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Side Dishes: Mama T's Country Kitchen in Rutland rises from disaster

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“It’s always been a dream: Someday my husband and I were going to live in Vermont, and someday we were going to have a restaurant,” says Theresa House. At the end of 2011, five years after moving to the Green Mountains from their native Texas, she and husband Eric realized the second part of their vision: a barbecue restaurant called Mama T’s Country Kitchen at 245 South Main Street in Rutland. They’ve brought a killer brisket recipe with them, but House credits God with the strange path they took to opening their doors.

After Tropical Storm Irene devastated the Rutland and Killington areas, the Houses volunteered to make weekly lunches for workers at the Incident Command Center in Rutland. Demand grew to the point where ICC head Gil Newbury asked the family to make daily breakfast and lunch for disaster-relief employees all over the region. Neither the couple nor their daughter, Cymberlee Prencipe, had worked in the restaurant business before, but they quit their jobs to run the high-volume mobile kitchen, where they cooked as many as 225 meals each day.

Last fall, the state told the Houses their services were no longer needed. But crew members didn’t want to lose the barbecue to which they’d grown accustomed. “I looked at my husband, and he said, ‘I guess it’s time,”’ remembers Theresa House. “Out of chaos comes order, and out of disaster comes great things.”

If sales figures can be trusted, the greatest thing is the couple’s Texas-style brisket. Blue-plate specials every weekday are popular, too, especially Friday’s chicken and dumplings. Prices are admirably low. A plate of three different barbecue meats, including choices such as pork ribs, homemade German sausages and smoked turkey breast — plus two sides, a 12-ounce drink and dessert — goes for $11.75.

Accordingly, House advises coming to Mama T’s with an empty stomach. “Our food is real Texas barbecue done with Texas-sized helpings. [Diners] won’t leave hungry, that’s for sure.”

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