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Side Dishes: Montpelier's Thrush Tavern is reborn as Clean Slate Café

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With the legislative session going hot and heavy, folks under and around Montpelier’s golden dome are sure to be hungry. This month, they’ll have a new option for breakfast, lunch and dinner when Clean Slate Café opens in the turn-of-the-century building at 107 State Street, last occupied by the Thrush Tavern, which closed in 2008.

According to general manager David Wolfe, who also helped to open Caroline’s Fine Dining in Jericho, he and owner Athene Cua are working hard to make the café a departure from Thrush Tavern’s “smoke-filled back-room” atmosphere. “We just want a really comfortable place for people to have a little lunch, have a little breakfast and something a little bit nicer for dinner,” Wolfe explains.

Chef Jon Beresford has that covered with a seasonal menu of meals crafted from local ingredients. Diners can start the day with andouille sausage biscuits and gravy, a lighter take on the traditional Southern dish, with a spicy sauce filled with parsley. “It’s something a little different than your average truck stop,” Beresford says.

Lunch includes a potpie du jour, corned beef on marbled rye and meatloaf on focaccia. At dinner, there’s lamb shank with red wine demi-glacé and scalloped potatoes — a dish Beresford says typifies his simple but elegant oeuvre. “So much food today is overdone, with too many flavors going on and too much stuff on the plate,” he explains. “I want to bring out the products I’m using, so diners can really understand the product and not have it muddled.”

Contractors are hard at work building a new open-plan kitchen and full-service bar. Wolfe hopes to start bringing tasters in with soft openings announced online in upcoming weeks. Once Clean Slate is fully open by the end of the month, he thinks it will attract guests not just from the Statehouse but from across Central Vermont and “even as far as Burlington.” Time to plan a trip.

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