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Novelist Thomas Christopher Greene Plans Restaurant for Landmark Montpelier Building

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Artist's rendering of the new Hugo's Bar & Grill in Montpelier - COURTESY OF STONOROV WORKSHOP ARCHITECTS
  • Courtesy Of Stonorov Workshop Architects
  • Artist's rendering of the new Hugo's Bar & Grill in Montpelier

Hugo's Bar & Grill will open at 118 Main Street in Montpelier in early 2022, Thomas Christopher Greene announced on social media on November 16. The author of six novels, Greene was founding president of Vermont College of Fine Arts, an office from which he stepped down after 13 years in July 2020.

In a phone interview, Greene described Hugo's as "an affordable, accessible farm-to-table restaurant — think Farmhouse [Tap & Grill] crossed with Leunig's [Bistro & Café]." It will occupy the basement and first floor of the 15,000-square-foot, three-story building, which is currently undergoing major renovations, he said. The top floor will open after the main restaurant as Upstairs at Hugo's, a piano and cocktail bar with a late-night menu.

At 200 seats, Greene said Hugo's will be the biggest restaurant in Vermont's capital city. The building was previously occupied by NECI on Main, a teaching restaurant for the now-shuttered New England Culinary Institute. Before the pandemic, it also briefly hosted NECI's bakery-café, La Brioche.

Greene worked in many restaurants in his youth and has a serious interest in food and cooking, he said, but this is his first major foray into the hospitality business. After leaving his position at VCFA, he was looking for a new project.

"I knew that writing wasn't going to be enough for me. I like the idea of building things," said Greene, whose 2005 novel I'll Never Be Long Gone is about a small-town restaurateur.

"This is more about a vision of what Montpelier needs," he continued, "about bringing back a historic building that's been a restaurant since 1880, and [about making] a bet on both Montpelier and what a post-pandemic world looks like."

The restaurant's executive chef will be Vermont native Keith Walker, who spent four years as sous chef at Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and most recently worked at Smith & Wollensky and now-closed Benedetto in the Boston area. Jana Markow, previously of Julio's Cantina and Sarducci's in Montpelier, will be general manager.

The restaurant is named for Greene's 100-pound red Lab, Hugo. "Nobody likes food more than he does," Greene quipped.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Culinary Capital"