1. Santos Cocina Latina, 311 Mountain Road, Stowe
Fans have already claimed that this restaurant has â€œchanged Stowe forever.â€� Others say the place â€œis part art gallery/restaurant/ wine bar and now home away from home.â€� Whatever is happening there, the staff gets high marks, the food gets rave reviews and the word on the street is â€œgo try it.â€� Featuring Latin American, Cuban food and a cozy wine bar. For reservations, call 802-253-3110.
2. Fridas Taqueria & Grill, 128 Main St, Stowe
Thereâ€™s a story to Fridaâ€™s, goes like this: â€˜Frida Kahlo was a renouned Mexican artist and social centerpoint with her husband Diego Rivera during the decades before and after WWII. Her personal life was filled with difficulty due to an accident early in her life, but she persevered despite physical challenges and the often narrow-minded social and political norms of those years. It is fitting that Jack and Josh (the owners) name the new restaurant after Frida Kahlo â€¦ The boys have translated Fridaâ€™s unique story and have created an original celebration of Mexican food and drink that works so well with friends and family. Consider what a calamari dish with guajillo chili, pineapple and pumpkinseed sauce feels like ... the first time. Yes. Thatâ€™s it. Or fresh prepared and delicious guacamole prepped right at your table done up in a volcanic stone pedstal while you watch. Then you get into the really good stuff, things like tacos, in varieties including chipolte barbeque shrimp...(eye-rolling, eye-closing, swearing under your breath good), or grilled skirt steak with charred onionsâ€¦â€™ Well, you get the idea. Cool place, great bar, fun people. Be there. Find it in the heart of downtown, at 128 Main St., 802-253-0333.
3. The Red Clover Inn Restaurant and Tavern, Mendon
New Chef Dennis C. Vieira offers â€œAmerican cuisine with a European flairâ€� in this beautiful rural inn tucked in the woods at the foot of Pico, Vt., just off Route 4 in Mendon. Chef Vieira says he plans to keep the menu seasonal with fresh ingredients from local farmers and area purveyors. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America, as well as techniques leaned abroad, cooking in both Northern Tuscany and Paris. Entrees will also feature local game. The Red Clover Inn is built on an historic small farm estate and features a comfortable rural setting with Pico Peak in the background. It is the sister inn to Vermontâ€™s famed, The Tyler Place Family Resort. The Red Cover Inn Restaurant is open Thursday-Monday, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Reservations recommended. For more info, visit www.redcloverinn.com.
4. Aliceâ€™s Table restaurant, Jay Peak Resort
Aliceâ€™s Table Restaurant opened Friday, Dec. 18, 2009 (talk about new!) in the new Tram Haus Lodge at Jay Peak Resort. Offering spectacular views of the mountain and valley from every table, the view is only equaled by its Chef de Cuisine, Christopher Lassey. Lassey was previously Executive Chef at The Inn at Shelburne Farms and Three Tomatoes in Williston. To illustrate the restaurantâ€™s local roots, the barnboard tables in the restaurant were created by Luke Hardy of nearby Montgomery from wood reclaimed from fallen down barns in the neighboring towns of Franklin County. The restaurant is named after Alice â€œGrammy Jayâ€� Lewis, who was instrumental in shaping Jay Peak during the Walter Foeger years.
A sampling of the menu features, Steamed Wild Maine Mussels as one appetizer (or trial run); Winter Squash and apple salad (featuring roasted butternut squash, Vermont apples, toasted almonds, local goat cheese, cinnamon croutons, pomegranate vinaigrette), or Jay Peak Tram Ale and Vt. Cheddar Soup, are served as an â€œintermediateâ€� course. And â€œexpertâ€� entrees include: five-spiced tea rubbed Atlantic Salmon, Vermont Grass Fed Beef, Stuffed Misty Knoll Chicken Breast and more. What could be better? Go to ski, stay to eat. For more info, www.jaypeakresort.com
5. Cool Moose CafÃ©, Okemo Resort, Ludlow
The Cool Moose CafÃ© is located across the street from the entrance to Okemo in downtown Ludlow. Owned and operated by Grary and Susan Barto of Reading, the cafÃ© offers Vermont fresh beef, chicken, dariy products and season vegetables. The atmosphere is family casual and is open every day at 3 p.m. with happy hour until 6 p.m. Dinner is served until 10 Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. House special chicken wings are offered during Happy Hour served hot, hotter or extreme â€” all for just 25 cents per wing. Beat that, Jack. Staying for dinner? The restaurant offers haddock, scallops, salmon, jumbo shrimp, a seafood platter, filet mignon, prime rib, pasta dishes and more. Itâ€™s new this year, check it out. For more info, go to www.coolmoosecafevt.com.
6. Aliceâ€™s Restaurant, Chester, Vt. (not too far from Ascutney or Okemo or Magic)
Located in a charming Victorian on Chesterâ€™s picturesque town green (come back this summer for great biking), Aliceâ€™s Restaurant has little to do with the Stockbridge, Mass. place made famous by Arlo Guthrie, but it feels like home and is immediately comfortable. As of early winter 2009, Alice's Restaurant is open only for breakfast and lunch, but dinner may be on the not-too-distant horizon. Until then, buttermilk pancakes, sourdough French toast, waffles, breakfast burritos and sandwiches are part of the breakfast feast. For lunch, a sweet-and-savory spinach tostada with bacon, pecans, dried cranberries, Jarlesberg cheese and more is featured, as are homemade soups and salads. Wraps, grilled pizza and deep-fried seafood are also part of the menu. Aliceâ€™s also serves great local beers â€” for lunch. You donâ€™t need a reservation, just drop by and enjoy a local place in a quintessential Vermont town.
7. Noel's Restaurant, Mendon, Route 4
Chef William Noel has opened a BBQ specialty house â€” and much more â€” just for the ski season. But make no mistake about it, the specialty is BBQ, which is also part of the restaurantâ€™s catering business. They offer Smoked Pork Ribs, Pulled Pork, Pig Roast with fruit chutney, smoked stuffed jalapenos peppers with cream cheese wrapped in bacon and smoked brisket. Featured in Bon Appetit and Gourmet Magazine, as well as being the recipient of numerous culinary awards, Chef Noelâ€™s talents have previously been enjoyed locally at the Red Clover Inn, The Lilac Inn and Taylorâ€™s. Lunch is served seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinners are served Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. During Holiday Weeks, both lunch and dinner will be served daily. For more information, call (802) 422-5582.
8. MINT in Waitsfield
Located in downtown Waitsfied, MINT is a restaurant and tea shop that is avowedly vegetarian with a hip atmosphere. Located in the downtown on Bridge Street near the covered bridge, MINT is one of the few eateries in Vermont that serves no flesh â€” fish or fowl â€” but thatâ€™s how owners and married partners Savitri, 38, and Iliyan Deskov, 28, like it. If enjoying a hearty bowl of brown-rice with citrus-laced greens and black turtle beans, or a crisp falafel special along with a plate piled high with homemade pitas and lightly dressed salad and laced with tahini sauce is not for you, leave it for others to love and cherish. Chef Deskov loves decadent desserts, too, but weâ€™ll leave it for all you Mad River Valley diehards to drop by and taste for yourself.