- Melissa and John Montagne
When Melissa Montagne and her husband, John — a professional hoof trimmer — decided to start a restaurant in St. Albans, they wanted to make sure it was affordable for families. "We have six children," Melissa said. "There aren't a lot of restaurants we can go to if we don't want to pay $200 [for all eight to eat]."
Last Wednesday, the Montagnes opened the Wooden Nickel at 366 Lake Road in St. Albans. The name references Melissa's Native American heritage (Native Americans were pictured on some wooden nickels) and the fact that, on their first date, John purchased buffalo nickels at a coin shop.
What's on the menu? "Real poutine with Vermont cheese curds," said Melissa, plus house-smoked meats, a Reuben topped with spicy coleslaw, and taco salad served in a deep-fried shell. Basic burgers will ring up at $9.99. Among the decadent desserts are peanut butter pie, cheesecake and deep-fried Twinkies.
In addition to keeping things reasonably priced, Melissa noted, the pair want to source as much food as they can from themselves and their neighbors. Beef will come from one of John's 40 hoof-trimming clients, as soon as those farmers can get their cattle to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected plant. In the summer, the Montagne kids will help their parents grow items for the restaurant in their garden.
There's plenty of local stuff to drink, too. Six of the 10 taps at the bar are dedicated to Vermont beers, including a trio from nearby 14th Star Brewing. Cocktails can be made with WhistlePig straight Rye Whiskey or vodka from Smugglers' Notch Distillery.
How was their first week? "We wanted to do a soft opening," Melissa said, but on Saturday the Wooden Nickel had a line out the door with a 40-minute wait. "Farmers believe in giving back to the community," she explained. "It was a lot of farmers that filled us up ... That was them giving back to us."