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January 8, 2013

Alice Eats: 3 Squares Café

IMG_5093221 Main Street, Vergennes, 877-2772

Perhaps you miss Burlington's Waiting Room. Or you just want to gobble up breakfast prepared by a NECI-trained chef who also happens to have worked in the kitchens of New York's Rainbow Room and Boston's Aquitaine.

3 Squares, an unassuming little café in Vergennes, is the place. Though I'd been blown away by his Mexican and French bistro-themed dinners during Vermont Restaurant Week, I'd never had the pleasure of trying chef Matt Birong's regular fare — until last Sunday.

Birong and co. are excellent at updating their specials each day on the 3 Squares website, so I already suspected I was in for a treat.

IMG_5088But first, some regular menu items.

Birong recently replaced his longtime standard of huevos rancheros with a breakfast tostada.

I asked our server to let the chef choose the style of egg, usually prepared however the customer wants them.

The over-easy yolks I was served lent a decadent touch to the otherwise relatively virtuous breakfast choice. Of course, when breakfast is served until 3 p.m., there's always a slight feeling of indulgence.

Chorizo that was eminently flavorful but not spicy dominated the taste of the combination of black beans, lettuce and pico de gallo, topped with tangy green-chile-tomatillo salsa and Mexican sour cream. I loved the crunch of the crispy corn tortilla that divided the contents of the plate.

IMG_5087The most popular panini on the 3 Squares menu actually comes from the restaurant's 221 Main Street predecessor, Eat Good Food.

The turkey panini may sound basic, but its taste is anything but bare bones.

Crusty focaccia holds thick slices of well-seasoned turkey breast, crispy bacon and Swiss cheese. But what makes the dish is an addictive wallop of garlic mayonnaise.

IMG_5091An ample side salad with a strong maple vinaigrette provides a refreshing break from the fatty sandwich.

But in the end, I was really there for the special eggs Benedict. I wasn't disappointed.

A homemade English muffin provided a perfectly chewy home base for salty prosciutto di Parma, poached egg and pesto-speckled Hollandaise.

Once again, molten yolks added a nice touch, but they were hardly necessary in the face of the startlingly tasty sauce, drizzled with balsamic.

But what really made the combination was a side of roasted tomatoes, topped with garlic. Their sweet acid illuminated the creamy proceedings like a Klieg light.

Even the herbaceous home fries were somehow an essential part of the beautifully composed dish.

So I learned my lesson. 3 Squares is open all the time, not just during Restaurant Week. And I want chef Birong to feed me more than once a year.

Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to [email protected]

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