In Vermont, along Lake Champlain, you’d be hard-pressed to find a town that’s not charming, vibrant, and intimate. Stunning lake views with lush greenery all around, Burlington and its neighboring towns are filled to the brim with artisanal food and drink making it the perfect weekend destination for almost any East-coaster. Accessible by train, bus, ferry, car, and plane, Burlington is not only easy to find, it’s easy to fall in love with. Stroll through the Church Street Marketplace, sail down Lake Champlain, and peek inside Burlington’s flourishing gallery scene to work up an appetite for these five bites.
Breakfast: Take what you know about diners and marry it with the quaint, food-loving town around you and you’ll get an idea of the Penny Cluse Café. You’ll have to wait in line, but it’s well worth it for a menu that reads like a dream — Maple Cornbread French Toast, anyone? The Bucket-o-Spuds will make you lick your lips as you see it isn’t just a mountain of home fries, it comes with melted cheese, salsa, sour cream, green onions, and, on request, an egg on top.
Lunch: If you have time for one lunch in Burlington, run, don’t walk to Red Onion for the red onion sandwich on honey oat bread. Don’t read the menu, that’s what you’ll want. It is messy, delicious, and is the sandwich you’ll bring up next time someone says “I’m going to Vermont this weekend!” Here, too, you might encounter a line, but is that all it takes to deter you from turkey, sun-dried tomato mayo, green apples, red onion, smoked Gruyère, and bacon between two slices of honey oat bread? (Photo courtesy of Flickr/origamidon)
Dinner: There must be something other than just the magic of a wood-fired clay oven going on here. Because the unending love that diners have for the cheese and herb, new Vermont sausage, and Medicine Wheel flatbreads at American Flatbread is nothing short of inspiring. With locations in Burlington, Middlebury, and Waitsfield, there is no excuse to miss out on the fresh, local ingredients they mix together to achieve flatbread masterpieces. A casual haunt, the Waitsfield location lets you sit outside by an enormous fire pit in the summer and they all highlight local breweries.
Drinks: A Burlington institution, Nectar’s is the perfect place for live music, dancing, and cocktails in town. It should also be your stop if you’ve ever had a craving for “gravy fries,” or poutine. Nectar’s is famous for them, just as they are for being a go-to spot for locals and visitors alike.
Hidden Gem: Hen of the Wood is situated in an old (early 19th century) grist mill about 30 minutes from Burlington, in Waterbury, Vt. And it’s a perfect setting for the locally-focused, seasonal, familial foods produced within. A warm, woodsy atmosphere sets the tone for an ever-changing menu that features dishes like goat’s milk gnocchi, La Belle farm duck breast, and Winding Brook farm pork loin with sides like local cornmeal polenta. Big bright windows let diners peek outside into the nature that surrounds — whether that’s snow-covered rocks or Vermont-style greenery.
Day Trip: It’s only too bad that Shelburne Farms isn’t a longer car ride away. A mere 20 minutes from Burlington, this “day trip” is really more a sensorial departure than it is a physical journey. And while you can stay overnight, you can also take the day to experience the farm and be back in time to get a table at American Flatbread. A working and yet visit-able and educational farm, Shelburne offers walking trails, a children’s farmyard, and cheese-making workshops, as well as food- and animal-focused festivals all year round. Taking a House & Garden tea tour at the inn, a breeding barn tour, or an open-air carriage tour of the property will make this day trip more than worth all 40 minutes you spent in the car. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/librarianmer)