It’s no secret that Vermont is a beautiful state filled with quaint little towns and stunning scenes of farmland, forests and mountains, and in a little pocket of the central part of the state, the best areas seem to get even better in some ways.
The Woodstock region, which includes such spots as Quechee and Bridgewater, is quite a popular place and for good reason, as this is the Vermont of calendar pictures and also about as close to the Greater Boston area as any other part of the state, being just over two hours away when there’s no traffic. Being such a well-traveled spot, Woodstock and its neighbors have quite a bit of excellent dining, drinking and other food/beverage options, including some places mentioned below.
Woodstock itself is a fairly big town — that is, by Vermont standards — with a picture-perfect village green, a covered bridge, forested hills in every direction and a downtown area filled with historic buildings. Right in the center of town is an upscale restaurant called Melaza Bistro (71 Central Street), a romantic little spot with a great patio out front and a menu with an eclectic mix of New England and tropical influences. Here you’ll find such items as empanadas, pulled chicken chili nachos, Cuban sandwiches, skirt steak, roast pork shank, arroz con pollo and veggie paella.
Just of the center is an offshoot of the cult-like Worthy Burger in South Royalton called Worthy Kitchen (442 Woodstock Road), and while Worthy Burger is an out-of-the-way spot in a rural area that focuses mainly on burgers and beers, this sister restaurant is a bit more like a test kitchen, with macaroni and cheese, pork belly hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and “worthy donuts” being every bit as popular (and delicious) as the tremendous burgers offered. And like its South Royalton counterpart, Worthy Kitchen offers some of the very best beers that Vermont has to offer.
On the other side of Woodstock is a decades-old seasonal snack shack called White Cottage Snack Bar (863 West Woodstock Road) that is basically a fast-food joint that serves much tastier versions of fast food than at the chains, while residing in a breathtaking setting just above the Ottauquechee River. The burgers here are different from those at Worthy Kitchen but outstanding in their own way, and are one of the main reasons to come here in addition to their endless flavors of ice cream. Once the White Cottage gets into its busy season, the picnic tables above the river tend to fill up quickly with families and travelers looking for the kind of good, cheap comfort food that you would expect from a roadside place like this.
You could easily spend all your time strolling around Woodstock, but its smaller neighbor to the east is no slouch, either, as Quechee is a real hidden gem that has its own mix of history, scenery and good eating. One of the most spectacular dining spots in the village — and really, in all of New England when you think about it — is the Simon Pearce Restaurant (1760 Quechee Main Street) which is just off to the side of the main part of the famous glassware store. Part of what makes the eatery so special is its location above what is often a booming waterfall along the Ottaquechee River, and just beyond the waterfall, a classic covered bridge, making this yet another one of those spots you see on so many calendars. The restaurant serves a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches at lunch and such items as crispy half duck and seared maple brined sea scallops at dinner, and an extensive list of wines is available as well.
For a slightly less dramatic but equally memorable dining experience, head up to Route 4 to The Public House Diner (5573 West Woodstock Road) just east of Quechee Gorge where you can gorge on (no pun intended) omelets, pancakes, chowder, burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches and donuts in a classic old Worcester Diner Car that dates back to the 1940s. From here, you can wander around the Quechee Gorge Village shopping area (including purchasing some outstanding Cabot cheeses at the country store), or you can head up into the hills west of Quechee to an old sugarhouse technically in Woodstock called Sugarbush Farm (591 Sugarbush Farm Road) that’s a must visit unless the weather is poor (part of the drive includes dirt roads). This bucolic spot offers an array of great Vermont food products including maple syrup, maple sugar candy, cheese, bacon and more, and you can also visit horses, goats, chickens and other animals while enjoying some jaw-dropping views of the valley below.
To the west of Woodstock is the town of Bridgewater, which doesn’t attract the tourists that Woodstock or Quechee do, but both Bridgewater and Bridgewater Corners are in the heart of some beautiful unspoiled country, serving as a quiet oasis between Woodstock and the Killington ski resort further to the west. A big old mill building sits in the tiny village of Bridgewater, and the renovated complex is home to a local favorite called Ramuntos Brick & Brew Pizza (101 Mill Road). Because this restaurant is located in an historic mill, its atmosphere is half the fun of going here, with wooden ceiling beams, exposed brick walls, old-fashioned lights and lots of nooks and crannies — and during the warmer months, you can sit on a deck out back with views of the nearby hills and mountains. As you might expect from the name, Ramunto’s features pizza and beer, with the former being a slightly thicker version of New York style, while the beer list is tremendous as is the case with so many Vermont watering holes.
Speaking of beer, no trip to Bridgewater would be complete without a trip to the Long Trail Brewing Company (5520 US Route 4), a destination spot for freshly-made beer, food, maybe a T-shirt from its gift shop area and the chance to wade into a river with a drink, as the Ottaquechee River winds its way below the brewery. If you don’t want to get wet but would still like to sit outside, there is plenty of seating by the banks of the river where you can have a pint or two and wonder why you would ever want to go home. [Ed note: Long Trail reopens for outdoor dining and food to go on Thursday, June 24, with reservations being required.]
It’s tough to go wrong heading to nearly any part of Vermont, but the Woodstock area is really something special, with everything from hiking and canoeing/kayaking to picture-taking, shopping and yes, enjoying some of the best food and drink that the state has to offer. And if you have some extra time, the fun can easily continue by exploring such nearby communities as Plymouth, Ludlow, Killington, Barnard, South Woodstock and so many other places that help make central Vermont a place that you’ll want to go back to again and again.