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Side Dishes: Pistou to open on Burlington's Main Street

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Via Loma was known for flexible hours and unexplained closings, so when it went dark last spring, many Burlingtonians weren’t aware it had shuttered for good. Those who are just finding out won’t have long to mourn, however. A new market and café will soon open in its place.

Pistou will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, probably beginning in December, though co-owner Maji Chien says it may debut as early as November. Chef and co-owner Max Mackinnon explains that the eatery’s name, French for “pesto,” says it all when it comes to the resto’s concept. “It’s a versatile sauce that’s relatively simple,” he explains. “It can be refined; it can be rustic. That simplicity and flexibility is reflected in the food we do.”

Pistou’s day will start with light breakfast options and plenty of coffee, possibly provided by the folks at Maglianero. Soups and sandwiches dominate the lunch options. At dinner, a small, focused à la carte menu will be composed of decidedly refined cuisine.

Chien says the original dinner concept involved multicourse tasting menus. Though the pair decided against offering those every night, they still plan to serve special long-form meals on a regular basis. Many, says Chien, will be focused on beer pairings with companies such as New Hampshire’s White Birch Brewing.

The ambitious Middlebury grads, both in their mid-twenties, have the resumes to back up their plans. Post-Midd, Mackinnon graduated from the French Culinary Institute. Last year, he worked at David Bouley’s Manhattan test kitchen and helped the Eleven Madison Park team prepare to represent the United States at the Bocuse d’Or. Just before heading home to Burlington, he spent time as a prep chef at the Food Network. For her part, Chien worked front of house at Bar Boulud and Robert at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design. Before returning to Vermont, she helped open ultra-hot Korean tapas joint Danji.

Those are some high-end credentials for the owners of a “simple” restaurant located closer to Lake Champlain than to bustling Church Street. But the friends say their experience has taught them to give people what they want. “We want to stick to our ideas but shift to the demands of the public,” says Mackinnon.

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