Friday, February 18, 2011

The Downtown Grocery, VT (TDG to those in the loop).

A truly satisfying and exciting dining experience can be hard to find, especially in these rural parts, but recently I found one that hits the mark in all the right places, The Downtown Grocery in Ludlow VT. Let me say that the owners are friends, comprising of husband and wife team Rogan and Abby Lechthaler and assisted by Alyssa Prouty. Rogan is the Chef Owner and Alyssa his Sous, both previously of the fine dining restaurant Verdé, at Stratton Mountain. Abby also worked there, delivering her own dynamic enthusiasm and Southern charm to the front of house, as she does at TDG.

Let me also say I have made my career in restaurants and they are my passion, but when you work in them you look for all manner of tiny things that can naturally turn you off. Hard sell. Suffice it to say, I take my work home with me and am not swung by personal ties when assessing any dining experience I have. TDG promises to deliver pretty much everything that I want in a dining experience. Wonderful warm and bustling atmosphere with perfectly dimmed lighting, plenty of gorgeous decorative detail but with restraint and consideration for the overall look, casual individual but informed and friendly service, killer cocktails....oh and the food? The food is divine. Clever, witty, skilled and most of all delicious. The emphasis is on local ingredients and the best of seasonal fare and the kitchen cooks up inventive pairings of flavors making for a truly exciting taste fest.

The menu itself is small but left me completely crippled by indecision about what to order. It all looked so good. The specials boards are stuffed with alternatives that just made the process even harder, only eased by the fact that those dishes sell out in lightening speed and so by the time we forced ourselves to choose some of our decisions were made for us by the 86-ed specials.

To start, a board of house made sausage, pickles, mustard and local cheddar, teamed with an arugala, pancetta and shaved parmesan salad. Then onto a slow cooked pork belly that was the definition of "melt in the mouth".
A special that took our fancy was this house made gnocchi with rabbit that was so light and bright in flavor it took us pleasantly by surprise.
Desserts are a small and perfectly formed list. The late night breakfast (freshly made french toast, buttermilk bacon ice cream, maple syrup) is one that I will have to go back for, but the homemade sorbets (cherry was my fave) were a perfect way to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal. 

The interior boasts many details that emphasize the casual and local nature of the restaurant's ethos. Handmade birch light fittings, barn boards used to make blackboard frames, quirky coat hooks made from upcycled forks and the chuckle inducing restaurant signs painted by Alyssa's sister Lucy (they are in fact local Vermont birds).

The Downtown Grocery is relatively new to the scene and is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to the craft by this trio, and it shows. So why not reward them at the end of your meal by more than just the tip?

By them a round of tall boys (Narragansett is the current beer du jour) and they'll thank you for it. This business is a thirsty job!


  1. Yes! I know that location well, though I've never eaten there. I have friends with a house in Ludlow, and we ski at Okeemo. We're usually too tired to venture into town at the end of the day, but maybe I'll have to make a special trip up there from my farm in Upstate NY.

  2. Deanna you will not be disappointed. Let me know!

  3. We've eaten here many times and I couldn't agree with you more. I struggle to make a decision, but somehow have a hard time getting past the fantastic arugula salad and the pork belly. Oh, and I had the gnocchi with braised oxtail and the most divine sauce. Can't wait for the to reopen on Memorial Day weekend, we've already got reservations!!!


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