- File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
- A hot toddy
Sitting down for a steamy mug of hot chocolate or a cold beer in the base lodge is a ski-season tradition. But with resorts limiting their indoor capacities this year, skiers and riders will be looking down the mountain for their sips and snacks.
Thankfully, mountain towns around Vermont have the après-ski vibe down to a science, even during a pandemic. Whether you want to warm up with a hot cocktail in front of an outdoor fire, dive into a hearty meal in a cozy dining room, or pick up dinner and drinks to bring home, these five dining destinations will welcome you this winter — snowsuits and all.
Black Lantern Inn
2057 N. Main St., Montgomery, 326-3269, blacklanternvt.com
- Courtesy Of Black Lantern Inn
- Citrus-marinated Faroe Island salmon over linguini at Black Lantern Inn
The winter menu at Black Lantern Inn's farm-to-table restaurant is full of ideal après-ski dishes. Jonesing for a bowl of French onion soup? How about a plate of smoked-duck poutine, or the vegan Sweet Potato LT — in which house-smoked sweet potatoes stand in for bacon? There's something for everyone here. And if you eat too much, there just might be a room available at the inn.
Call for a reservation and be sure to ask what's on "the board," where the restaurant lists its daily specials. Reservations for the intimate dining room are scheduled in 90-minute blocks.
"You can leave the mountain at Jay at 4:30 and get here when we open at 5," consulting executive chef Joey Buttendorf noted.
Buttendorf splits her time between the Black Lantern and her role as senior chef-instructor at the Community Kitchen Academy at Capstone Community Action in Barre. At the Lantern, she's proud of how Patrick Roberts and Paul Fenner "are cooking my thought process," she said, feeding diners on-site and keeping up with "a tremendous amount of takeout."
The whole menu is available to-go, including the maple-chipotle chicken sandwich, which Buttendorf said "rocks the world." The deep-fried chicken breast topped with cheddar, bacon and fennel slaw is so popular that it's been on the menu since Buttendorf started three years ago. Sounds like a good way to end a day of rocking the slopes.
1037 S. Craftsbury Rd., Craftsbury, 586-2400, blackbirdbistrovt.com
- File: Molly Zapp
- Lee Kinsey with cocktails at Blackbird Bistro in 2019
After zipping around the Craftsbury Outdoor Center on cross-country skis, stop at nearby Blackbird Bistro for a creative cocktail, poutine topped with Sweet Rowen Farmstead cheese curds, an over-the-top jumbo grilled cheese sandwich, or a burger.
Warming drinks from the winter cocktail menu are perfect for sipping around one of the fire pits on the restaurant's expansive lawn, which it shares with the Craftsbury Farmhouse. Have a hot toddy while you wait for a table inside or on the heated front porch.
"Hot cocktails go hand in hand with standing by a campfire," Blackbird Bistro owner Lee Kinsey said. "And Vermonters, we're hardy people — especially if you're already decked out in all your ski gear."
Blackbird Bistro opened in November 2019, and Kinsey said the fledgling business saw quite a bit of traffic from the outdoor center last winter. The restaurant is hoping to build on that connection this season, drawing outdoorsy people for riffs on classic cocktails and post-ski meals.
"I've been watching our Scandinavian cousins and restaurants in Canada do [outdoor winter dining] for years," Kinsey said. "We're lucky to have a big backyard and a lot of elbow room here. If we see some more snow soon, people will be ready for it."
Canteen Creemee Company
5123 Main St., Waitsfield, 496-6003, canteencreemee.com
- File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
- Fried chicken box from Canteen Creemee Company
Ice cream might not be your first thought after a frosty day on the mountain, but Waitsfield's go-to creemee spot has more than just desserts.
"I do ice cream all winter because it's in my name, so I feel a certain obligation," Canteen Creemee Company owner Charlie Menard said with a laugh.
After a break in November, Canteen Creemee will reopen for winter the first week of December. Menard said he typically sees plenty of mountain-goers from nearby Mad River Glen and Sugarbush Resort, but winter is also a time for catching up with folks from the Mad River Valley.
"We're so busy during the summer, it's nice to see locals come back and make them dinner," he said.
Those dinners feature items such as griddled burgers, fish and chips, and Grilled Kim-Cheese (with kimchi, of course). It's the fried chicken, though, that can't be missed. Get it in sandwich form as the Original Cluckster, or in a box — from two pieces to 32 — served with cornbread pudding, slaw and pickles.
The walk-up window is for takeout only, so don't forget your mittens. They're perfect for holding creemees, after all.
The Crooked Ram
4026 Main St., Manchester, 417-5049, thecrookedramvt.com
- File: Jordan Barry
- Littleneck clams at the Crooked Ram
Though it opened in early 2017 as a tiny bottle shop, the Crooked Ram has evolved into an eating and drinking destination. It carries interesting Vermont beers and ciders and one of the most dialed-in selections of natural and local wines in the state.
Things have been busy during the pandemic, thanks to an influx of city folks who came to quarantine in the area, co-owner Peter Campbell said. So busy, in fact, that the Ram is expanding. The crew built out a full kitchen in the summer, added dinner service, and plans to increase outdoor seating with a beer garden.
The dinner menu, which changes from week to week, features chef Nevin Taylor's seasonal dishes. These include warm focaccia with fennel pollen, chile flakes and olive oil; beet romesco flatbread; salad with pecorino and lemon vinaigrette; beef tartare tucked under thin slices of kohlrabi; and littleneck clams in a garlic-lemon broth good enough to drink.
Tables are by reservation, but service is low-key and ordering takes place at the counter. Not sure what to order from the extensive beverage lists? The staff will pour you a taste and share why they're excited about what's in the glass. Whether you nerd out on natural wine or load up on local beer, maybe plan to take the second chair at Stratton or Bromley the next morning.
106 Main St., Ludlow, 228-6656, mojocafevt.com
- File: Tom Mcneill
- Tacos at Mojo Café
Catfish gumbo and alligator tacos aren't typical farm-to-table fare in Vermont — alligator farms are hard to come by. But that hasn't stopped Mojo Café from carving out a "Ver-Mex-Orleans" niche in the growing Okemo-area dining scene.
On Mojo's menu — inspired by owners Jodi and John Seward's travels and love of Cajun food — loaded burritos and punishingly hot Nashville chicken po'boys vie for attention, while unexpected spice mixes jazz up Vermont-grown vegetables and meats. Adventurous ordering is encouraged.
"I don't want to serve food you can make at home, because what's the point of doing that?" John asked.
The Sewards opened Mojo in 2014. John is the chef, and Jodi runs the front of house, keeping hungry skiers and snowboarders in line as they pour into the playful counter-service spot — currently open for takeout only. Grab a gumbo special or the slathered Enchurrito to-go. If you're ordering in person, add a can of craft beer, a margarita or a Hurricane to get the bon temps rolling.