Update October 18, 2018: Food at Philo Ridge Farm is available for takeout as the farm addresses its waste-water permitting, according to farm officials.
Meatball hero at Philo Ridge Farm
When I pulled into the parking lot of Philo Ridge Farm
in Charlotte the other day, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to dine on a dime at its market café. After all, I squeezed into a space (which was hard to find) between a Mercedes SUV and a Volvo station wagon. A silver BMW arrived not long after I did.
I learned not to judge a café by the cars in its lot. As it turns out, it was no problem at all to eat lunch here for $12. The difficulty was deciding what to get.
Pizza was $2.75 a slice, $3.25 for the daily special topped with eggplant — lots of it — grown on the farm. Fried chicken, garnished with sprigs of rosemary and displayed in a big cast-iron skillet, was less than $3 per piece. A salad of gorgeous farm-grown vegetables was $8. I ordered a meatball hero ($10) and never looked back.
But I did keep looking up and around at the place, unlike any I've seen in Vermont, where I stopped for lunch in a big barn-like building at a crossroads in Charlotte. The market café is a bold combination of a Beacon Hill gourmet shop and a farmstand. The food and its presentation are so pleasing, you take two samples of Cobb Hill
cheese even as you watch a fly buzz and land on each slice.
Shelves are stocked with farm produce and meat, along with value-added products from the kitchen such as chicken and beef broth, hot sauce, tomatillo salsa, dilly beans and hot peppers. At a deli counter, you can order food to eat in a large adjoining dining room furnished with communal tables. Seating is also available at a wooden bar and on a couch that faces a fireplace. Doors open onto a patio and farm fields beyond. But it was raining hard the day I was there, and the lunch crowd was eating inside.
The tables were full, so I carried my sandwich to the coffee table and pulled up a chair. The meatballs, kept hot in a pot of red sauce, were simply seasoned to highlight the flavor of the farm-raised beef. Four of them were set on a bed of sharp melted cheese that lined the bottom of a warm, crusty baguette. I wondered about eating a South Philly kind of sandwich at a 400-acre farm in Charlotte, but the meatballs and marinara went down just fine.
Eggplant pizza at Philo Ridge Farm
I left Philo Ridge with half a chicken, raised and roasted at the farm, for $10 — thus scoring two inexpensive, first-rate meals in one day from this new place. It would probably make sense to go back for pizza, since the executive chef at Philo Ridge, Andrew Feinberg, is a former chef-owner of Franny’s. This was an acclaimed pizza place in Brooklyn that Feinberg opened and ran with his wife, Francine Stephens, now the food and farm director at Philo Ridge.
A couple of days after my lunch, I was dining on beer and popcorn at Zero Gravity Craft Brewery
. Frank Pace, chef-owner of neighboring restaurant the Great Northern
, stopped by to say hi. I asked him if he’d been to Philo Ridge Farm; he answered yes, and raved.
Pace predicted that Philo Ridge Farm could become the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Vermont. Meanwhile, you can get a slice for $2.75.
Dining on a Dime is a weekly series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.