuckerbox in White River Junction,  found out Thursday morning  that restaurants got the green light.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ ‘’ Oktay said by telephone Thursday afternoon. “The wheels start turning: What the heck do I have to do now?”

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Vermont Restaurants Can Open for Outdoor Dining on Friday

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 10:18 PM

The old days, at Spot on the Dock in Burlington - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • The old days, at Spot on the Dock in Burlington
Updated on May 21, 2020.

Restaurants in Vermont can open for outdoor dining starting Friday, according to guidelines released Wednesday by state officials.

Gov. Phil Scott closed the state's eateries on March 17, though he allowed them to continue takeout, curbside and delivery service. Wednesday's decision to allow outdoor dining on-site is the latest step in reopening the state's businesses.

The update to Vermont’s “Be Smart, Stay Safe” order includes certain stipulations: Restaurants must use disposable menus, and a reservation or “call-ahead seating” system; tables must be at least 10 feet apart; takeout service, as opposed to table service, is preferred; and the maximum number of diners seated at one time can be 50 people or the licensed seating capacity, whichever is less.

Leunig’s Bistro, located at the high-traffic corner of College and Church streets in Burlington, can seat 50 people outdoors, chef-owner Donnell Collins told Seven Days Wednesday night. But with tables spaced 10 feet apart, Leunig’s can accommodate 18 to 20 customers, Collins said.

“I can’t support 95 people with 20 seats,” she said, referring to the size of her staff. “It’s just not gonna happen.”

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Restaurants Launch Petition Seeking Community Support

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 5:28 PM

Honey Road restaurant in Burlington - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • Honey Road restaurant in Burlington
Local restaurateurs are circulating an online petition that asks Vermonters to help "save Vermont restaurants.” Launched over the weekend, the petition seeks support as the industry plans for reopening of dine-in service — at a date yet to be named — after its state-mandated closure on March 17 due to the coronavirus.

“We are here to let you know that the Vermont Restaurant Industry is in crisis and we need your support,” the petition reads. “Without easily accessible direct aid many restaurants will close permanently.”

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Sunday, May 3, 2020

New Organizations Support Vermont Food, Beverage and Restaurant Sectors

Posted By on Sun, May 3, 2020 at 10:00 AM

A hopeful message from Butch + Babe's in Burlington on March 19 - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • A hopeful message from Butch + Babe's in Burlington on March 19
A group of  about 40 Vermont restaurants has launched the Vermont Hospitality Coalition and is actively seeking more members, said co-organizer Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington.

"This crisis is such a tidal wave for restaurants," Bette said. "It has the potential to sink all-size boats."

The grassroots organization is working with local chambers of commerce and area associations, as well as national industry groups, to advocate for the specific needs of restaurants and other food and beverage destinations that have been forced to shutter their doors or radically change their business model during the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Friday, March 27, 2020

Poco Restaurant Pivots to Groceries With Poco Mercato

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 12:41 PM

Stefano Cicirello and Susie Ely of Poco restaurant and Poco Mercato - COURTESY OF RESTAURANT POCO
  • Courtesy of Restaurant Poco
  • Stefano Cicirello and Susie Ely of Poco restaurant and Poco Mercato
Vermont restaurants are doing all kinds of things to stay open during this worldwide pandemic. Among other innovations, they're offering cocktails to-go in quart containers, drive-up curbside pickup, and heat-and-eat meals for the whole family.

Restaurants are adapting, trying to support their employees and their communities, and aiming to make money however they can — all with the goal of, hopefully, reopening as their former selves when it's safe for people to gather again.

With a kitchen full of food, Poco restaurant  owners Stefano Cicirello and Susie Ely have pivoted to stocking pantries. The Burlington eatery, open on lower Main Street for just under a year, is temporarily operating as an online grocery store.

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Chamber of Commerce Urges State Action to Help Restaurants

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 8:10 PM

Canteen Creemee Company chef-owner Charlie Menard with a fried chicken box - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Canteen Creemee Company chef-owner Charlie Menard with a fried chicken box
Updated, March 23, 2020

On Thursday, Vermont Chamber of Commerce president Betsy Bishop sent a letter to Gov. Phil Scott urging  further action to support restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter requests the immediate abatement of the February and March meals and rooms tax payments, the February installment of which is due on March 25. It also requests freezing the unemployment insurance experience rating for restaurants, extending the state tax filing deadline by 90 days, as well as the appropriation of an extra $2 million in tourism advertising to draw visitors to Vermont in the future.

The governor's office declined to comment to Seven Days on the Chamber's requests, stating it would respond directly to Bishop.

The Chamber of Commerce is the only restaurant association in Vermont, representing more than 330 establishments. In the letter, Bishop wrote, "We are very concerned about the economic impact the closure of these businesses will have on our rural communities and downtowns." 

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Restaurants Rescued Me When I Was Down

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2020 at 8:07 PM


Sally Pollak drinking a beer at Zero Gravity in the winter of 2017 - GLENN RUSSELL
  • Glenn Russell
  • Sally Pollak drinking a beer at Zero Gravity in the winter of 2017
A week ago, I texted a relative who’s a student at Middlebury College: “When all else fails, we can eat!” Lucy texted back a heart.

We made plans to meet at the Arcadian, an Italian restaurant alongside Otter Creek, with four of her college friends and another cousin — seven people in all. The students had been told to leave school in a matter of days because of the threat of COVID-19. We wanted one more hangout.

By text, we called the last-minute meal — where we drank Negronis on tap and shared plates of pasta — a “midd blowout.”

Forty-eight hours later, on Friday, March 13, we wouldn’t have made such a plan or eaten together.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Vermont Restaurants Good To-Go Amidst Coronavirus Challenges

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2020 at 5:31 PM

A social media campaign started by food podcast nonprofit Heritage Radio Network - COURTESY OF HERITAGE RADIO NETWORK
  • Courtesy of Heritage Radio Network
  • A social media campaign started by food podcast nonprofit Heritage Radio Network
Restaurants and food businesses throughout Vermont have been doing their best to adapt to the fast-changing reality of life during a pandemic.

On Monday, Gov. Phil Scott ordered the closure of Vermont bars and in-person dining at restaurants, effective 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, through at least April 6. 
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced a 24-hour mandatory closure for Tuesday earlier that day to prevent large gatherings on St. Patrick's Day. These orders are similar to others around the country and the world, aiming to “flatten the curve” of the virus.

It's hard to tell what larger effects COVID-19 will have on our food systems in the long run, especially as many service industry workers lose their jobs, bars shutter and supply chains are disrupted.

The good news is, the governor's order does not ban restaurants from offering food to-go, whether through takeout, curbside pick-up or delivery. Vermont's restaurants are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to feed our communities safely during this crisis. 

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