- Adam Raftery
After a lengthy incubation, the "Open" sign flew over St. Paul Street Gastro Grub in Burlington late last week. Located at the corner of Maple and St. Paul streets, the tiny pub is the latest effort from Liza O'Brien and Adam Raftery, the sibling team behind South Burlington's Wooden Spoon Bistro, which operates a popular lobster-roll cart in the warmer months.
Behind the bar, Vermont suds flow from eight draft lines. Current offerings include drinks from St. Albans' 14th Star Brewing, Burlington's Queen City Brewery and Citizen Cider, Middlebury's Drop-In Brewing, Lyndonville's Covered Bridge Craft Brewery, and Shelburne's Fiddlehead Brewing, among others.
From the kitchen, patrons can avail themselves of local beef burgers, tacos stuffed with fish or short ribs, pulled-pork sliders, chicken wings dressed in various sauces, and hot baskets of parmesan truffle fries — a Wooden Spoon favorite. Raftery says he plans to hire a cook soon. While the bill of fare will reflect that person's culinary creativity, Raftery expects it to remain brief and pubby, with nightly specials to keep things fresh.
O'Brien is working on a cocktail menu to debut in the near future. Raftery says it will be smaller than the list at Wooden Spoon, since Gastro Grub's tiny bar has limited space for bottles. "Our cocktails will probably be a lot more Vermont spirit-based [than at the bistro]," the chef adds. "Because when you're working with a smaller list, you can focus on those things; you don't need a huge number of liquors in your repertoire."
Gastro Grub has been a long time coming: When Seven Days reported on the project last May, Raftery said he hoped to open in July 2014. "Things just kept coming up," he explains now, pushing the opening back and back — among them, a longer-than-expected permitting process.
After all the delays, Raftery says he and O'Brien are excited to serve the neighborhood. And so far, that neighborhood has heeded their call: Last weekend's patrons were a hyper-local bunch. "Pretty much everybody who came in lives two doors down," Raftery says. "People would poke their heads in the door, like, 'Are you open? I'm going to finish walking my dog, and I'll be back in an hour.' People were like, 'Wow, you guys are finally open! We're so glad!'" the chef goes on. "We were just like, 'Yeah, we're really glad, too.'"