This winter, they threw their support behind Waterbury’s Prohibition Pig. Now the trio that owns Lakeside Hospitality Group — including a seasoned Vermont chef and the owner of celebrated New York City craft-beer bar Blind Tiger — will do their own thing.
This June, Jason Merrill, Dave Brodrick and Kurt Lessard will open the Worthy Burger inside an 1800s railroad-freight house in South Royalton. They’ll offer local craft brews and a “burger bar” in the playful space at 56 Rainbow Street.
“We always wanted to do something on our own, have our own craft-beer-and-restaurant kind of thing,” says Merrill, who has cheffed at the Hanover Inn, Woodstock’s Jackson House Inn and the Quechee Club. “Dave [Brodrick, owner of Blind Tiger] always wanted to do a burger bar, and my wife and I had always talked about doing something simple and easy. And burgers are simple and easy.”
The trio will use grass-fed beef from Eastman Farm in Barnard, the town where all three live. “The condiments is where we’ll set things apart,” says Merrill. Those will include “a lot of pickling and different kinds of sauces,” from spicy ketchup to aioli, as well as kimchi made by Brodrick’s wife, Iris Kim Brodrick of Laughing Lotus Farm. The Worthy Burger will have a pickle wheel similar to the one that used to animate Middlebury’s Dog Team Tavern.
Tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes for the hand-cut fries will come from Fable Farm in Barnard, and veggies will be offered only in season. “In winter, we might use a tomato jam rather than put a cardboard tomato on a burger,” says Merrill.
The kitchen will also serve up a free-range chicken burger and a Phish burger using “whatever type of fish is really good at the moment,” says Merrill, who also works for Wood Mountain Fish. A veggie burger will be made from heirloom beans.
The 39-seat eatery will have an open kitchen and a bar with 14 taps, some of which will decant the open-tank-fermented beers from Freight House Brewing next door, the microbrewery of former Norwich Inn head brewer Patrick Dakin. Also on tap will be brews from Hill Farmstead Brewery, Lawson’s Finest Liquids and elsewhere, housemade sodas and kombucha from Laughing Lotus Farm.
“It’s a true farm-to-table place,” says Merrill.