Abridged Vermont: Burlington

by Mike Dunphy

Before becoming editor in chief of The Bridge, I spent more than 10 years in the travel and tourism industry. I continue to do so on the side, and, indeed, I am currently in the middle of updating the Fodor’s Travel Guide for Vermont. This means poking around the entire state for the best restaurants, pubs, hotels, attractions, and activities.

Starting with this issue, readers of The Bridge also benefit. Once a month, Abridged Vermont will highlight what’s the buzz in one Vermont town or city in hopes of inspiring some weekend getaways. In some cases, the experiences are sponsored by the venues, but I have selected according to quality and appeal only. 

As Vermont’s largest city, and my hometown, Burlington is the place to begin.

-See-

S.P.A.C.E Gallery

Anyone who knew Burlington before the 2000s can’t help but be shocked—in the best possible way—by the transformation of the South End. The once dismal, derelict industrial district now hosts one of the most happening art scenes in the Northeast. See a cross section at the S.P.A.C.E (Supportive Places for Artists and the Creative Economy) gallery on Pine Street, where 12 working artists create pieces in a variety of styles, mediums, and methods, from the “cute and deadly” drawings and paintings of Martha Hull, to the wire sculpture of Jake Rifken and Steampunk-style jewelry of designer Mark Eliot Schwabe. 

The attached gallery is open weekly (Thursday–Saturday, from 12 to 5 pm), but the best time to visit may be during the monthly First Friday Art Walk, when dozens of art venues across Burlington host openings, exhibitions, and happenings. It’s at that time you can meet and greet many of the artists at S.P.A.C.E and learn more about what they do, or at least negotiate a price over cups of cheap wine—as it should be.

266 Pine St., 578-2512, spacegalleryvt.com

-Play-

Community Sailing Center

After much hemming, hawing, and last-minute appeals for private donations, Burlington’s 22,000-square-foot new three-story Community Sailing Center on the Waterfront got its Champagne christening June 1.

Boating enthusiasts and newbies can choose from 150 watercraft to rent including kayaks, sailboats, and paddleboards for as little as $15 an hour. Private instruction and family lessons are available.

And that’s only the start of what’s available. Instructor/owner of Hot Yoga Burlington and Coast Guard Master Captain Bill O’Connor leads floating yoga classes on paddle boards, which if anything, teaches balance. Events are also scheduled for nearly every weekend in summer, including The Regatta for Lake Champlain and the Water Works Fair. Otherwise, just pop up to the third floor for spectacular views of the lake from the large covered deck.

505 Lake St., 864-2499, communitysailingcenter.org

-Eat-

Honey Road

When the coveted James Beard Award named Honey Road a semi-finalist for “best new restaurant,” it merely confirmed the effusive word-of-mouth praise coming from its diners. Located at the corner of Church and Main Streets, it’s become one of Burlington’s must-go culinary experiences, taking Eastern Mediterranean cuisine and giving it a significant boutique twist that wows at nearly every bite and sip.

Dishes are served mezze style and designed to be shared (or fought over). While the menu changes according to the seasonal availability of ingredients, start with the Muhammara walnut-red pepper dip, fresh-baked pita, and lamb crackers. Then move on to plates of grape leaf dolma stuffed with lamb; roasted asparagus on a bed of goat cheese and fig Jam; and sweet Harissa chicken wings, arguably the best in Vermont.

156 Church St., 497-2145, honeyroadrestaurant.com

-Drink-

Foam Brewers

Everyone knows Vermont is beer heaven, and one of its brightest lights is at Foam Brewers in Waterfront Park. Opened in 2016 by several brewers formerly of Switchback and Magic Hat, it’s since become a must-drink for beer aficionados. Tasting notes like “citrus, mango, pineapple, tangerine, and passion fruit” laden brews named for ’90s music and Stanley Kubrick films. In some cases thanks to direct additions, such as the 180 pounds of fresh peaches brewed for the saison “Pitted Against Drie,” but also from freshly harvested, full-cone wet hops from Chateaugay, New York. Go even deeper down the rabbit hole with the “wild ales” aged in oak barrels with orange peel, rose hips, and Vermont wildflower honey from brewer Todd Haire’s side project, House of Fermentology.

With the lakefront and patio (and ample parking) right outside, it’s a near perfect summer scene, but the interior design of the 19th-century building aims to match.  The flowing concrete and colored glass-inlaid bar top and other design elements come from the founder of NorthLand Visual Design & Construction, Russ Bennett, whose designs have infused everything from Phish and Bonnaroo festivals to Red Hen Baking and Capital Plaza Hotel in Montpelier.

12 Lake St., 399-2511, foambrewers.com

-Dream-

Made INN Vermont

While most Vermont inns embrace flowered wallpaper and four-poster beds, Made INN Vermont has turned that image on its head in the best possible way, thanks to the whimsical  eye of owner Linda Wolf. After purchasing the 1881 house near the corner of Willard and Maple, she gave it a total makeover that infuses the elegant 19th-century framework with a significant boutique quirk, including chalkboard walls and vinyl record collections in the rooms, guitars in the corridors, and a virtual sea of fascinating knick-knacks in the ultra cozy lounge. Indeed, every turn of the head unearths some new treasure.

The kitchen area maintains an impressive 24-hour spread of snacks, fruit, and sparkling wine that’s included in the price. The breakfast, including salmon eggs benedict, impresses enough to forswear the many wonderful opportunities just a few blocks down the hill on Church Street. However, the crown jewel remains a hot cup of tea or flute of Champagne in the upstairs in the cupola, which offers panaromic views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks—stunning at sunset.

204 S. Willard St., 399-2788, madeinnvermont.com

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