Dining on a Dime: Vermont’s Tastee Grill Pumps Out Diner Classics in South Burlington | Dining on a Dime | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Dining on a Dime: Vermont’s Tastee Grill Pumps Out Diner Classics in South Burlington

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Reuben sandwich with macaroni salad at Vermont's Tastee Grill - MELISSA PASANEN
  • Melissa Pasanen
  • Reuben sandwich with macaroni salad at Vermont's Tastee Grill

Generally, I don't seek out food at gas stations. Notable exceptions include the saag paneer from Rickie's Indian Restaurant at the South Barre Citgo — and, of course, Fritos and sour candy to power long road trips.

I recently discovered another worthy pump-adjacent food destination — which, I'm embarrassed to admit, has operated for about five years mere minutes from my South Burlington home. In my defense, Vermont's Tastee Grill occupies a low-slung brick building with yellow siding that is tucked well behind the Sunoco pumps at 1041 Shelburne Road. And I mostly avoid that part of the charmless, busy thoroughfare.

But, based on my first order of a crisply griddled, bountifully layered Reuben sandwich with a side of housemade macaroni salad generously crunched up with fresh vegetables ($10.99), I will be navigating that stretch of road more frequently.

Early last Thursday afternoon, chef-owner Vick Miles flipped, fried and toasted steadily behind the counter. Almost every item carefully handwritten on the breakfast and lunch boards rings in below the $12 Dining on a Dime threshold, and every order appeared to deliver a solid bang for those bucks. High on my list to try next are the Montréal smoked meat sandwich and the Philly cheesesteak (each $10.99).

Miles knew most of the customers who stopped by — or maybe they just all knew him. It turned out even I sort of knew Miles. When we chatted later, he told me he had cooked for 17 years at the Dutch Mill Family Restaurant a little farther south on Shelburne Road. I'd seen him at that similarly straightforward, diner-style spot, a favorite breakfast destination when my kids were younger.

Vick Miles of Vermont's Tastee Grill - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Vick Miles of Vermont's Tastee Grill

Miles, 64, earned a culinary degree in his native North Carolina and then a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Champlain College. He moved up to Vermont in 1968. "I went back and forth between Burlington, N.C., and Burlington, Vt.," Miles said. He opened Vermont's Tastee Grill under a different name with a former business partner in 2017.

The chef proudly noted that he preps and cooks almost everything from scratch, including the deeply bronzed, fresh-cut French fries and his smoked pulled pork. I will jump on the Southern specials Miles described to me, including pinto beans with ham hocks and collard greens and smothered pork chops — the food of his childhood.

A framed, undated newspaper article on the restaurant's back wall tells the story of Miles' mother, Mildred, a caterer who cooked for jails and hospitals in North Carolina. "Cooking is a way of showing love and care," Mildred told the reporter.

Miles credits his mother with his love of cooking. "I come from a family where food was important," he said.

Dining on a Dime is a 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: food@sevendaysvt.com.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Get Your Fill"