Burlington—or, the idea of Burlington—was our original draw to Vermont. We knew it was a medium-sized city that boasted Lake Champlain, a view of the Adirondack mountains, renewable energy, and pedestrian-friendly streets. We ended up two hours south of Burlington in the rural village of West Pawlet. A better situation, to be sure. The draw to see Burlington withstanding, we took a road trip north with our friends Pete (head farmer at Consider Bardwell, and our boss for all intents and purposes) and Abi (his partner, who is a Nurse Practitioner by day and a volunteer farmer by night). It seems important to mention that they are both entrenched in Vermont's food and beverage culture, rendering them our perfect travel companions.
This particular day trip was, in many ways, the antithesis of our daily existence. We switched from producer to consumer, retreating from the barn to delight in the offerings of charming diners, cafes, and shops. The earthy tones of Vermont's rural landscape were replaced by colorful murals and streetscapes. Our dirty work clothes (and their companion scents) were far, far away. It was wonderful. It was also exhausting. Make no mistake, we savored every bit of it: the world-class beers, the tacos (oh, the tacos...), the record shop, the outdoors stores, et cetera. Burlington offers as much for the day tripper to do and see as any place we have found, doing so on a manageable scale in a breathtaking setting. We are eager to visit again sometime, but not before enjoying some time back in the country. We've included a roundup of our favorite spots, very worth visiting if you are like us.
. . . a roundup of our favorite spots in Burlington
Boasting a great selection of jazz and blues vinyl. If you are partial to a disheveled, semi-seedy record shop with mountains of $2 records that have gems if you are willing to look (as is our preference), this is probably not the place for you. If you want to find a mint condition Duke Ellington record (like us), stop in.
El Cortijo Taqueria y Cantina
The best "farm-to-taco" joint we never knew existed. With offerings like lengua (beef tongue) and carne (beef shoulder) topped with phenomenal chimmichurri, it's worth $5 per taco. Their draught list includes Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist, two of Vermont's best breweries (HF is the best).
City Market / Onion River Co-Op
A grocery lover's dream come true. With every sort of food, beverage, and apothecary provision you can imagine, it's a beautiful place to find everything rural areas would never have.
The Farmhouse Tap & Grill
Extensive local tap list and a relaxed, clean atmosphere conducive to an afternoon beer. We hear they have a speakeasy, though we did not have a chance to check it out.
. . . and the surrounding area
Fiddlehead Brewing Company (Shelburne, VT)
Second Fiddle Double IPA is, simply put, a damn fine beer.
The Vermont Flannel Company (Ferrisburgh, VT)
The name alone should be sufficient. Head here if you have dreamt of a store dedicated to flannel everything (including flannel fanny packs—flanny pack!?—and $3 flannel scrunchies that you know Sam is wearing right now).
. . . and a bit of a hike away
Three Squares Cafe (Vergennes, VT)
If you were driving south to north, stop here for breakfast. Great coffee (the light roasted, caffeine high inducing sort) and big plates of high-quality diner fare. Bonus: Vergennes is the smallest city in America!