Melissa Pasanen ©️ Seven Days
Lee Anderson (left) and Justin Wright in front of ¡Duino! (Duende)
Lee Anderson, owner of ¡Duino! (Duende)
on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington, announced on social media Tuesday that he will be closing his 10-year-old international street food restaurant by the end of July.
He will open a new restaurant business in its place in mid-August with a takeout and delivery-only menu designed by newly hired chef Justin Wright. Anderson was not ready to share the name of the new endeavor, but said the menu will be heavy on vegetables, noting that he himself is vegetarian.
Prior to the pandemic, Anderson had been considering a shift in direction for ¡Duino! (Duende), which is sandwiched between his bar and music venues, Light Club Lamp Shop and Radio Bean.
He will also be relaunching Light Club Lamp Shop as a retail shop and artist market called Cherry.
"I made this pivot because of COVID," Anderson said, explaining that he does not think he will feel comfortable hosting customers inside until next summer.
Anderson has been working with a small team of about four employees to keep ¡Duino! (Duende) going with takeout and delivery. He temporarily renamed the restaurant, ¿Do We Know?, in a nod to all that is unknown about the current situation.
Wright, the new restaurant's chef, is a 2005 New England Culinary Institute graduate. He worked at Hen of the Wood, Doc Ponds and the Inn at Shelburne Farms before moving to California in 2015. He was most recently chef de cuisine at Sister in Oakland.
He said Sister closed temporarily in March due to the pandemic. It had only recently reopened for onsite dining again when California Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down indoor dining again on July 13 due to a surge of COVID-19 cases.
"The cards were on the table," Wright said. "The opportunities I moved out there for weren't really there any more."
Wright and his wife, who grew up in Bristol, loved living in California, he said, but knew they wanted to return East at some point. The pandemic "was the impetus for moving back," he said.
"I threw some lines in the water," Wright said. "I didn't even know if there was going to be a job for me."
The opportunity to work with Anderson on the takeout and delivery-only concept appealed to Wright in a way he never expected.
"It felt very safe," he said. "For the first time in my career, to-go food sounded good. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth. I never would have thought I would be excited about that."