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4393 Awards: Food & Drink

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What's on the menu? From burgers to banana pudding, pizza shops to upscale après-ski spots, our readers have some delicious opinions on where to find the best of just about anything you might be craving.

Best burger

1. Prohibition Pig

2. The Blue Donkey

3. The Bench

Nominees: Arvads, Backyard Tavern, Burger Barn, Crop Bistro, Depot Street Malt Shop, Gracie’s, Harrison’s Restaurant, Lost Nation Brewery, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, The Roost at Topnotch, Sunset Grille & Taproom, 10 Railroad Street.

The sheer number of responses in this category proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that our readers love burgers and they’re loyal to their favorite burger joint. This one was almost too close to call. The top three vote-getters, plus Sunset Grille & Taproom, really duked it out for the top slot, which should definitely convince Nancy Haab at Sunset that it is NOT time to get out of the kitchen!

Best pizza

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. Blue Stone

3. Pizza Joint

Nominees: The Bench, Downtown Pizza, Fire Tower Pizza, House of Pizza, Jimmz Pizza, Lake Elmore Pizza, Pizza on Main, Rusty Nail, Zachary’s.

Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge was our readers’ clear favorite, far outpacing the competition, and it is no wonder. Owner Eduardo Rovetto’s restaurant is just one of 10 pizzerias in the Rovetto family. It’s difficult to believe it’s been nearly 15 years since Ed opened his pizzeria in a small Mountain Road storefront, before expanding and moving across the street to the former Isle de France building. Good move, Ed.

Best new restaurant

1. The Bench

2. Phoenix Table & Bar (tie)

2. Plate Restaurant & Bar (tie)

Nominees: Edson Hill, Flannel at Topnotch, Lost Nation Brewery, Pizza on Main.

Newcomer Bench, sister restaurant to the Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room in Waterbury, most impressed our readers. Whether it’s the 20 or so specialty brews on tap, the wood-fired food, or comfortable, manly décor, Bench far outpaced its two closest rivals, getting as many votes as the other two Stowe newcomers combined. And that’s saying something, because Bench’s competition is as good as it gets.

Best draft beer selection

1. Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room

2. Prohibition Pig

3. The Bench

Nominees: Blackback Pub, Crop Bistro and Brewery, Lost Nation Brewery, Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Sunset Grille & Taproom, Trapp Family Lodge.

The Reservoir boasts that it has the most taps in the state, which likely pushed the Waterbury bar and restaurant over its nearest competition. Another close call.

Best winery

1. Boyden Valley Winery

2. Shelburne Vineyard

3. Fresh Tracks Farm

Nominees: East Shore Winery, North Branch Vineyards, Snowfarm Winery.

Boyden Winery, just over the mountains in Cambridge, has been making a fine selection of Vermont wines, including its sumptuous ice wine, on its four-generation family farm for over 20 years. Vermont’s other notable wineries all posted respectable showings, but 4393 voters clearly stuck with what they know best.

Best local cheese

1. Cabot Creamery

2. Jasper Hill

3. Mt. Mansfield Creamery

Nominees: Sage Farm Goat Dairy, Shelburne Farms, Vermont Butter and Cheese, Von Trapp Farmstead.

Cabot Creamery says its market isn’t just Vermont, but it surely is among 4393 participants. A hands-down favorite among our readers, the company outpaced other top-notch local cheesemakers — Jasper Hill in Greensboro Bend, Mt. Mansfield Creamery in Morrisville, and Sage Goat Farm Dairy in Stowe. Here’s an idea: A glass of Boyden ice wine and a sampler of local cheeses. Oh yeah.

Best bartender

1. Dennis Tallagnon at The Backyard Tavern

2. Jesse Sanguedolce at The Matterhorn Bar & Grill

3. Andrew Kneale at Harrison’s Restaurant

Nominees: Emily Hazzard at Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Kate Wise at Prohibition Pig, Jonathan Weiss at Phoenix Table & Bar, Mary Windler at Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern, Paul Wallace at Burt’s Pub.

Where’s your favorite bartender? Well, where everyone knows your name, of course, or at least where the bartender knows yours. No one ran away with this category, but Dennis at Stowe’s longtime watering hole The Backyard Tavern was the clear winner. Though Jesse at the ’Horn gave him a run for the corkscrew. Don’t bad puns and bartenders go together? It was also nice to see other pros like Kate Wise, Jonathan Weiss, Mary Windler and the incomparable Andrew Kneale get recognized by their fans.

Best bar

1. The Matterhorn Bar & Grill

2. Sunset Grille & Taproom and Taproom

3. Prohibition Pig

Nominees: The Backyard Tavern, Blackback Pub, Burt’s Pub, Gracie’s, Hourglass, Moog’s Place, Phoenix Table & Bar, Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern, Rusty Nail.

Whew. Don’t you hate when people say, “We’re all winners.” But, we gotta confess. In this category, lots of local bars and taverns came really, really close to taking the prize. The Matterhorn came out ahead, but the next eight vote-getters were shot glass to shot glass.

Best après ski, upscale

1. The Roost

2. Phoenix Table & Bar

3. Lounge at Trapp Family Lodge

Nominees: The Bench, Bistro at Ten Acres, Gracie’s, Matterhorn, Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Solstice, Sunset Grille & Taproom, Sushi Yoshi, Tavern At Edson Hill, Trattoria la Festa, The Whip.

Where’s the best place to be seen in your new furry Ugg boots? For our readers, it’s The Roost, the après bar at Topnotch with its industrial feel, clean lines and 1960s vibe. But the vote, again, was close. Phoenix, with its modern, open feel, and on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, the Austrian-inspired Lounge at Trapp Family Lodge, nipped at The Roost’s heels.

Best après ski, party time

1. Matterhorn

2. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

3. Sushi Yoshi

Nominees: Backyard Tavern, Burt’s Pub, Crop Bistro, Hourglass, Prohibition Pig, Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Rusty Nail, Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern.

The Matterhorn kicked butt in the 4393s. Congrats. But we suspect the gauntlet has been thrown for next year’s contest!

Best server

1. Jesse Sanguedolce at The Matterhorn Bar & Grill

2. Jane Foster at Edson Hill

Nominees: Berkeley Brooks at Gracie’s, Brendan at the Whip Bar & Grill, and Mary Windler at Rimrock’s Mountain Tavern. (three-way tie)

We thought we’d get 600 different names in this category, and it did feature a fair number of one-hit wonders. Everyone either has a favorite or voted for themselves! But a few servers — what we used to call waiters, waitresses or waitrons back in the day — rose to the top.

Best chef

1. Josh Bard & Jack Pickett at Phoenix Table & Bar

2. Michael Kloeti at Michael’s on the Hill

3. Aaron Martin at Plate Restaurant & Bar

Nominees: Cody Vasek at Trapp Family Lodge, Eric Warnstedt at Hen of the Wood, Ernie Schwiedenback at Rusty Nail, Gary Jacobson at Bistro at Ten Acres, Jamie Nelson at Blackback Pub, John Nelson at Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Matt LeBlanc at Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Michael Boomhower at Plate, Mike Werneke at Prohibition Pig, Nancy and Rich Haab at Sunset Grille & Taproom, Tony DeVito at Trattoria la Festa.

Josh and Jack. Jack and Josh. The names are synonymous with dining in Stowe. Jack Pickett honed his craft at Ten Acres in Stowe, bringing farm-to-table to Stowe long before it became the rage, founded Blue Moon Café and, with Josh Bard, collaborated on the popular Frida’s Taqueria. Last year, this talented twosome opened Phoenix Table & Bar. It’s a cool, cool place with inventive, fresh cuisine. Vermont farmer Alan LePage told us in 2014 that “Jack changed my life as a farmer. … ‘Parsnip soup!’ says the chef, and the farmer has to produce parsnips, or the chef just buys them from California. Jack was the first chef I met who understood that if it’s July, there are no local parsnips. He would call ME to ask ME what was available — what looked good, what may have gone by — and then he’d design his menu around it. He was brilliant and inspired. Way, way ahead of the curve.” Nice, huh? If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for? And definitely go for the oysters.

Best craft brewery

1. The Alchemist

2. Lost Nation Brewing

3. Hill Farmstead

Nominees: Crop Bistro, Prohibition Pig, Rock Art, von Trapp Brewing.

Does this qualify as a no-brainer? For goodness sakes, there’s an app for lovers of Heady Topper, The Alchemist’s signature brew, so they can track trucks making Heady deliveries. And, beverage outlets often limit purchases to a four-pack, maybe two. The hoppy IPA is also top of mind these days for locals as The Alchemist will open a brewery in Stowe early next year. That said, our readers poured respectable mugs of votes for other local brewmeisters — Crop, Trapps, Lost Nation and Hill Farmstead — too.

Best restaurant (fine dining)

1. Hen of the Wood

2. Michael’s on the Hill

3. Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room

Nominees: Bistro at Ten Acres, Crop Bistro, Edson Hill, Flannel at Topnotch, Phoenix Table & Bar, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Solstice, Trapp Family Lodge, Trattoria la Festa, The Whip.

This nearly ended in a tie, but chef Eric Warnstedt’s renowned Waterbury restaurant eked out a win over the equally tasty Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury Center. Nominated for the Best Chef: Northeast award by the James Beard Foundation every year since 2009, Warnstedt cooked at the James Beard House in New York City this spring. With business partner William McNeil, Warnstedt is opening Doc Ponds, a “beer bar” in Stowe this summer. The awesome thing about this competitive category? That there are so many great dining establishments in these parts to choose from, many of which posted respectable finishes here.

Best restaurant (casual)

1. The Bench

2. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge (2nd)

2. Gracie’s (2nd)

Nominees: Bee’s Knees, Bistro at Ten Acres, Blue Stone, Cactus Café, Charlie B’s Pub, Crop Bistro, Depot Street Malt Shop, Green Goddess, Harrison’s Restaurant, Lost Nation Brewery, Maxis Restaurant, McCarthy’s Restaurant, Phoenix Table & Bar, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Prohibition Pig, Sunset Grille & Taproom, Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Trattoria la Festa, Whip Bar & Grill.

Bench prevailed for the second time in the 4393s, but the two second-place finishers almost pulled off an upset. Go, Bench!

Best breakfast or brunch

1. McCarthy’s Restaurant

2. Green Goddess

3. Maxi’s Restaurant

Nominees: The Bagel, Bee’s Knees, Black Cap Coffee, Colonial Café, Café on Main, Deb’s Place, Dutch Pancake Café, Gables Inn, Harvest Market, Juniper’s Fare, Lovin Cup Coffee, Main Street Dining Room at Green Mountain Inn, 158 Main, Park Row, Stagecoach Inn.

Quick. What’s McCarthy’s favorite holiday? If you guessed St. Patrick’s Day, clearly you lent your 4393 vote to this popular, long-lived breakfast and lunch joint. We suspect McCarthy’s always smiling, delightful owner Diane has a lot to do with this runaway win.

Best place to grab a quick bite/takeout

1. Edelweiss Mountain Deli

2. Café on Main

3. The Bagel

Nominees: Bender’s Burritos, Deb’s Place, Green Goddess, Harvest Market, KC’s Bagel, McCarthy’s Restaurant, Park Row, Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, The Pizza Joint, Pizza on Main, Thompson’s Flour Shop, Wicked Wings.

Smoked meats, stuffed sandwiches, tasty pastry, desserts and convenience-store shopping handed the prize to Edelweiss.

Romantic date restaurant

1. Hen of the Wood

2. Michael’s on the Hill

3. Harrison’s Restaurant

Nominees: Bistro at Ten Acres, Edson Hill, Flannel at Topnotch, Hob Knob, Phoenix Table & Bar, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Solstice, Trattoria la Festa, Trapp Family Lodge Dining Room, The Whip at Green Mountain Inn.

Dark. Cozy. Sumptuous food. The perfect wine accompaniment. The sound of falling water. What more could you ask for whilst on a romantic date? Again, Michael’s on the Hill was a close second and Harrison’s posted a very respectable showing.

Best place to eat if you’re paying

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. The Bench

3. Gracie’s (tie)

3. Sunset Grille & Tap Room (tie)

Nominees: Blue Donkey, Bee’s Knees, Bender’s Burritos, Blue Stone Pizza, Cactus Café, Depot Street Malt Shop, Lost Nation Brewing, Phoenix Table & Bar, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Prohibition Pig, Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Sushi Yoshi, The Whip Bar & Grill.

Piecasso, of course. The popular pizzeria and ristorante remains the perfect spot to treat out-of-town friends, meet up with your visiting parents, or treat the Little League team. The choices run the gamut from a slice or two to delectable strombolis and full-fledged entrees. The prices are reasonable, not inexpensive, so your guests won’t comment on your skin-flintedness on the way back to their cars. The second and third place finishers were not far off the mark. Don’t you love choices?

Best place to eat if someone else is paying

1. Hen of the Wood

2. Michael’s on the Hill

3. Harrison’s Restaurant

Nominees: Bistro at Ten Acres, Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort, Crop Bistro, Flannel at Topnotch, Gracie’s, Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge, Plate Restaurant & Bar, Solstice, Trattoria la Festa, Trapp Family Lodge.

HOTW, of course. Michael’s on the Hill, natch. Harrison’s, a reservation for four.

Best wine store

1. Cork Wine Bar and Market (Waterbury)

2. Stowe Wine & Cheese

3. Stowe Beverage

Nominees: Costco, Fine Wine Cellars in Stowe, Leisure World in Morrisville.

Robert Parker would be proud. From Morrisville to Stowe and into Waterbury, oenophiles will never die of thirst.

Best baked goods

1. Harvest Market

2. Edelweiss Mountain Deli

3. Thompson’s Flour Shop

Nominees: Black Cap Coffee, Café on Main, Deb’s Place, Grenier’s, Jana’s Cupboard, Red Hen Bakery, Sweet Crunch Bake Shop, Trapp Family Lodge.

Basically, you can’t lose, but Harvest Market can win.

Best original drink

1. Grape Crush, Sunset Grille & Taproom

2. Thai Basil Flip, Edson Hill

Vodka. Raspberry schnapps. Cranberry juice. Sour mix. Shaken with ice. House shot at Sunset Grille. Pour me one, I’m on my way. We couldn’t decipher some of the votes, but a lot of these cocktails sound mighty fun and/or tasty: Fire on the Mountain, jalapeño margarita at Piecasso, Moscow Mule at Phoenix, Lazy Vermonter at Plate, Irish car bombs at Matterhorn, bacon bourbon martini at Crop, and that Thai basil flip at Edson Hill.

Best maple syrup

1. Stowe Maple Products

2. Butternut Mountain Farm

3. Nebraska Knoll Sugarhouse

Nominees: Osborne Family Maple, Morse Farm Sugarworks, Percy Maple Products, Slopeside Syrup, Trapp Family Lodge.

This one was tap to tap, but Stowe Maple Products had a great run in the 4393s.

Best restaurant dessert

1. Plate Restaurant & Bar, banana pudding

2. Gracie’s Restaurant, doggie bag

3. Whip Bar & Grill, sac de bon bon

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