Montpelier prides itself on being the only state capital without a McDonald’s, and you won’t find any Ruth’s Chris here, either. In fact, you may have a hard time finding much on menus that isn’t grown right around the corner. The city, home to the New England Culinary Institute, is devoted to creating fabulous dishes from fresh, local and often organic ingredients. Long before locavore became a nationwide trend, the Green Mountain State was investing in the farm-to-table movement through the Vermont Fresh Network partnership of farmers and chefs. So you’ll see network’s insignia at many Montpelier eateries, from the Skinny Pancake to the Main Street Grill & Bar. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices abound, and the service is as intimate and friendly as the surrounding city itself. Just don’t ask for the closest Burger King.
Since 1980, the New England Culinary Institute based in Montpelier has been one of the best dining choices in central Vermont. The Main Street Grill & Bar is an American farm-to-table restaurant, thanks to the Vermont Fresh Network and institute students who cook for and staff this downtown restaurant. An estimated 80 percent of the food comes from right here in Vermont, and the historic, 100-years-plus building has brick walls with photographs of local farmers, their farms and produce. While serving guests at the wooden tables and booths, students also learn how to pair wines from an extensive list. A downstairs lounge is more contemporary with high-top tables and couch seating for listening to music.
The heritage of Italian immigrants who came to quarry and cut granite in Barre lives on at this perennial locals’ favorite. American-Italian fare—including fantastic brick-oven pizzas is served at lunch and dinner; there’s an extensive wine list and Vermont micro brews, too. If you have more than six in your party, you can make reservations ahead of time; less than that, and you can call ahead the day you dine after 2PM; food can also be ordered off the menu for take-out. While Sarducci’s serves everything from antipasto to tiramisu, a highlight is the salmon cucina, a baked salmon in a white wine butter sauce with artichokes and roasted red peppers and served with risotto.
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Roasting its own beans in East Montpelier, this downtown coffeehouse has become a community gathering place not only for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also for free WiFi, live music and an art gallery. You’ll find a plethora of specialty coffees and teas along with homemade pastries, soups, sandwiches and more.
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Breakfast is served all day at this diner, a founding member of the Vermont Fresh Network that serves scrambled tofu alongside such classics as Western omelets, corned beef hash and blueberry pancakes. (Try the Manghi’s French toast, make with six-grain bread from a local bakery). Lunch is also classic diner fare with a twist—burger’s made from Vermont-raised, grass fed cattle, Cabot cheese on the sandwiches, and potatoes fried in trans fat-free cooking oil that’s recycled to bio diesel. The atmosphere of longtime locals talking politics, weather and economy? Just classic.
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This hip brewpub in the heart of Waterbury has become a favorite apres ski spot, not only because of its hand-crafted beers brewed in one of seven barrels in the basement, but also for its fare: organic chicken wings, local cheeses, and sandwiches made from Vermont breads. Be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekend nights.
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Get it? A skinny pancake is a crepe, and they’re served three meals a day in both savory and sweet ways at this new Montpelier eatery, an offshoot of the Burlington original (which began as a street cart). Many of the ingredients are local and organic and go into such regular menu items as cheesy pesto, apples & brie, nutella & bananas and strawberries & cream. Specials might include Yaks in a Blanket—local bratwurst with sautéed onions and peppers—and beverages range from Vermont Coffee Company blends to Green Mountain microbrews. There are gluten-free and vegan options, too, plus free WiFi and a community-minded atmosphere that features live music several nights a week.
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This is a good pick for picnics, or inexpensive daytime meals. A 32-seat café has oversized glass windows that overlook the Winooski River. There's a self-serve menu from the salad bar and a fair selection of hot and cold foods including glazed roast chicken and Italian-marinated artichokes. The co-op carries the wares of over 600 local vendors.
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Tofu, tempeh, brown rice, you name it. Rhapsody offers 50 different natural and organic dishes, priced by weight. This member of the Vermont Fresh Network offers 40 seats for its patrons and also sells Greyhound Bus tickets.
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