The weekend before Christmas and downtown Burlington was buzzing. Shoppers laden with bulky bags tromped up and down Church Street, and lines outside some of the hip breakfast/brunch places snaked onto sidewalks. But J and I didn’t want fancy crepes or artisan French toast. We wanted an honest omelet, filled with meat and veggies, with just the right amount of cheese–more than a sprinkle, but not so much that it oozed all over the plate.
The Pearl Street Diner, introduced to us a couple of months ago by my stepson, was exactly what we were seeking. Its simple decor, complete with red vinyl-uphostered booths, allows customers to focus on what’s important: the food.
With my first cup of coffee in hand–in a mismatched mug, which is the general theme with the dinnerware here–I perused the menu. The kitchen offers nothing fancy, nothing expected, just the basic eggs, pancakes, and morning meats: bacon, sausage, and hash. Breakfast comes too early in the day to work hard at deciphering an avant-garde menu, in my opinion.
I went with the Philly cheesesteak three-egg omelet with a side of rye toast; J ordered the corned beef hash, house-made, of course.
We didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive. Mine was just what I wanted: filling without being too much. The steak was tender, with just the right among of cheese–no oozing here. The hash browns are covered in a spice mix that was too salty for my taste, but J enjoyed his.
If the food doesn’t bring diner back to the Pearl Street Diner, the friendly, prompt staff will, for sure.
Metamorphasizing from a popular catering company to a sought-out food truck before finally emerging as a physical restaurant, Misery Loves Company represents the vibrant rebirth of downtown Winooski, Vermont. The former mill town is to Burlington—its next-door neighbor and the state’s largest city—what Brooklyn is to Manhattan, Cambridge to Boston: a little funkier, a little riskier, a lot more beards. And those beards were my first impression upon entering the restaurant on a recent evening with my husband.
The bar/open kitchen was busy that Wednesday evening, with two bearded cooks—one of them co-owner Aaron Josinsky—moving quickly from grill to prep area and back again. As we walked to our table, the aroma of fresh oregano and dill reminds me that summer’s bounty isn’t quite over. The dining area is cozy—maybe a dozen tables—and the creamy vanilla wainscoted walls, slate gray ceiling, and petite bouquets in simple glass vases on each table lend a cottage-like feel to the décor.
First things first: the beer menu. Though MLC offers a plethora of traditional and gently tweaked cocktails, we decided to stick with beer. We are in Vermont, after all, one of the best states for the quality and quantity of microbrews. MLC offers a half-dozen mostly local draft beers and ciders, as well as several varieties in cans or bottles. Though the keg of Hill Farmstead pale ale, Edward, had just kicked before we ordered, we were able to find other beers that we liked.
Then, on to the food. MLC offers several stages of dining: snacks, small plates, à la carte vegetables, and large format. Many of the dishes feature chef-made pickled items, foraged foods, and fresh herbs and spices, particularly those not as common to American palates, like lavender and vadouvan.
We started off splitting the fried oyster ssam, soft butter lettuce leaves wrapped around fried oysters, pulled pork, and chopped onions and cabbage, all coated with a savory, slight spicy sauce. The bite-sized pieces certainly aroused our appetites, and the blue-and-white-striped plate they arrived on played into the cottage theme of the interior nicely.
For dinner, we selected the mixed pork plate—one of the large-format meals, which are intended to be shared—with a side of roasted broccolini. Three styles of pork certainly appealed to my husband, and after digging in to the juicy house-made porchetta, I had to agree it was a good choice. The poblanos, with homemade-sausage-and-herb stuffing busting through the thin pepper walls, delivered some light warmth to balance the tart lemony breadcrumbs smattered over the roasted broccolini stalks. The succotash, studded with chunks of guanciale, also brought waves of heat, thanks to the jalapeños mixed in with the beans and corn. We finished it all, except some pieces of pure fat from the porchetta and one spindly piece of broccolini that was roasted into a tough piece of twine.
Though Misery Loves Company has been open for nearly three years, I hadn’t yet made it inside before this visit. I had tried, though. In the first couple of months after the grand opening, the hours were limited and never seemed to mesh with my dining-out plans. Now, I think my plans will revolve around MLC’s hours.