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128 posts categorized "Alice Eats - Restaurant Reviews" Feed

April 17, 2012

Alice Eats: Brunch at Rusty Nail Bar & Grille

IMG_38851190 Mountain Rd., Stowe, 253-6245

There's nothing like a lovely spring day to stir brunch cravings. I'm ready for a Benedict at any time of year, but when I headed to the Rusty Nail Bar & Grille on Sunday, I was met by a brunch rush that could only have been kindled by the 70-degree weather and plenty of outdoor seating.

Having an obsessive fear of sun damage, I was happy to stay inside. Our hostess had some difficulty processing that idea, but, hey, it got me a table right away.

A table filled with local ingredients for Bloody Marys sat beside the bar, and general manager Kate Wise told us that she was making excellent Irish coffees that day. But even at 2 p.m., I just wasn't in the head (or body) space for cocktails.

I was feeling more like a bacon, egg and cheeseburger between two duck-fat doughnuts. Unfortunately, the "Donaught" had just sold out. A burger served on doughnuts had sold out? This brunch crowd was serious, and apparently had learned nothing from Paula Deen's diabetes. My kind of crew.

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April 10, 2012

Alice Eats: Aviation Deli and Fine Foods

IMG_38061223 Airport Drive, South Burlington, 399-2206

I keep so busy eating around the state that my neighborhood spots often end up neglected. When I moved to South Burlington last summer, my neighboring coworkers told me it was important to try the Aviation Deli, just across the street from the airport. I finally made it there last night.

As you can see from the photo at right, it's not much to look at. Not so different from your average gas station convenience store. But there's no gas pump out front and most of the food is homemade — and delicious.

Last night wasn't one of the homestyle specialty nights — there's braised beef on Tuesdays and prime rib every Thursday — but I did grab a beef stroganoff from the hot case. An in-depth review wouldn't be fair, because it's ill advised to eat anything from a hot case, especially something in a cream sauce, and I take full responsibility. Suffice it to say, I liked the crispness of the noodles and, though the sauce dried up unappealingly, it remained flavorful and dotted with still-vibrant mushrooms.

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April 03, 2012

Alice Eats: Pho Dang Vietnamese Cafe — Essex Junction

IMG_37929 Park St., Essex Junction, 878-6699

In 2007, Pho Dang in Winooski was one of the first eateries to start the trend that has led to nine Vietnamese restaurants in Chittenden County. The ninth is another Pho Dang. It replaces the short-lived Pho Vietnam in the old Ming's space in downtown Essex Junction.

Just seven months after I reviewed Pho Vietnam, I was back at the same table trying Pho Dang. The single server ran up and down the stairs between two floors of packed dining rooms. My hopes were high and apparently, so were those of the locals.

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March 27, 2012

Alice Eats: The Jack & Grill

IMG_376418 Severance Green, Colchester, 876-7770

Since the Dragonfly Café opened in the fall of 2009, 18 Severance Green has been a revolving door for restaurants. From the Dragonfly to Sophie's American Bistro and now the Jack & Grill, a new eatery has opened in the space nearly every year. If the Jack & Grill makes some changes, though, it may have a fighting chance.

When I was first seated at one of the dining room's comfy booths, I was nonplussed to look across the room at a large poster of Jack Skellington, hero of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then my dining companion pointed out Jack Black. Indeed, it turned out, we were sitting in a "Jack" theme restaurant.

IMG_3765As for the "Grill" end of things, I'd have to find it on the menu. The large bill of fare was a pleasant surprise. Though there was nothing too exotic, it offered many appealing, low-priced options. Ahi tuna steak with lemon caper sauce sounded good. So did the smoked pig wing appetizer.

However, I couldn't resist the special soup. At $2.99 for a cup, the price was certainly right, and I can't say no to a Greek lemon-chicken soup.

Called avgolemono in Greece, the stuff is usually filled with eggs, too, making it slightly creamy. This version was more of a classic chicken soup with rice — and a lot of lemon. It scratched my sour itch like few other restaurant dishes, sweetened up just slightly by meltingly tender onions and celery.

IMG_3767I was excited to get my grill on with a pork ribeye. Advertised on the menu with the words "Jack's favorite. You'll never have better pork," I definitely got my hopes up.

There was nothing wrong with the chop (that is, after all, what a ribeye is — a marbled rib chop, as opposed to a lean loin chop), but it wasn't the best pork I ever had. The outside had even grill marks and a nice char, and the inside showed just a hint of pink. However, the meat was barely seasoned and dressed only with a bit of melted butter on top.

The scoop of creamy smashed potatoes, if a bit mealy in texture, was flavorful, but it was only lukewarm. I love me some baby asparagus, but the sparse spears I received were woody at the ends. As I ate it, I heard a server tell another customer not to order it. Wish I'd gotten the same warning.

IMG_3768The chicken pot pie seemed like a great deal at $9.99, though I didn't quite believe its description as "hot and healthy." The price turned out to be high for the size of the dish — just slightly larger than my cup of soup.

In its defense, the bowl was filled to the brim, which made a bit of a mess when breaking into the buttery balloon of puff pastry on top.

The stew therein was lacking in personality but nicely salted. Big chunks of chicken made the small portion feel deceptively hearty, but it was the smattering of apparently canned peas, carrots and mushrooms was disappointing.

IMG_3769My dining partner enjoyed the dish, but still felt the need to hit the free, self-serve popcorn machine more than once to supplement his meal.

I was more concerned with saving room for the Lovin' Spoonful Pudding Cake. I had the right idea. The chilled dessert was part pudding, part ganache and all heaven, stacked between layers of intensely chocolaty cake. And it was drizzled with more chocolate.

A good end, then, to an uneven meal. With some pricing changes and a little more attention to detail, the Jack & Grill will no doubt succeed at Severance Green. I'll be rooting for it — and the popcorn.

 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]


March 20, 2012

Alice Eats: Jin Chinese Restaurant

IMG_3750135 E. Allen St., Winooski, 861-3338

Usually, one Chinese take-out spot is just like another. And greasy fried tidbits with gummy sauces aren't among my favorite cuisine types. But authentic Chinese flavors are one of my many culinary obsessions, so whenever I'm presented with the menu of a new Americanized Chinese eatery, I look for hints of the foods I love.

That was what brought me to Jin Chinese Restaurant in Winooski this week. The place is just a month old, and the menu is indeed more diverse than General Tso and lo mein, though the chefs do prepare both.

IMG_3745Some of the team worked previously at Zen Gardens in South Burlington, my go-to spot for more authentic Chinese choices in Vermont. Some trademark dishes are also available at Jin, including "Chicken Amazing" and stir-fries in Szechuan mala sauce.

I started more simply, with the pair of egg rolls that comes with any order of $10 or more.

With a thicker-than-usual wrapper, the chewy dough reminded me more of a meat pie than an egg roll. And there was more meat than I'd expect in a freebie. Finely chopped, red cha siu pork made the whole thing sweet, a nice departure from soy sauce and cabbage. I would have preferred a little less sugar, especially since it was served with a side of duck sauce. And as CKY's rappers have told us, "Only Americans eat duck sauce."

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March 13, 2012

Alice Eats: Brewster River Pub & Grill

308876_129035847205782_111466672296033_147369_2096897098_n4087 Route 108, Jeffersonville, 644-6366

There's pub food. There's gastropub grub. Then there's the Brewster River Pub & Grill.

The former Brewski on Route 108 in Jeffersonville is a true pub, still aimed more at the aprés-ski beer crowd than the gourmet set. A new coat of blue paint on the walls give an inviting feel to the formerly dingy watering hole, which closed after a fire last year. Its new owners are fine-dining alumni, and both the creativity and quality of the food reflect that.

IMG_3663I started with a simple green salad. The greens were fresh and the tomatoes were far from the practically albino specimens I've been seeing around lately. Nothing too notable, until I added the maple-balsamic dressing.

The Vermont staple is usually good, but this was truly something special. Fruity, maple-y and somehow slightly buttery, it was among the best I've tried. Not a surprise, given that Chef Billy Mossinghoff previously worked at One Federal in St. Albans, which has my other favorite maple-balsamic dressing. At Brewster, it was so good, my boyfriend ended up ordering a second cup of it. One simply wasn't enough.

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March 06, 2012

Alice Eats: Sabai Sabai Thai Cuisine

IMG_360822 Merchants Row, Middlebury, 989-7376

In last week's paper, I checked in on the newly authentic Thai restaurant scene in the Burlington area. With the tastes of lime and chile still singing on my palate, I thought it was time to try Middlebury's latest addition, Sabai Sabai Thai Cuisine, which opened just before the New Year.

The space, previously home to Doria's Restaurant, is quirky and fun, with numerous nooks and crannies. I was seated in the window on a platform overlooking all the action below. From there, I could see the bustling bar with several local brews on tap, but I was there for the food.

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February 28, 2012

Alice Eats: American Flatbread Burlington Hearth

IMG_3596115 St. Paul Street, Burlington, 861-2999

This week, I continue my mini-series of Burlington artisan pizza surprises.

If you live practically anywhere in Vermont, you know and love American Flatbread for its chewy, almost pretzel-like crust and fresh, local ingredients. But what you may not know is that the St. Paul Street restaurant serves a kick-ass brunch — all on a pizza.

Before I could dig into my pie, I had to find a morning replacement for a mug of Zero Gravity. And did I ever. In fact, I have a new favorite soda.

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February 21, 2012

Alice Eats: Flatbread Friday at August First

IMG_3560149 South Champlain St., Burlington, 540-0060

Years ago, when my boyfriend worked at Pizza Hut, the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet there was one of my greatest guilty pleasures. CiCi's Pizza Buffet commercials make me salivate, even though the food is notoriously awful. So is there such a thing as good all-you-can-eat pizza? Actually, yes: every Friday at Burlington's August First.

At 6 p.m. each week, the bakery's staff pushes the tables into three long rows; diners are seated family-style. I had heard that the experience is a raucous free-for-all, but co-owner Jodi Whalen explained that the Wild West ambiance has calmed since they replaced the buffet with table service at the beginning of this year.

IMG_3562The new system works well. Servers deliver breads as they're baked. When your table is done with one variety, you pass it on to the next group. Sometimes lazy diners gum up the works, but as long as you're proactive about it, you shouldn't have any trouble trying around 10 different pizzas in a sitting.

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February 14, 2012

Alice Eats: The Pour House

IMG_35521930 Williston Road, South Burlington, 862-3653

I love food so much, I assume every restaurant is good until proved otherwise. And when I get a recommendation for a stellar brunch, I don't care where it is, I hightail it over there, believing every word.

That was what brought me to the Pour House last Sunday. It wasn't just one recommendation, either. A few acquaintances had mentioned that the Williston Road pub was a hidden gem, and 7 Nights critiques seemed to back it up. And there was a moose head, still decorated for Christmas. How could I go wrong?

Clearly, the folks I'd heard from weren't the only aficionados. Around 12:30 p.m., we got in line for a 10-minute wait. The large space was packed with sports fans watching a game and scanning the museum of local teams' treasures, but more of the crowd was there enjoying a beer with eggs or pancakes. That's right, the Pour House is the kind of place where there's no shame in starting the day with a brewski.

IMG_3553There were almost as many brunch specials as there were dishes on the regular menu and it all sounded good. But I couldn't help but settle on the "Irish eggs Benedict," described on the bill of fare as the house special.

It was an unconventional Benedict to say the least. The smallish plate was packed with cubes of potato, green peppers and prime rib. A pair of poached eggs sat on top, bathed in Hollandaise sauce. Chewy, buttery, house-baked bread sat on the side.

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