Hinesburgh Public House opened its doors in December, but my family tried it for the first time on a recent gorgeous spring evening. It was the kind of weather for which dining al fresco was made.
Unfortunately, everyone else thought so, too, and all of the outside seats were full. Our window table proved to be the best of both worlds: We had stunning views and no bugs.
The vibe inside the 120-seat converted Saputo cheese factory could be described as industrial-cozy. The high-ceilinged dining space has exposed ductwork, knockoff Queen Anne chairs and — of special interest to parents — an antique armoire in the foyer filled with books and games. There is a good-size bar area for informal meals and drinks, as well as a private banquet room and tables of all sizes.
This public house was definitely designed with the public in mind.
Creative flourishes and a locavore emphasis elevate the resto's standard pub menu of fish and chips, steaks, and chops. The beef is locally raised and grass fed, the chicken is free range, and there are several fish and vegan options.
The kids menu is just how we like it. "Real food" entrées — burgers, chicken, pasta, salmon — are $9 apiece and come with two sides; diners choose from a selection of starches, fruits and vegetables. My comfort-food-loving kids were thrilled with the options.
For appetizers, we started with chicken wings and soft pretzels, the latter of which were warm and chewy, with a nice, salty glaze. The maple-Dijon-mustard dipping sauce looked benign but had a serious kick that left my daughter guzzling her disappointingly flat Rugged Mountain Root Beer. My son would rather have lost a toe than shared his chicken wings, so I had to take his word for it: They were "good."
For his main course, my son chose the "Hines" Burger, adding local cheddar and Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon. My daughter ordered the macaroni and cheese, and my husband tried the salmon patty sandwich. For me, the warm evening called for something cool and light — a large Caesar salad with grilled Misty Knoll chicken.
The food was a mixed bag. The meats were high quality and nicely cooked — as they should be, when a burger rings in at $14 and a salad at $16. But the buns that accompanied both the burger and salmon patty were dry and tasteless, and the dressing on my salad was so bland I had trouble discerning any Caesar-ness in it. My daughter's mac and cheese was a good iteration, though she would have liked it cheesier. The French fries were a unanimous hit.
While the quality of the meals was uneven, dessert was uniformly amazing. The sweets by Hinesburg's Spoon & Sparrow tasted like the very best home-baked goods. The rich, dense carrot cake had an addictive cinnamon flavor and dreamy maple-cream-cheese frosting. My son's flourless chocolate cake was insanely dark and smooth. He savored every bite except for the small one he allowed me to have. The gigantic whoopie pie my daughter and I shared was perfect.
I'm hopeful that the next time we go, the Hinesburgh Public House will have worked out a few of its "new restaurant" kinks. I want the whole meal to be as good as those French fries and whoopie pies.
East Montpelier, VT
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