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Ludlow’s Downtown Grocery Offers Offbeat Dishes Close to Okemo

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The Downtown Grocery - TOM MCNEILL
  • tom mcneill
  • The Downtown Grocery

It used to be that prime rib, pesto and the rare bowl of French onion soup were the best you could expect in rural Vermont, where people generally "ate to live" rather than vice versa.

Chef Rogan Lechthaler offers proof that era is over. The Vermont native earned his culinary stripes in Boston and the South before returning to the Green Mountains to helm Verdé, the fine-dining restaurant at Stratton Mountain. A few years later, he chose sleepy Ludlow for his own bistro, the Downtown Grocery.

Location Details The Downtown Grocery
41 Depot St.
Brattleboro/Okemo Valley
Ludlow, VT
802-228-7566
American (New)

Lechthaler's offbeat dishes explode small-town stereotypes while satisfying adventurous eaters from nearby Okemo Mountain Resort. Instead of burgers, diners can dig into chimichurri-slathered pork belly served on a bed of black beans; in place of Bolognese, they feast on housemade tagliatelle with plump Massachusetts clams and lardons. A generous dusting of chili flakes lends that dish a low, slow burn.

The Downtown Grocery - TOM MCNEILL
  • tom mcneill
  • The Downtown Grocery

Despite warm guidance from Abby, Lechthaler's Mississippi-born wife, it can be difficult to decide among the nightly specials scrawled on the restaurant's chalkboard menu: local lamb tamales; tangy rock-shrimp-and-conch ceviche with Bergamot orange, slivers of jalapeño pepper and Espelette wonton chips; or luscious roasted marrow bones.

It's all good, as they say, including dessert. Lechthaler can't escape a dish he invented at Verdé: a crisp waffle topped with buttermilk-bacon ice cream, a curl of bacon and a generous glug of maple syrup.

Very Vermonty indeed, but with a unique modern twist.

This article was originally published in 7 Nights: The Seven Days Guide to Vermont Restaurants & Bars in April 2014.