“I think every town needs a meeting place; a little pub where it’s no big deal, when you say, ‘Let’s not cook at home,’ to have a burger and flatbread, not a big night out,” Michel Mahe says. “Every town needs one, and I think we’ll put one in every major town in Vermont.”
Already owner of the Black Sheep Bistro, the Bearded Frog and Bobcat Café & Brewery, Mahe opened just such a neighborhood pub last Thursday at 161 Main Street in Vergennes. Retaining the name of previous occupant Park Squeeze, the two-floor, 60-seat restaurant is designed to draw a mix of locals and the vacation crowd.
The funky ambiance will be key. The top floor includes a bar that serves cocktails made with a different fresh-squeezed juice each day. The brick walls are covered in artwork: metalwork from Burlington’s Kat Clear; a wall-hung sculpture of a tattooed rhinoceros from Panton’s Eben Markowski; and a taxidermy moose head named Bullwinkle transported from Mahe’s now-closed Vergennes bar, the Up Top Tavern.
The menu suits the eclectic décor. Starters range from mozzarella-and-basil risotto balls to adobo-pork turnovers to poutine and wings. Grilled flatbreads and burgers come in several varieties, including the Squeeze Burger topped with pickled onions, roasted red peppers, dressed greens, bacon, Grafton cheddar and a fried egg.
The rest of the menu includes salads, entrées and a number of pasta dishes, including linguine and homemade meatballs. Desserts, prepared by Next Door Bakery chef Jesse Lauer, include coconut-lime pudding and a brownie parfait.
Mahe plans his next expansion for fall, when he’ll open an as-yet-unnamed restaurant in Middlebury, in the former Jackson’s on the River space on Bakery Lane. There, Mahe says, he’ll serve “local hangout stuff,” similar to the food at the Park Squeeze, alongside a “Black Sheep-level menu.”
The original print version of this article was headlined “Main Squeeze: Chef Michel Mahe’s latest opens in Vergennes”