7 fabulous restaurants to try in Manchester
Tourists flocked to Manchester, Vermont in the 1800s for the mountain air and trout streams. At the time, it was a summer retreat. Realizing this, Charles F. Orvis opened a shop in 1856 dedicated to fly fishing in the rural village. Over 4 miles of marble sidewalks (with ample supply from the quarry) gave the downtown area a dignified appeal.
Manchester has changed, but the marble sidewalks and quintessential New England charm remain. Millions of visitors flock to the city, which sits at the foot of Mount Equinox, the highest peak in the Taconic Mountains. Many visitors own a second home as a respite from neighboring towns. Charles Orvis’s fly fishing business has developed into a summer school, and additional summer activities include golf, hiking, art, and music festivals. In the fall, travelers head to southern Vermont for the fall leaf viewing season. In winter, skiing at Stratton Mountain or Bromley attracts an Alpine crowd. It is a shopper’s paradise for high-end clothing, accessories or antiques outlet stores, making Manchester a four-season destination.
With people arriving for the attractions, the food scene has exploded. Chefs across the country and around are finding a niche. If you are hungry for a bagel or a fancy meal, you can find it in Manchester. Here are seven amazing restaurants (ordered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) in town.
1. Petit Coq Café
The Little Rooster Cafe is a small place run by owner Anya Lincks. Lincks, a trained chef, graduated from Johnson and Wales and a pastry school in Charleston, South Carolina. She worked for upscale resorts in the South, but returned home to Manchester. She always dined at Le Petit Coq and, during breakfast, asked if they were selling. She bought it in 2006. With eight tables and a few counters, the queue is often at the door for the homemade breakfast in the Norman Rockwell-esque restaurant. “The pancakes here are not to be missed, especially with fresh blueberries and Vermont maple syrup.” Lincks says, “These are the lightest, fluffiest pancakes, and I’m sure you haven’t tasted anything better.” Corned beef hash is a favorite dish of many locals, stop for lunch; French onion soup or black russian should be on your radar. Since I had never had one, I asked – it’s rye bread, cheddar cheese, smoked beef brisket and coleslaw. Anya sources her ingredients from local suppliers and makes everything fresh to order (except the smoked salmon and brisket). Slow food takes time, but here it’s worth the wait.
2. The Café des Travaux
The Works Café has eight (nine soon) locations. The first opened in Manchester in 1988. Entrepreneur Richard French grew up in the food business. He didn’t have a defined career path when he graduated from the University of Vermont at Burlington, but his hometown of Manchester was changing. Real estate was being sold to second home buyers and the store concept made the sleepy ski town famous. The idea of bagel works arose because you couldn’t get a proper New York-style bagel. Inspired by Ben and Jerry’s, the founders of Ice Cream, he (and his partners) wanted a smoother way of running a business.
At the Works Café, patrons happily munch on delicious bagels, but it’s more than breakfast all day. Sustainability is at the forefront of everything the company does with the currency – people, planet, profit. The Works serves delicious meals (for breakfast and lunch) and supports the community. It reduces, reuses, recycles, rethinks and compost – weighs its waste every day. It shares its food resources with nonprofit organizations and encourages its staff to perform service work. The cafe still has a cup policy, with free refills included. He has achieved Green Restaurant status in Green Mountain State and is a member of the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership. The food is fantastic so it’s a win for you and the earth.
3. Charlie’s coffee
Charlie’s Coffee House is a local favorite. The comfort food and cozy atmosphere make it feel like having lunch at a friend’s house. Former Pastry Chef (now Manager) Kimberly Stone runs Charlie’s for owners Bill and Linda Drunsic, who named the restaurant after their Danish Jack Russell. When they opened in 2018, they wanted a warm atmosphere so that guests could relax in the dog-friendly and kid-friendly dining room, on the wraparound porch, or sitting on the lawn. Charlie visits all of his friends when he passes by and the furry buddies get free cookies.
Everyone loves Mocha Joe’s Fair Trade Coffee, but the appeal is its homemade soups, healthy salads, and famous Plymouth Mac and Cheese for breakfast. It also offers a variety of vegan options. If you’re on the go, there’s a freezer stocked with soups and take-home meals. Breakfast items can be ordered to go, including egg sandwiches, homemade pastries, muffins, scones, croissants, homemade granola, and other baked goods. The pastries are fresh daily. If you want a special cake for your puppy, call ahead.
4. Copper grouse restaurant
The Copper Grouse Restaurant at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel evokes a hunting lodge feeling with a touch of elegance. The upscale American menu and cozy dining room invite with a warm fireplace, handcrafted cocktails and ultra-local ingredients. From cheeses, proteins, microgreens and toppings in cocktails, you’ll taste everything Vermont has to offer. Executive Chef Dustin Johnson returned to Manchester after working at some of the best restaurants, with some of Charleston’s best chefs, including Sean Brock (formerly of the award-winning restaurant Husk).
Johnson, head of the kitchen at the Copper Grouse, creates seasonal dishes. Its menu offers a rack of venison or a Vermont Wagyu burger with Cabot Cheddar (add some homemade pepper bacon). But there are also fabulous vegan choices such as cauliflower tempura with tahini ranch and maple chili sauce. Enjoy the fire, comfort food and a handcrafted cocktail at this charming restaurant.
Pro tip: The Copper Grouse is located at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel. Travel + Leisure Named it one of the top “10 Best Northeastern Resort Hotels in the World”. Why not make it a weekend?
5. Silver fork
The Silver Fork is a romantic place. It was named ‘Best Evening Restaurant in America’ by Tripadvisor in 2021. Award-winning chef Mark French and sommelier / mixologist / front desk person Melody French, run the five-star establishment ranked among the 15 Best Restaurants in the World . Located in the renovated Mark Skinner Library, the magnificent Mid-Century Modern building features an original dining room (decor concept by Lu French), allowing privacy and space. The eclectic menu changes frequently seasonally and inspiringly. Chef Mark was trained by a German chef and worked in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico) for most of his career, so the menu leans towards the Caribbean with international flavors. Mark’s is also an assistant pastry chef with desserts as appealing as the entrees. Mofongo Creole Creole with mashed plantains and sautéed shrimp is a specialty. Another is the Caribbean Bread Pudding Soufflé. The Silver Fork sources many ingredients locally, including craft beer from Vermont. There are vegan and vegetarian options, wines selected from two different wine lists (by price level), and craft cocktails at the bar. The service and attention to detail is extraordinary.
Pro tip: Reservations are filling up. Call to reserve your spot as soon as possible.
6. Depot 62 Bistro And Café
The Depot 62 Bistro and Café is a Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant and furniture store. You will discover furniture, rugs, decorative pieces, lighting and gifts inside. Owner Alp Basdogan, a Turkish designer and importer from New York City, traveled to Manchester for clients who wanted rugs and design elements from his showroom. He couldn’t find a good restaurant in town at the time, so he opened a cafe. Its Mediterranean / Turkish menu has vegan and gluten-free options and dishes so delicious the food will transport you. Family recipes are tasty. I tried the Guvec Ragout, a slow cooking dish made with eggplant, mushrooms and a mixture of root vegetables in a clay pot baked in a wood-fired oven. It was terrifying. Meat and fish dishes complete the exciting menu with mezze and salads as a starter. The handmade communal table runs along the center of the store and a community forms when you sit down. It serves selected wines by the glass and bottle as well as local, national and imported beer to accompany its fantastic cuisine.
7. SOCIAL HOUSE
SOCIAL HOUSE owners Luis Pazos and his wife Debbie worked at Le-Bernardin in New York City, where they met and then married. Luis had experience in a few Michelin rated restaurants before Le-Bernardin, so they understand how to set the same standard in their restaurant. Luis wants to make it a home away from home for clients. He also wants the staff to feel like family, which sometimes includes his own father (a former bartender), who spends behind the bar on busy evenings. SOCIAL HOUSE has five dining rooms which provide plenty of space for a relaxed evening (one is an outdoor patio). Executive Chef Jose M. Valines creates premium seafood dishes, homemade pasta, risottos and offers quality steaks. For cheese and deli platters, the kitchen sources ingredients from nearby farms, vendors, and pickers, and seafood comes from trusted sources in Maine and Boston. Pazos works diligently with its staff to discover local wines and beers that complement the offerings. I enjoyed the freshest pan-roasted halibut over potatoes and veg with white butter in SoHo. The service was exceptional and I will be back.
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