I had been a creemee customer at Burlington Bay Market & Café's ice cream window for years before I realized you could order breakfast, lunch and dinner inside. After making that discovery, my husband and I took advantage of a recent sunny day by bringing the kids to this waterfront restaurant for an al fresco lunch.
While I didn't expect the finest dining in the Queen City, I knew we could count on one of the finest views around. The expansive outdoor patio overlooks Lake Champlain and the south end of Waterfront Park.
Despite the open kitchen and grill, it's not a greasy fast-food snack shack. The lunch and dinner menu offers soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers and a few daily specials. You'll find fresh meat and vegetables, creative seasonings and sauces, and several fish and vegetarian options. Everything is reasonably priced.
The lunch crowd that day comprised local workers, tourists and families. Some were buying snacks and drinks — the market has a great selection of wine and beer, and even includes a liquor store for the marina crowd — but many, like us, were queued up to order meals. Even with the rush, the line moved briskly.
Burlington Bay doesn't have a kids menu, but the cooks are willing to tweak entrées to suit young diners. Upon request, they'll serve a plain grilled cheese or undressed burger, and my daughter was happy to take advantage of a simple hot dog with fries.
We ordered and paid at the register, then took our drinks and my son's cup of clam chowder to a table. My grand plan to eat outside was thwarted by the crowds, but the indoor tables had the same spectacular view, and we didn't have to worry about the heat or the sunscreen. We were still able to people- and lake-watch until our meals were delivered.
My son oohed and ahhed over his chowder, deeming it one of the best he's ever tasted. His Grilled Chicken Club Wrap — hold the veggies — was packed with bacon and grilled all-natural chicken. His only complaint was that he would have preferred cheddar cheese to Swiss.
His sister was less excited about her Jumbo McKenzie all-beef hot dog. "It's OK," she shrugged. But the fries made up for it — she downed more than her fair share of our quart-size bucket.
My husband's Ginger Wasabi Mahi Mahi sandwich was a little "fishy," but the fresh pineapple and pickled ginger wasabi dressing salvaged it for him. The maple balsamic on my Garden Hummus Wrap pulled together the mild hummus, shredded carrots, grape tomatoes, spring greens, cucumbers and red onions. Slightly gooey, sweet and salty, the dressing made all the ingredients sing. Next time, I'll get some extra on the side for dipping.
When every last fry had been extracted from the carton, we headed out to the ice cream window. Even with full bellies, we were able to force down dessert: a root-beer float for my son, a chocolate creemee for my daughter and a vanilla creemee for me.
The creemees here are creamier and dreamier than other iterations. The subtle flavors don't seem overly artificial. Each of the four offerings — vanilla, chocolate, black raspberry and maple — is so good that I have trouble choosing every time I go. So I usually get more than one.
The best part? We got to eat our desserts at an outside table under an umbrella in utter summer bliss.