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Side Dishes: Two Burlington eateries are in flux - and a third closes


Published February 2, 2011 at 7:54 a.m.

Winter can be a static season, but a few Burlington restaurants are dealing with shakeups.

Pacific Rim announced — again — that it’s staying open, at least for another month. For months, the Asian-fusion eatery has been in limbo as plans for a building renovation evolved. Last fall, landlord Joe McNeil announced that he planned to modernize the cream-and-red building on St. Paul Street where the eatery has resided since 1999.

Pacific Rim owner Rich Brandt says McNeil first gave him word that he needed to close in October, then pushed that date back to December, then to the end of January. On the brink of a January 29 closure, Brandt learned that the renovation had been held up again until March or even later. Now he plans to stay open until at least the end of February.

Brandt acknowledges that “it’s a good idea to renovate and modernize the building,” which dates from the 1800s. (It used to stable horses on the ground floor while their riders bunked above.) He’d just like a clearer sense of when he’ll need to close, and for how long.

“[Closing] could be a blessing in disguise,” Brandt admits — given that his family has a baby on the way. Meanwhile, the reprieve gives him time to figure out where he’ll store his tables, chairs and equipment during the months-long renovation. “Now we can take a breather,” he says. But he’s unsure when, if and where he’ll reopen.

At nearby Church & Main, the kitchen has had a changing of the guard: Chef Ben Brezic left two weeks ago, and sous chef Mark Mercer has taken his place. The amiable Mercer was too busy during a recent lunch to talk about his plans. Manager Francesca Orsini says the menu will be changing in a few weeks, while the restaurant’s hours stay the same. “We’re trying to see how all of the pieces of the puzzle come together,” she explains.

Patrons of One Pepper Grill have encountered a locked door and a glimpse of owner Sam Lai’s hand-built furniture in a state of disassembly. The Old North End eatery closed several weeks ago. Lai says his partner, Max Saltis, had been running the restaurant but had “other things come up” that kept pulling him away.

Lai, who’s been working in restaurants since his early teens, has no plans for a replacement venture. He’s still busy running China Express down the street while he cleans out One Pepper Grill’s storefront.