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Order Cali-Inspired Breakfast All Day at Firebird Café in Essex Junction

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Firebird Café owner Jake Tran - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Firebird Café owner Jake Tran

Vermont feels a long way from California — except at Essex Junction's Firebird Café. There, owner Jake Tran ensures that even on the gloomiest days, customers can get a taste of his sunny home state.

Location Details Firebird Café
1 Main St.
Chittenden County
Essex Junction, VT
802-316-4265
Soup 'n' Sandwich

Firebird is a casual spot where diners order at the counter from one of a multiethnic crew of young staffers. Finding a table may require some patience, but it's worth waiting for a seat in the bright, airy dining room adorned with avian sculptures and antique bird cages.

Tran says he "learned his flavor profiles" at mom-and-pop Mexican joints back in Santa Cruz, and there is nothing Green Mountain about his salsa verde. The seed-filled concoction explodes with a punch of tangy, salty, umami splendor. It's best over the tender, citrus-spiked carnitas burrito. Or try the beef or chicken in a tomato-based sauce with smoky chipotle peppers. The slow burn builds throughout the meal, intensifying with each bite. For those looking for a taste more Vermont than Santa Cruz, there are panini and wraps with fresh, homemade chutneys.

Firebird Café - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Firebird Café

Breakfast is available all day at this laid-back eatery — Tran doesn't put away the eggs at noon. French toast made with multigrain or sourdough bread comes with grilled bananas.

For those unafraid of a caloric splurge, the croissant version is a must. Two croissants are split into four halves, dipped in cinnamony custard and cooked on a griddle. The outside of the flaky pastry retains its crispness, while the custard filling each nook and cranny tastes like a cross between breakfast and dessert.

The only thing that can make the dish more indulgent is a cup of Firebird's hot chocolate, made with foamy steamed milk and semisweet chocolate chips.

It's hot stuff, this "fusion" food bridging East and West coasts.

This article was originally published in 7 Nights: The Seven Days Guide to Vermont Restaurants & Bars in April 2013.