Brian Rooney, owner of Rooney’s Café and Deli at the corner of City Hall Park on College Street, runs a bustling takeout business in soups and sandwiches that closes after lunch. That’s a common pattern, he claims, in a town lacking cheap evening dining options: “Burlington doesn’t have a good, affordable restaurant to eat dinner and not spend a lot.”
But the restaurateur and chef aims to change that. In September, Rooney will shut his doors for three days to retool the eatery’s interior, add a 14-seat bar and adjust the menu. When Rooney’s reopens, the café will have around 50 seats, inexpensive beers in cans, in bottles and on draft, and comfort-food entrées for less than $10. “We’ll have three or four specials a day,” Rooney says. “Sautéed mussels or scallops, seared filet mignon over mesclun greens.” Staple items will include maple-smoked-bacon mac ’n’ cheese and American chop suey.
Rooney, formerly the chef at Cactus Café, plans to reintroduce chicken-wing flavors he pioneered at the defunct Mexican restaurant, including honey habañero, mango teriyaki and classic buffalo. “There are really no good wings in town,” he maintains.
Why the changes? “I’m just trying to find a niche,” says Rooney. “I think it’s a niche this town really needs.”