The Riverside Avenue former home of Tortilla Flat is inching closer to reopening as the Bluebird Tavern. Owner Sue Bette estimates that the space will be fully restored in the next few weeks. Diners will sit at recycled barn-board tables made by a carpenter on Grand Isle, lit by custom lamps from Conant Metal & Light.
What about the food? Bette plans to stick staunchly to her gastropub concept, which she defines as “a tavern with a dining focus, serving classic tavern dishes and breathing new life into them.”
Though Bette originally toyed with the notion of recruiting a chef among vendors at the Burlington Farmers’ Market, her final choice was closer to home: Aaron Josinsky, former sous-chef at the Inn at Shelburne Farms, who started out as Bette’s consultant. General Manager Laura Wade followed the same path as Josinsky, from New York’s Blue Hill to Shelburne Farms to the Bluebird.
Josinsky plans to share his passion for local agriculture with diners through a partnership with the Intervale and the many connections he made while at the Inn. Expect burgers from Boyden cattle and egg dishes featuring the yolks of Jericho Settlers’ Farm.
Josinsky is loath to get too specific about his menu “until stuff is coming out of the ground and in my hand,” he says, but he notes that his trademark charcuterie will be available at opening. Though he fears he’ll be too busy to make his dry-cured salami from the beginning, he promises terrines, mortadella, guanciale and pancetta. Josinsky also discloses that he is currently “obsessed with oysters” and will showcase them and other seafood shipped from Maine.
Folks eager to get their pub on don’t have to wait for the Bluebird’s early-July-slated opening. The former Waterbury Wings made a smooth transition under the new ownership of Mark Frier, who took over in April. On May 14, the spot reopened as The Reservoir. While wings are still on the menu, Sous-Chef Bill Jenkerson, who until recently filled the same position at The Kitchen Table Bistro, is proud to report the dipping sauces are made from scratch. “We have a really, really great local crowd of people,” he says. “But they’re not exactly looking for the Fresh Network label. We’re showing people we don’t have to open up a freezer to make food.”
To that end, besides whipping up sauces, Jenkerson boils the stocks for their soups. The Reservoir’s supplier, Squash Valley Produce, is helping the eatery connect with local farms such as Richmond Hill, which provides greens and herbs. All cheeses, including the one featured in The Truckdriver burger — a 1-pound patty stuffed with bleu and topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and a fried egg — come from Cabot. Other menu items include chimichurri steak frites and a lamb shank braised in Shed Mountain Ale.
Localvore tendencies aside, The Reservoir doesn’t take itself too seriously. “We also have a fried bologna sandwich,” reveals Jenkerson.