by Alice Levitt
You know that a restaurant is intensely anticipated when it gains more than 100 followers in its first 24 hours on Facebook. But not every restaurant is the brainchild of Elena Gustavson, the program director at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick.
Gustavson's social-media presence may be blowing up, but she doesn't plan to open DownStreet Eats at 3075 Main Street in Cabot until mid-September.
Gustavson's locavore pedigree is enough to get many diners excited, but the chef-owner admits that she hasn't yet reached out to many of her farmer friends in the Cabot and Marshfield area to source the new restaurant — though she plans to.
Locally focused restaurants are a dime a dozen in Vermont these days. But Korean food is not.
That's right, the California native is bringing her mother's native cuisine, along with other Asian dishes from her culturally diverse family, to the 1433-person town. But chef friends warned her that bulgogi and mandoo (above right) alone might not fly in the tiny corner of Washington County. "They’re encouraging me to use it as a way to educate people. Not in a condescending way, but to say, 'Hey, these are foods from my family,' and sharing them along with the foods that folks are familiar with," she explains.
That means supper offerings will include pulled pork over polenta and a Reuben sandwich, along with the banh mi sandwich above, dumplings of the day and lemongrass chicken over coconut rice. The Korean beef in a sweet ginger soy marinade is just one of the dishes that hearkens back to Gustavson's childhood attending potlucks after services at a Los Angeles Korean church.
Brunch will lean more toward the flavors of rural Vermont with dishes inlcuding French toast stuffed with blueberry-peach cream and corncakes with spiced honey, roasted root vegetables and fresh greens.
Gustavson has agreed to continue in her job at the Center for an Agricultural Economy at least through October, so DownStreet's schedule will be light at first, with dinner served Thursday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday. She hopes to serve dinner five nights a week by spring. And perhaps by then, we can expect dishes from the Swedish side of the family, too.