Chef Michel Mahe has found a novel way to make the winter months pass quickly: He’s working on two new restaurants, one each for Vergennes and Middlebury, which will open in the coming months.
In Vergennes, Mahe — who already owns three restos, in Shelburne, Bristol and Vergennes — is busy transforming the former Park Squeeze on Main Street into a 60-seat burger, flatbread and local-beer joint that he expects to open by April under the same name, he says.
The place will be similar in feel to Mahe’s Bobcat Café & Brewery in Bristol, sans on-site brewery. “I think what the Bobcat has shown me is, if you create a local place that is affordable, accessible and casual enough, people will show up in droves,” he says. “This will be a sort of ‘let’s go out and not make a big deal about it’ kind of place.” He’ll leave up Park Squeeze’s iconic neon sign, with its yellow arrow guiding diners inside.
Though a menu is still a few weeks off, Mahe emphasizes that the fare will be limited to local-beef burgers and “flatbreads with flair.” The upstairs bar — with the same antique Irish ambiance as the Bobcat — will offer local brews on tap and be a replacement of sorts for Vergennes’ Up Top Tavern, which Mahe closed two months ago.
Down in Middlebury, Mahe has taken over the former Jackson’s on the River location on Bakery Lane and plans to import the same burger-and-flatbread concept there — though, given the larger space, the kitchen will also offer entreés. “Vergennes will feel more like the Bobcat, and Middlebury will feel more like the [Bearded] Frog,” Mahe says.
That Shelburne restaurant is another Mahe property, along with Vergennes’ Black Sheep Bistro. Reminded that these new ventures will make him the overseer of five eateries — possibly more than any other single Vermont restaurateur — Mahe says, “I couldn’t help