Restaurants for Your Day Trip Adventures| 12.26.17
While we do focus on restaurants in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans Counties), we also love trying new places when we travel. We have found a few gems that are short drives outside of the Kingdom that you might want to add to your list of stops for those day trips with family and friends.
Close to Jay Peak but technically in Franklin County.
What we love about this restaurant is its food! Everything is beautifully plated, full of flavor, and filling. This is fine dining at its best, truly – the presentation, atmosphere, and quality of ingredients take you right out of Vermont and can rival food featured in major cities.
But the food is not the only reason we love the Inn. The atmosphere is spectacular. When you enter the Inn, you are in a foyer of an old home. It is quaint and cozy, and very beautiful. Typically we start by having drinks in the lounge area: styled like a hunting lodge but with comfortable seating, games, and fun conversation pieces, it really helps set the mood for a fantastic evening.
The dining room is cozy and the homey feel and lodge décor carries through. In nicer weather, the deck seating is the way to go. But it is winter, so we’ll stick with the inside.
The bar takes prominence on entry into the dining space, but the tables are situated in such a way that it feels intimate and private.
The last time we ate at the Inn, we were with friends. I ordered their eggplant parmesan, something I don’t often see on menus in the area. It was perfection. The eggplant was well seasoned, and not overcooked. The sauce was complex and complemented the eggplant, covered in bubbling mozzarella cheese. My husband tried their Ribeye, served with cauliflower and mashed potatoes. Again, everything was well seasoned and the meat melted in your mouth. All of the vegetables (and this goes for every time we have been there) are cooked for flavor, not as an afterthought. Everything is fresh and a lot of ingredients are locally sourced.
Our dining companions tried the pork chop with green beans and steak fries and the Inn’s burger with bacon, apple, and grilled onions. No one at the table had any complaints.
We also love the drinks at this restaurant. Their cocktails are very unique. My favorite is their Whiskey Sour, served with house made luxardo cherries. My husband finds their signature martini, served with blue cheese stuffed olives, one of the best he has ever had.
And if you are a desert person – they always have an adult desert. Something sweet that contains alcohol. These are perfect for table sharing!
If you are in the Jay area, and are looking to take a day trip out of the Kingdom, I suggest making the Inn one of your destinations. (Note: In the summer Hazen’s Notch is a beautiful drive and a short cut for those coming from eastern areas to Montgomery)
About 1 hr from Saint Johnsbury and 30 min south of Littleton, NH
We found this gem while on vacation in Lincoln, New Hampshire. This is authentic Mexican food with slow cooked, braised meats, plenty of sides, and portions that will require a doggy bag. I don’t think we have ever left here without taking food with us.
This is a large restaurant, located in the plaza in downtown Lincoln. It is next to the movie theater, grocery store, and in walking distance to a great wine and cheese shop.
Over the years we have tried their tacos, enchiladas with the trio of sauces, steak fajitas, flautas, carnitas, and the Polo Campesino (chicken breast covered in a cream sauces with mushrooms, corn and poblano peppers). Everything is served with sides – like rice and beans, salads, salsas, or pico de gallo. And their fried plantains are delicious.
The atmosphere is fun. There are two sides to this restaurant. The main dining area has a tiki bar and wonderful art work. While another bar, games, a dance floor, and pool tables take up the second dining room. Table side guacamole is another feature that makes their restaurant unique. I get a kick out of watching them make it.
While you wait for your meal, fresh warm tortillas and house made salsa are brought to you. It is easy to fill up on this because it is so hard to stop eating them. Another word of caution – don’t order the nachos as an appetizer unless you have a table full of people. We ordered them at lunch one visit, and not only were we unable to finish them, I was glad we were already getting our meal to go because I couldn’t have eaten another bite. These nachos were piled with toppings, and the tastiest chicken I have ever eaten on a nacho dish.
And of course I couldn’t get away with not mentioning the margaritas. There is a special menu dedicated to this drink. From house margaritas with a few flavor options, to high end – top shelf liquor, and everything in between there is something on this drink menu for everyone to try (well, all adults that is). I also love their daiquiris – choose from strawberry, raspberry, or mango.
If you are headed to the White Mountain to explore the ice castle, to ski, or just to see the beauty this winter – you have to try El Charro (In the summer they are close to Clark’s Trading Post, Whales Tale, and The Hobo Railroad and Dinner Train). This restaurant may not be the only reason we like vacationing in Lincoln, but it is one of the deciding factors.
About 30 min. from Hardwick close to Stowe, Vermont.
The Lost Nation Brewery gives you the perfect opportunity to pair local ingredients, inventive food options and Vermont micro-brews! We mostly eat at the brewery during the summer when their beer garden and BBQ pit is open (the ribs and burgers are incredible). But winter offers a completely different experience.
In the winter months, inside dining at the bar or one of the tables gives diners a cozy feeling. The restaurant area is small so plan accordingly. No matter the time of year, the list of brews allows something for every palate. Hard cider is typically available, and a tap root beer is ready for the kids.
During the winter Lost Nation sports a bit of a rotating menu. Meaning, some items change and others stay depending on what is available for ingredients. From their winter menu I have tried unique takes on nachos, fish tacos, and sliders. They always have a number of sandwiches, and a burger. My favorite thing from this menu has been their fondue. I am a cheese fan, so this Gouda and Gose fondue (Made with their Lost Nation Gose) was perfect for me. Creamy with robust flavor, it was more filling than most appetizers and was an easy dish to share.
My favorite thing about the brewery is how they take local ingredients and do the unexpected with them – pairing ingredients in ways not seen at other restaurants. And true to the nature of a brewery everything tastes better with a pint.
While I don’t get to Lost Nation as much as I would like to, if you are headed to the Stowe area or driving from the Kingdom to Burlington, plan to swing in for Lunch or Dinner. Check their winter hours to be sure they are open. You won’t be disappointed.
So there you have it – three different restaurants, in three different directions, all perfect for a day trip excursion outside of the Northeast Kingdom. Happy Eating!
And Happy Holidays From our NEK family to Yours!