The state of Vermont is known in part for its gorgeous scenery, but did you know that some consider it one of the best states for both food and drink in the entire country? Hidden within its postcard-perfect villages and bustling cities and resort towns are all kinds of award-winning restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries along with countless general stores and food shops that offer all kinds of goods. And if you like beer, you have your choice of so many areas to go to, including Burlington, Stowe, Waitsfield, Woodstock, and Brattleboro, but the little town of Waterbury is considered the place to go for some of the best brews in New England if not the entire country — and the food offerings are quite impressive as well.
For some, Waterbury begins and ends with a stop at Prohibition Pig (23 South Main Street), a charming restaurant and brewery known for its BBQ and terrific beers. The brewpub has an almost cult-like following and it resides on sacred ground for beer fans, as the Alchemist (which is known for its award-winning Heady Topper IPA) had once called the space its home before moving to Stowe.
Across the street from Prohibition Pig is the Blackback Pub (1 Stowe Street #2), which doesn’t have the name recognition of its neighbor, but is often mentioned in lists of the best bars in Vermont. This friendly little spot features local beers that you won’t ever find in the Boston area, including from such beloved Vermont breweries as Foam, Hill Farmstead, Frost, and the Alchemist.
Back across the street is a local fave for dining called The Reservoir (1 South Main Street) which also features local beers, and if you like poutine but don’t want to head up to Quebec for it, the traditional version they have here rivals some that you’ll find north of the border.
In addition to its restaurants and bars, Waterbury also has a number of food and beverage shops, including a location of the Belmont, MA-based Craft Beer Cellar (3 Elm Street) that is like no other Craft Beer Cellar you’ll find. Here you will find some particularly rare Vermont beers that you can take home with you, including the aforementioned Heady Topper (if they’re not sold out) and brews from Foley Brothers, Frost, and others.
For a classic “rural” Vermont experience, head up the road a few miles to peaceful Waterbury Center, which is home to Cold Hollow Cider Mill (3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center), a top producer of apple cider that also has a rickety old shop with everything from cider to jams to maple syrup to cheese—and sublime apple cider donuts that you’ll certainly want to stock up on.
People often use Waterbury as a jumping-off point for Stowe to the north along with Burlington and Montpelier to the west and east, respectively, and while each of these communities deserves its own look, there is also a tiny village about 15 minutes to the west called Richmond, which has become a culinary destination of sorts with a few tremendous options for food. One such place can be found right in the center of town, and Hatchet (30 Bridge Street, Richmond) is truly something special, being in some ways a blueprint for what a rustic farm-to-table restaurant should be like. You will find poutine, fritters, burgers, ribs, crispy pork belly, and so much more at this laid-back eatery, with local ingredients used as often as possible.
Those who are beer fans will need to head south out of the center of town to Stone Corral Brewery (83 Huntington Road, Richmond), a family-run microbrewery, taproom, and restaurant hidden away in a quiet area with beautiful views of the surrounding hills and mountains. Stone Corral isn’t all that well-known and is really more of a local hangout with tons of atmosphere inside, including an interesting horse mural above the bar.
Stowe tends to get so much of the press in this part of northern Vermont, but its southern neighbor is definitely a place you won’t want to overlook, either, especially if you’re looking for a true “Vermont” experience that includes some restaurants, bars, and food/drink shops that you’ll remember for a long time to come.