SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY in NORTHERN VERMONT!
I fell in love with Cider House BBQ & Pub before we ever “met”. It was one of those, “love from afar” crushes. We met on the Internet. I had been reading about Cider House BBQ & Pub for quite some time and had a warm, fuzzy feeling every time I visited their web site. Some said it wouldn’t last, but after meeting in person this past Saturday, I can say my feelings were reciprocated and Cider House provided both Melanie and I with a wonderful night and some of the best food we’ve EVER eaten.
Upon arrival, Cedar House BBQ & Pub looks like a roadhouse you’d find in a state like Texas or Arizona, and that is because it is housed in what use to be known as Farr’s Roadhouse. I felt a wave of excitement and “first date jitters” as we pulled into the parking lot and inhaled the aroma of grilled BBQ. Swoon.
I wanted out of the car before it was in park! I checked my hair and makeup and I was out! I didn’t care that I stepped into muddy quicksand or that it felt like -12 degrees outside. No. All I cared about was how welcoming this restaurant already seemed. I know looks aren’t everything, it’s the inside that counts — in that case — Cider House has it all!
Melanie and I were greeted by a friendly, male hostess with the warmest smile and taken to our table. As the saying goes, they “had me at hello”.
I immediately loved the ambience. I nudged Melanie and said, “Isn’t it gorgeous?” I loved the cedar wood ceiling and big welcoming booths (made from old farm doors).
They also had a casual, hopping bar. Their tables were dimly lit with candles and mini lanterns. It was country casual with a rustic edge. I saw people of all ages having a good time. A family with a baby. Young couples. Older couples. Singles. Gay & straight. It was perfection.
The lounge area has a fireplace and a stage. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the owners, the instantly loveable, Thomas (“Tommy”) Sullivan (his partner, both in business and life, James <”Jimmy”> Dotson was in the back cooking.) Jimmy explained how they usually have acoustic, piano or folk acts.
Tommy also informed us that the restaurant is well known within the local gay & lesbian community and attracts a good following. I was pleased knowing this because it is such a fantastic, comfortable, place to spend an evening. You can have a drink at the bar, enjoy a delicious meal, listen to live music and even play some pool or pinball in the back game room! During the warmer months they have a popular back deck that overlooks Winooski River & a beautiful horse meadow.
Tommy & Jimmy purchased the restaurant back in 2006. They wanted to open a family style BBQ restaurant that reminded them of the places they had been to in the south. They pride themselves on their comfort food made with locally grown and produced ingredients. Also, as the name implies, Cider House BBQ & Pub features a variety of Vermont made apple ciders and hard ciders.
After speaking with Tommy, we met our waitress for the evening, the vivacious, Laurie-Anne! Laurie-Anne is one of those waitresses that make your experience truly memorable. We never had to ask for refills, she let us know when our food would be out, and at the end of the evening, she made sure we left with some delicious cheesecake! I wanted to scoop her up and bring her back to Rhode Island! Every restaurant should be so lucky to have a waitress like her.
Now, let’s talk food!
Melanie and I have no shame in admitting that we both had a “foodGASM” Saturday night.
Oh. Yes. We. Did.
We think of ourselves as pretty experienced when it comes to dining out and appreciating good food, but nothing prepared our taste buds for the food we consumed at Cider House BBQ & Pub.
After you are seated and order drinks, each person is given a yummy piece of homemade cornbread.
Start those engines!
For the appetizer we chose the Apple Sweet Potato Fritters ($8). Judging by Laurie-Anne’s reaction, we made the right choice! She said they were her favorite and explained how the sweetness of the fritter complimented the dipping sauce.
Boy was she right!
The menu describes them as a rich mixture of mashed baked sweet potatoes and granny smith apples fried to a deep golden brown and served with chipotle aioli.
I would describe them as — UN-FREAKIN-BELIEVABLE! Take a plane, train, bus, horse, pogo-stick, whatever, and get yourself to Cider House BBQ & Pub and order these – NOW!
Go on. Git!
The dipping sauce had a smoked gouda taste and was out of this world good. I am salivating just thinking of it.
Melanie and I gazed at each other, mouths full, speaking with the eyes, knowing that the other was experiencing the holy grail, “foodGASM”.
Those fritters disappeared in record time!
Before we knew it, our dinner entrees were served.
I, being a BBQ fanatic, had to try their BBQ sauce. I settled on their Chicken Breast Dinner ($16), which came with your choice of two sides. I chose Local Mac & Cheese and Chive Smashed Red Potatoes.
Melanie ordered the Vegetarian Chimichanga with Sweet Potato Fries ($9).
Okay. I have eaten at some of the best BBQ restaurants in the country including Rendezvous in Memphis, Rudy’s in Albuquerque, The Salt Lick in Texas, and Jim-N-Nicks in Nashville. The BBQ sauce I had at Cider House is among the best – anywhere. Their mild sauce had a distinct sweet/tangy flavor that causes an instant addiction. Delicious. The chicken came out perfectly grilled and melted in my mouth.
However, I wasn’t prepared for the flavor that hit me when I took my first bit of their “local” Mac-N-Cheese (made with Vermont cheese).
Once you eat it, you will always remember it and always want it.
I had NEVER had mac & cheese this rich and tasty. By far, the best I’ve ever had. Period.
The Chive Smashed Potatoes, made from scratch, were extremely creamy with a hint of chive flavoring and complimented the grilled chicken perfectly.
Melanie had the Vegetarian Chimichanga, described as a hand rolled floured tortilla burrito filled with vegetables, rice and pinto beans deep fried and served with salsa.
She said it was extremely flavorful and the tortilla tasted homemade, but her absolute favorite were the Sweet Potato Fries, which were seasoned and fried to perfection.
We later found out that Laurie-Anne’s son, Kyle, worked the frialator that night. Beaming as only a proud mother could, she said “Kyle makes the best fries!” We are in 100% agreeance, Laurie-Anne!
Honestly, I can’t stress enough how perfectly cooked and flavored everything was. This wasn’t your “typical” BBQ chicken dinner with mac & cheese and mashed potatoes, it went above and beyond that. There was nothing “ordinary” about this “ordinary” food at all.
As if our appetizer and meals weren’t enough, Laurie-Anne insisted we get desert to go! How could we say no to cheesecake? We savored each bite of the rich, creamy, cheesecake for breakfast the next morning. I am assuming it was made with Vermont cheese as well. It had that “extra” creamy quality, like the mac & cheese.
It’s funny, I am not a food critic. I am just a woman that enjoys good food and sharing my opinion, but it is dining experiences like the one I had at Cider House BBQ & Pub that make me wish I was a food critic with elequent words and worked for a national acclaimed food magazine, because I would rave & rave about this gem of a place in the mountains of Vermont.
I am, however, hoping this review reaches thousands of readers and that each and every one of you make a trip. I would love to hear about your experience. If you do go, please say hi to Tommy & Jimmy, give Laurie-Anne a hug and Kyle a high-five from me.
I promise that you will FALL IN LOVE with this place.
I am hearby “OUTING” Cider House BBQ & Pub as a great place for the LGBT community and 100% worthy of our business.
The Cider House gang!