Orleans Restaurant Sports Country Style and Charm| 01.31.18
Pros: Great Burgers, Full Bar, Fun Décor, Very Comfortable Atmosphere, Deck Seating in Warmer Weather, Incredibly Friendly Staff, Very Clean, Family Friendly
Downside: Parking Can Be Difficult, Service Varies, This is Not a ‘Bar’ So Mixed Drinks are Hit or Miss
Mountain Rating: 7/10
The Carriage House Café and Grill is a restaurant in Orleans, Vt. With its Victorian exterior, interior woodwork and eclectic decor, and the friendly smiling faces of the staff, this restaurant has that country feel at its core.
If hospitality is what you’re looking for, swing on in. You are greeted immediately with warm tones, an inviting bar, and plenty to look at. While waiting for my server I found my eyes floating around the room looking at funny signs, old farm tools, barn board décor, wagon wheels, and more items collected from the local area. All of this ‘stuff’ is lovingly displayed – but it isn’t over the top. Instead of feeling like a bunch of items cluttering the space, there is definition, flow, and empty space so the overall feeling is relaxing and quaint.
The bar dominates the center of the restaurant, but it doesn’t feel like a bar. Despite the alcohol lined up on the other side, it still feels like sitting at a restaurant counter, helping to lend to the cozy feel of the room and keeping the focus on food. The décor also helps keep the space feeling like a ‘grill’ vs. a tavern or pub.
As for the food…
We have been to the Carriage House for both lunch and dinner. The ambiance, and the menu, are different depending on what time you are eating – but the food is delicious.
The steak burgers are my favorite thing on the lunch menu. They are filling, large, and beautiful. They also taste really good. Cooked well and piled with veggies and other accompaniments, these burgers are some of the best in the area – especially on a standard menu.
In addition to their burgers, there are many classic lunch items. Recently, my husband and I stopped in for a bite. While he had a bacon burger, I tried their chicken fingers. These were a frozen chicken finger but were tasty. I saw a few salads come out and was impressed by their size – this is something I will have to try in the future.
Dinner is another experience all together. In addition to their lunch menu, they offer a rotating dinner menu that changes weekly. Typically it features steak and seafood options, and a few choice specialty dishes.
During our dinner visit, we started with a shrimp cocktail. For under $7 we received 8 shrimp topped with a spice mixture that included dill and basil. This was a nice touch. At first, it tasted as you would expect shrimp cocktail to taste, but it finished with the brightness of the basil, quickly followed by the more savory dill. It was a pleasant surprise.
For dinner I ordered the fried scallops with mashed potatoes and cottage cheese. My husband ordered the prime rib, medium/medium rare, with mashed potatoes and coleslaw.
The scallops came 8 to the plate and hand breaded in a very crunchy batter. It could have done with a little more salt, but that was easily remedied. The scallops themselves were perfectly cooked.
My husband’s prime rib was also cooked to a perfect medium. We were told that it had been cooked fresh that day (not always the case with prime rib specials). The meat was very soft, but could have done with a little more seasoning. The edges were full of flavor from the spice rub but that didn’t carry through.
The mashed potatoes were another surprise. Mashed with the skins on, there was a depth of flavor to them that was unexpected. Garlic, salt, pepper, and butter were all added during the mashing and so they needed no doctoring at the table.
My husband was also pleased with their coleslaw. The ingredients were finely chopped and while dressed, not swimming in mayo.
This was the first time I tried dessert at the carriage house. I had to go with their chocolate cake. This was a very light, fluffy cake interspersed with a fudge and chocolate cream, and of course the whole thing was drizzled in a chocolate sauce. While this cake is not made in house, we were told it is special ordered every week.
The staff is all very personable, and willing to chat if they are not busy. At both visits (lunch and dinner) we were served by younger staff. While these ladies needed a little help with ingredients in the cocktails ordered they were fun, and willing to learn.
We have been to a lot of local restaurants, and the majority of them are well cared for and clean, but the Carriage House goes above and beyond in that department. I enjoy looking at the decor and chachkies, so I often notice dust where others may not.
With all of the wood work, decor, and signage I saw no dust. No cobwebs hiding in corners or hanging from the ceiling. And in the open kitchen, the stove hood and stainless steel backsplash were shining clean. Having worked in kitchens – I know the amount of effort this takes. These few details show the level of quality and standards the owners wish to maintain.
Something to be aware of is that the Carriage House is not open for dinner every day. Breakfast and lunch are served 7 days a week, but they are only open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday. For dinner, the standard lunch menu is available with new specials added weekly to fill out the menu. These specials range from steak and prime rib to seafood and pasta dishes. Dinner portion sizes are large and we always take food home. Prices on the dinner specials vary depending on what is listed. Sometimes these are on the higher side – other times they are less expensive than other local restaurants with similar items, it really depends on what you order. But their main menu and drinks are comparable to other area establishments.
I enjoy this restaurant mostly for its atmosphere. It is truly relaxing and the staff is always super friendly. I have had some slow service on occasion, but everyone seems genuinely happy to be working there. The Carriage House is a family owned business, and you can tell. That personal touch and sense of pride is apparent from the moment you walk through the door.
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