by Alice Levitt
203 Powderhound Road, Warren, 496-9222
It's no secret that I'm a Jewish American Princess. I normally wouldn't be caught dead in a youth hostel. But Hostel Tevere is different. Even the bathrooms are clean, bright and decorated with hipster art that is more funny (if misspelled) than obnoxious.
The hostel's restaurant has become a major destination in the Mad River Valley, and for good reason. The small dining area, filled with communal tables, feels like a cool update on a 19th-century tavern, complete with a craft beer list that's heavy on Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery, as well as local names such as Lawson's and Lost Nation.
But the real attraction is the food. Local and handmade, yes, but more importantly, the menu is highly eclectic and the dishes are prepared with great care.
We started with a pair of kielbasa corn dog pops, as did, apparently, everyone else dining on Saturday night. How could you not, when each is only $1?
The kielbasa lent a stronger, tangier taste to the pop, but in the end, they were still just very good (tiny) corn dogs. But the Dijon aioli that came on the side ended up playing a key role with our other starter, the house salt-and-vinegar chips.
Though the warm chips were suitably salty, they could have used more of a pucker. But dipping them in the tangy sauce hit the spot. We nearly demolished the large bowl before our entrées arrived.
The brisket sandwich could have come at a better time in my life — I'd just been to Temple Sinai's Great Brisket Bake-Off the night before.
But the beef at Hostel Tevere was smoked, not braised, and compared favorably to any other smoked-brisket sandwich I've had. The texture was ideal, holding together just until the meat yielded easily to my teeth. The smoky meat synthesized with the melted local gouda on top. In turn, the cheese helped hold in place not one but two kinds of cabbage.
I wish there had been more of the pink, lightly sour pickled stuff instead of the creamy coleslaw. With the cheese already there, the fatty sandwich didn't really need the latter.
Big points for the matchstick frites, too. They were just my style. Too bad they weren't mentioned on the menu and I had already gorged on chips. If I had known I was in for fried potatoes, I would have started my meal with a Brussels sprout salad.
Though I was tempted by schnitzel with mustard-braised cabbage and housemade pasta carbonara, I needed my mofongo. The plantain-and-garlic mash in one of my favorite things, and this was the first time I'd seen it in Vermont.
The Puerto Rican dish was surprisingly comforting on a cold night. How could sweet starch filled with bacon not be? The mash itself was delicious, if slightly more dry than ideal.
Alongside this, a tender chicken thigh was covered in the same, zingy, tomato-based sofrito that topped the mofongo. At $10, the dish was an excellent value and would have been plenty for a meal on its own. And until I can next get to a big city for a Puerto Rican feast, I'll be happy to see Cleopatra the French bulldog and dig in at Hostel Tevere once again.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.