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Waitsfield’s Madbush Falls Fuels the Outdoor Crowd


Published November 7, 2023 at 2:10 p.m.
Updated November 8, 2023 at 10:09 a.m.

Templeton Farm burger - COURTESY OF RL PHOTO
  • Courtesy Of RL Photo
  • Templeton Farm burger

My 26-year-old son needed no convincing to head to Madbush Falls in Waitsfield for a brunch and mountain biking excursion when he and his girlfriend visited recently from Brooklyn.

"I'm so in!!" Alex texted.

He will be equally enthusiastic when stick season eventually turns to winter and he can make a pit stop at Madbush en route to Sugarbush, his favorite local snowboarding destination. Once snow starts falling, the meal will most likely be an après-piste visit — as the Madbush menu calls it — for a fried chicken sandwich drizzled with spiced chile oil or honey-cumin cauliflower topped with walnuts and feta, paired with a beer such as Lucy & Howe Brewing's Penguins at the Rock Show brewed in Jericho.

During peak winter, powder hounds like my son may not have time to dally over house-smoked salmon eggs Benedict and a spicy Bloody Mary on their way to the slopes, but I will. As the committed sports snail of my family, I like nothing more than to fuel up at a leisurely pace before heading out on snowshoes or clipping on my cross-country skis for a mellow glide through the woods.

Jonny Adler behind the bar at Madbush Falls - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Jonny Adler behind the bar at Madbush Falls

Whichever meal bookends your outdoor winter activity of preference, the casual restaurant and bar at Jonny Adler's new Madbush Falls property should meet your needs with executive chef Cody Pratt at its helm. The Berlin native returned home after 11 years of cooking, skiing and riding in Lake Tahoe.

Adler, who cofounded the Skinny Pancake restaurant group with his brother Benjy, bought the 20-acre property two years ago. It was best known as the site of the long-shuttered John Egan's Big World Pub & Grill.

After a major construction project, Madbush Falls opened in early August with 18 hotel rooms, plus a four-bedroom apartment that sleeps 12 and seasonal glamping sites. The 50-seat restaurant, with a small bar and outdoor deck, sits above a retail shop called Riders Outpost, operated by Outdoor Gear Exchange. During the summer and fall, the shop caters to mountain and gravel bikers, but it will switch over to snow sports, including fat biking, for the winter.

While we waited for food during our recent visit, Alex and his girlfriend popped downstairs and got great advice on biking trails — plus walking options for the snails among us.

  • Courtesy Of RL Photo
  • OTB burrito

The restaurant currently starts serving at 4 p.m. daily and offers weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. But it will open earlier in the afternoon and add breakfast when snow arrives — or the week of Christmas at the latest, Adler said. The free Mad Bus shuttle to Sugarbush Resort will stop at Madbush, so people can park there, grab preordered breakfast sandwiches and coffee, and hop on the bus, he said.

The goal of Madbush, Adler said, "is to make it as easy as possible to get outside." The food, he continued, is designed to be "hearty and fill you up after an active day."

Our brunch experience proved that it will also fill you up before an active day.

Pratt, who was initially hired as the kitchen manager, took over on September 1, when the original executive chef opted to work closer to his Burlington home for family reasons. Pratt's Cali-Mex culinary experience is evidenced by the brunch menu's stacked tostada ($12), chilaquiles ($17) and OTB (Over the Bars) burrito ($10).

Sadly, the chilaquiles were sold out when we dined, but the burrito made up for that: generously stuffed with eggs, cheddar and a hash brown cake, plus optional chorizo ($6), with a nicely crisped tortilla wrap and a tangy housemade green chile sauce. The juicy brunch burger ($19), made with Templeton Farm beef from East Montpelier, also boasted the hash brown between its glossy bun halves, along with an over-easy egg, thick-cut bacon and house aioli.

House-smoked salmon eggs Benedict - COURTESY OF RL PHOTO
  • Courtesy Of RL Photo
  • House-smoked salmon eggs Benedict

On the more breakfasty side of the menu, we enjoyed the salmon Benedict ($18), which we opted for on hash browns, too. The flaky, moist salmon was hot-smoked in-house, and the hollandaise was bright with lemon. We did wish for more crunch on the accompanying home fries. The same home fries benefited from time on the flattop with chunks of braised local short rib in Pratt's satisfying twist on hash under two poached eggs ($18).

November will be a trial run for new dishes, including two featuring the short rib: a poutine made with beef gravy and local cheese curds ($18) and a sandwich ($21) on Red Hen Baking sourdough with caramelized onions. On the dinner menu, the recently introduced ancho-crusted salmon with cauliflower purée, harissa-and-honey-roasted carrots, and spinach ($30) has already proven a hit, Pratt said.

Stick season will also bring hot soups such as a chunky green chile chicken (from $4 for a cup) and weekly burger specials (starting at $18), such as one topped with fig-onion jam, goat cheese, pickled red onion and bacon.

Some of us might need to start moving a little faster to work up a bigger appetite.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Mad Hungry | Waitsfield's Madbush Falls fuels the outdoor crowd"

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