Sunday, July 02, 2017

Weekend Cooking: 4 Restaurants in Northern Vermont

If you've been reading my blog lately, you know my husband and I recently spent a lovely week in Vermont. You can check out my recap of three VT bookstores we visited and my photos of the natural beauty in Vermont, and last week's Weekend Cooking: Great Restaurants in Manchester, VT. I am back with another Weekend Cooking post, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, as part of my series on restaurants in Vermont.

This week, I am focusing in on the northern half of Vermont. We didn't venture up to the far northern reaches of Vermont, but we spent a few days in the Stowe region and then stopped in Montpelier on our way back south. Here are four restaurants/coffee shops in northern Vermont that are worth a stop:

Delicious coffee from Black Cap warmed us up on a rainy day
Black Cap Coffee and Beer
On our only cold, rainy day during our trip, we escaped the campground to dry out and spend the day in town(s). Our first stop on our way through Morrisville was the brand-new Black Cap Coffee and Beer. You may think (as I did) that this is an odd combination for a coffee shop, but this is Vermont: craft beer and hand-crafted coffees are the norm here, so why not combine them? Even the gas stations sell Green Mountain Coffee (no Folger's or Maxwell House in sight). Black Cap has another location on Main Street in Stowe. This Morrisville shop had just opened when we were there. They sold all kinds of special coffees and teas, a nice selection of pastries, and sandwiches for well as, yes, beer. We just grabbed a couple of coffees to go, but my latte was rich and decadent. I'm not supposed to eat sugar, but I really wanted to try the Maple Latte! It looked like a nice place to hang out.

Cozy dining room at The Whip (photo from Green Mountain Inn)
The Whip Bar & Grill
An old college friend of mine lives in Stowe, so we met her and her husband for lunch at The Whip, a restaurant located downstairs at the lovely Green Mountain Inn on Main Street in Stowe. It turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch, with a varied menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers, and entrees. The focus - as is true of most Vermont restaurants - is on fresh, local ingredients, and they have a nice selection of local beers.  The two men both ordered The Whip Burger, featuring Vermont grass-fed beef and local Cabot cheddar with fries. I ordered the Summer Salad with salmon on top, and my friend ordered a classic Reuben Sandwich. All of our meals were delicious - everyone was pleased with what they ordered - and service was excellent. I would definitely try The Whip for dinner as well.

El Toro Mexican Restaurant
By evening, the rain had stopped, but we decided to make a whole day of it and stay in town for dinner and a movie. We ate dinner at El Toro, a Mexican restaurant on Lower Main Street in Morrisville, VT (a town just northeast of Stowe and on our way to Elmore State Park, where we were camping). El Toro is a small, nicely decorated restaurant that was busy but not overcrowded on the Friday we were there. The menu (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) covers mostly basic Mexican dishes like tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. Salsa and chips were fresh and tasty. I ordered shrimp tacos and my husband ordered soft chicken tacos. Both were very good, though fairly simple in preparation. We enjoyed our meal and were out in plenty of time to catch Wonder Woman at the tiny local theater!

NECI on Main in Montpelier, VT
NECI on Main
On our way back south, we drove through Montpelier and stopped for lunch at NECI on Main, which I had read about and wanted to try. NECI is the New England Culinary Institute, located in the same building as this restaurant that showcases food by its students. They have two other restaurants in Montpelier: The Chef's Table and La Brioche, a bakery. NECI on Main only lists dinner on their website, but they are also open for lunch. The menu offered a nice range of small plates and entrees, including all kinds of soups, salads, and sandwiches, plus appetizers and main dishes. We both ordered the Fish & Chips, which my husband had the traditional way and I ordered with sweet potato fries. We also got a mixed greens salad to split (they offer a few items available to split). The waitress brought over our choice of 3 fresh breads: I chose sourdough and my husband got the country white and both were delicious. The salad greens were super-fresh with a tasty lemon vinaigrette. The fried cod was light and tasty, both kinds of fries were perfectly cooked, and the homemade coleslaw was excellent. We both enjoyed the meal very much, and I will definitely look for other Culinary Institute restaurants when we travel.

That's it for our northern Vermont culinary adventures - next week, I will finish this series with restaurants in central Vermont, including Woodstock and Bethel.


  1. Enjoyed reading about your travels and restaurant visits in Vermont. I've actually never been to Vermont. I'm taking my first trip to Cape Cod this weekend.. We live in Phila but tend to go south ..

    1. Ah, we live near Philly, too, Judee! (in northern Delaware). We did head south in April when it was still cool here, but camping is no fun in the heat & humidity, so for our June trip we headed north to worked out great! It was 98 when we left DE and just perfect weather most of the week up there. Enjoy Cape Cod! We went for the first time a few years ago.

  2. Oh how I'd love to visit (or attend) a culinary institute. Your travels sound delicious!

    1. You can! There are culinary school all over the nation that have restaurants attached to them, Tanya. I had heard about this before - I know there is one near us in Philly - but this was the first time we tried one. Here's a list of culinary schools in NC - search for one near you with "restaurant" to see if they have one - most schools do, to give their students real-life experience:

  3. A coffee bar is right up my alley! I find it difficult to pass up a non-chain Mexican restaurant, some of my favorite eating.All the restaurants look awesome

    1. I know, right? Great combo. We love Mexican, too. There are another Mexican place in Morrisville, right across the street from El Toro, that specialized in tamales, which are my husband's FAVORITE, but they were closed that day. Next time!