When restaurateur Jack Pickett of Stowe sold his highly touted Blue Moon Café, he added a noncompete clause to the sale agreement as a form of protection … against himself. “I wanted to make sure I never got back in the business again,” he admits.
But after the clause expired — and he was severely injured in a 2003 propane water-heater explosion — Pickett changed his mind. “What got me through was the support I got through customers and friends,” he says. “When you’re back at square one, your priorities just fall into place.”
For Pickett, feeding his community returned to the top of the list. Last week, he opened Frida’s Taqueria & Grill — located where Restaurant Swisspot used to be — along with two partners. One is Chef Joshua Bard, 32, who used to work at the Blue Moon. “It took him a year to talk me into [the new restaurant],” says Pickett, who will be managing the front of the house.
Unlike many Vermont eateries serving south-of-the-border nosh, Frida’s will be free of Tex-Mex fare, which Pickett describes as “rice, beans and lots of melted cheese.”
What is on the menu at his artistically named eatery? “We borrow from all of the regions of Mexico, which are pretty diverse,” Pickett says. Guests can go casual with six types of tacos on homemade corn tortillas for $3.75 a pop, or up the ante with entrées such as Vera Cruz-style fish and smoked duck mole. Traditional desserts include tres leches cake and flan.
Pickett may be manning the dining room, but he’s proud of the quality ingredients used in the kitchen. In the fish taco, for example, Atlantic cod takes the place of more typical tilapia, which he thinks “tastes like a dirty pond.” Guacamole is made table-side in traditional Mexican stone mortars. In an effort to keep things affordable, Frida’s standard margarita is made with a “pretty good” tequila from the bar’s “well,” but those with more bucks may prefer the 100-percent-agave version blended with a homemade mix.
Currently, the taqueria is open at dinnertime seven nights a week. Look for lunch service in the future.