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American Flatbread at the Marble Works 

137 Maple St., Middlebury, 388-3300

It was during the two-second lull between vacuuming and laundry that I decided my husband and I should treat our 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter to dinner at American Flatbread one recent Saturday. Thinly veiled as a selfless gesture for the kids, it was, of course, my reward to myself for slogging through a full day of chores.

Because of a meltdown in the car — in which I may or may not have had a starring role — we arrived at the Marble Works later than I had hoped. The restaurant doesn't take reservations, but typically if you're there before six, you don't have to wait. We arrived closer to seven and quickly learned there was a Middlebury College hockey game that night, and almost every well-dressed, hockey-watching collegian was also craving flatbread. The hostess said it would be 45 minutes before we got a table. Both offspring agreed they could wait, so we put our names on the list.

Exactly 45 minutes later, my kids wove their way through the crowd to the hostess and asked if our table was ready. It was!

Because we've been coming here for years, we only glanced at the menu. A blackboard advertised the day's specials, but we weren't in the mood for beets. So we went with our old standbys.

We always order what's called a Med Bread, Flatbread's version of a cheese and tomato-sauce pizza. The second pie usually has some sort of meat on it — a decision I leave entirely to the carnivores in the family. Our son revels in this arrangement: I don't eat meat, and I rarely let my kids order it in restaurants unless I trust that it's responsibly sourced and properly prepared. He lobbied for pepperoni and sausage — the latter made from local Duclos & Thompson's pork — but our daughter nixed the pepperoni.

When the waitress asked him whether they wanted red or caramelized onions, he chose the carmelized. I have no idea if he knows the difference, but I love that the server didn't defer to either my husband or me, assuming our son could navigate the exchange.

My husband, son and I each ordered an Evolution Salad. A combination of lettuce, celery and carrots tossed in a ginger-tamari vinaigrette, it's the restaurant's house salad. Our son loves it so much, I can actually use it as a bargaining chip to get him to agree to only one soda. One day I'll get that vinaigrette recipe, which incorporates raspberries, but until then I'll continue to subject friends and family to my subpar imitations between visits to American Flatbread.

Our daughter wrote us notes with the crayons and paper the server provided. The restaurant's bathroom walls are covered with kids' drawings.

The pizza arrived shortly after we finished our salads. Although the server offered us new plates, we declined and used the crust of our flatbread to mop up the remaining salad dressing. After watching the seemingly endless stream of flatbreads going in and out of the wood-fired oven, I was happy to find that the quality of our food hadn't suffered as a result of the rush.

For dessert, the kids split a brownie sundae with homemade hot fudge and local ice cream; they were practically fencing with their spoons in an effort to claim every last bite. My husband and I split the same sundae and were full before it was gone.

Our bill came to just under $80. It's easy to spend a lot more at American Flatbread, but you don't have to. We piled into the car and headed home, happy and content, remembering why we like each other. I'd say it was worth it.

"Out to Eat" is a monthly, family-friendly restaurant review. Where should we eat next? Email us at Cheryl Brownell is the office manager at Kids VT.


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