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October 01, 2008

RIP Smokejacks

When I arrived at the office this morning, I was greeted by my phone's blinking message light and a pair of emails informing me that Smokejacks (on the corner of Church and Main in Burlington), had closed, presumably for good, last night.

Political columnist Shay Totten saw some of the crew "drowning their sorrows" at the OP, and Seven Days staffer Colby Roberts reported that there's a big "for rent" sign on the restaurant's window. On Facebook, at least one employee has changed her status to indicate that she is now unemployed.

I'm working on getting the scoop, but for now, thought I should let people know.

I've got a personal connection to Smokejacks because it was where my husband and I had our first dinner date (pan-seared tuna with cucumber "noodles" and a pepper cracker, duck, a smoked pork chop, and lots of fun). Needless to say, the closing makes me pretty sad. I don't know what went wrong, but it's one of the few times in recent memory that Burlington has lost a real restaurant institution; one that was localvore before there was a word for it.

I hadn't eaten there since the new owner took over, so I can't say what the food has been like for the past few months, but my experiences at Smokejacks over the last few years were a (mostly positive) mixed bag. I occasionally tried something that seemed a bit too busy or was oversalted, but I also had some wonderful, unforgettable food. It was the first place a tried Humboldt Fog cheese, and that experience was a revelation. I will certainly miss the homemade sodas -- particularly the litchi and ginger varieties -- and the great brunch food, as well as the flavorful entrees.

I was also planning to use a fictionalized version of the restaurant in my culinary murder mystery novel...but that's another story.

As soon as I find out more, I'll let you know.

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Comments

Bryan Andregg

"...the closing makes me pretty sad. I don't know what went wrong..." But you hadn't eaten there in a few months. So, how is a restaurant supposed to stay in business if it's fans don't support it financially?

Suzanne Podhaizer

Hi Brian -- I've got a couple of responses to your question.

The first is that a main part of my job is attending culinary events as well as checking out new restaurants and older ones that I've never tried before. Given that there are 750 eateries in the 7 Nights Dining Guide, and that it spans all of Northern and Central Vermont, I've got a lot of territory to cover. And there are only so many meals in a week.

I just easily dashed off a list of 25 Vermont restaurants that I really love. If I could eat at one of those restaurants per week just for fun, it would still take me around six months to visit them all. Which brings me to my second response...

...I happen to have no disposable income. Although my delightful job pays for me to go to places I'm writing about, I don't actually get to go to nice restaurants outside of work.

The upside is that on all the nights I'm not eating for Seven Days, I'm still supporting lots of local farmers by cooking with the meats they raise and the veggies and grains they grow.

Michael Stoner

Wow, I'm stunned. I can remember many memorable meals at Smokejacks. Once I drove to Montreal in a snowstorm from home in Central VT, realized that I'd be starved by the time I made the drive, and stopped at Smokejacks for a wonderful smoked pork chop and a glass of fruity Zin. Or some of the wine dinners I've enjoyed there. I listed Smokejacks as a favorite on my website and for a while it was one of the first links that came up on a Google search. I haven't been able to be there much for the last year or so, but it was a really good restaurant and I'll miss it.

Tara

This saddens me. Smokejacks was, by far, my favorite restaurant in the Burlington area. I treated every relative who came to visit from another state to a lunch or dinner at Smokejacks. When I was a juror at the courthouse nearby, I ate every delectable lunch there and watched for the judge to stroll back in from his meal. It was on the higher end of my dining out budget, but worth saving for.

156Church

The loss of Smokejacks is very unfortunate however it does present the opportunity to replace it with another restaurant. What type of eatery would you like to see there?

El Guapo's Ghost

I always thought this place was overrated...good not great.

Corey

I too had my first date with my current love at Smokejacks. The date was wonderful, the food well, um not so great. We went in for lunch, perhaps that wasn't their strongest suit.

Needless to say, we never went back, but lucky for me she stuck around :)

Bob

Frankly, I never liked the place. I had an incredibly offensive experience with a cold-shouldered waitstaff once after I declared that all I'd like was "a beer & a burger". Granted, the burger was delicious but the attitude was disgusting. I tried them for brunch once and was very disappointed by their huevos rancheros. Splashy presentation, no substance. It is alarming to see a downtown institution close amidst the sinking economy, but hopefully a phoenix will rise from these ashes...

Sean

I thought they're food was kinda boring and didn't have many options for vegetarians, but I really did love the Smokejacks 10K, which I will really miss.

Jen

I had only been to Smokejacks a few times before it's untimely demise, but every experience there was lovely. I actually enjoyed their macaroni and cheese so much that I made my own version based off of theirs. While the restaurant may now be gone, I will always have that recipe to remind me of their wonderful food, and all the good times with friends.

wayne

The smokejacks 10K was AWESOME. what a great local event with amazing food and swag!

Overrated...like most Burlington eateries. Praised mostly by Marty McGillicuddy Diners who need a trip to MTL.

Jenn

After reading your article concerning Smokejack's closing (the "real story") I was curious as to why there was hardly any mention of the most recent owner, Susan Huling, (besides her quote from the Free Press) and her role in it. After all, she has supposedly been the one in charge since Leslie Myers left and therefore one would expect more questions to be directed towards her. It is an interesting issue as it is widely known that Ms. Huling was also the operating manager for the recently closed Restaurant Swisspot in Stowe. Isn't it alarming that two once very popular, long-standing restaurants have closed shortly after this woman took over?

James

I was shicked to hear about the closing, they had such a good brunch and cheese selection! I was going to take my mum (visiting from the UK) there. Why did you go away! why!!

student aid

Oh very nice Smokejacks but my problem is i don't no about this posting thank you.

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