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Side Dishes: "Twisted Comfort Food" comes to Winooski

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For decades, Sneakers Bistro occupied a funky, art-filled spot at 36 Main Street in Winooski. The location has been empty since January, when the legendary breakfast joint began serving its eggs Benedict a couple doors down. In early May, the old space will start a new life as Our House.

Employing the motto “Twisted Comfort Food” and a hip, crayon-drawn logo, married owners Matthew Pearsall and Maggie Barch say they hope to fill a niche in “Burlington’s Brooklyn.” Pearsall, a trained chef, established the catering division of Boston’s storied Legal Seafoods; in that role, he served celebrities including presidents Bush and Clinton. Since 2003, the Fayston-based couple has been busy running Spice of Life Catering.

We know they have the skills to turn out fancy wedding banquets, but don’t expect frou-frou fine dining at Our House, where the menu will offer elevated classics. “Wedding is a little more dressed up,” Barch explains. “Here, you’re going to get your hands dirty.”

And smoky. She promises “big ribs” as well as suckling pig, lamb and chickens, all roasting “out on the floor” over a wood-fired pit. Smashed potatoes and Our House mac and cheese will appear on the list of sides, and Barch will bake the home-style apple pie. She says that Pearsall, with his extensive background in seafood cookery, “is all excited about his fish taco.” Other “artistic twists on the everyday” will include lots of daily specials, such as creative flatbreads made from fresh, local ingredients.

Our House will be Barch and Pearsall’s first restaurant. According to Barch, they checked out locations in Winooski’s Spinner Place a few years ago but decided they needed a smaller spot for their first go-around. Though the pair’s summers are packed with catering gigs, this year’s slow winter was the perfect time to get serious about opening an eatery. When they saw the space vacated by Sneakers, Barch says, she knew they were “actually going to bite on this one.”

During its first month of operation, Our House will be one of 50-plus area restaurants participating in Seven Days’ Vermont Restaurant Week. Until May, Barch says that she and Pearsall will enjoy exploring the “uncharted territory” of starting their new business.

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