Before presenting to you the culmination of an impromptu “just because” trip up to Burlington, Vermont, I need to preface this list by saying that literally every single person we encountered in Burlington was just the nicest, friendliest person ever, so I’ll refrain from mentioning this for every single establishment.
From first impressions, Burlington is a pretty, sweet, cozy, liberal (hi Bernie!) city, easy to navigate and packed with food and drink gems dotted all over the place. You can totally hit up all of these spots in one weekend (we did!) especially if you don’t mind stuffing yourself so much that you have to walk around town with your pants unbuttoned (I did!). If you’re a beer fanatic, a cider fanatic, or even if you just like eating food, you’ll be good to go here. Here’s our picks, but you can trust that we’ll be back for more.
Citizen Cider – I always feel left out of the brewery circuit because of the whole no gluten thing, but I just want to enjoy all the drinks too. This is a thing that can happen here! Cider flights consist of five samples each, so with ten total offerings, we were able to sample literally everything, presented from sweet to dry. Seems like an ideal place to spend a few hours with friends. Pro tip: definitely get the wings.
El Cortijo – Funky little Mexican spot in an old diner car. We had early dinner here with taco plates and cocktails. Maybe a little pricier than what we’re used to in Manhattan (weird thing to say) but there doesn’t seem to be many Mexican options here, and everything was delicious anyway. Would recommend.
Three Needs Taproom & Brewery – Surprisingly spacious dive bar with a wide array of drink choices. Pool tables and ample seating are a plus. We could have easily have stayed here all night if we didn’t feel our own pressure on ourselves to explore more. They have some of their own beer and I hear they’ve got a dollar beer situation going on occasionally.
The Other Place (OP) – How is the beer so cheap? Local brewery Zero Gravity’s Conehead IPA was $4.50 a pint and around $6.75 per pitcher here. One pitcher of beer here would undoubtedly go for the same price as a pint down in NYC. Why do we live in New York again? Also, their lone offering for bar food is White Castle sliders. This place is awesome.
Sweetwaters – Once we remembered that we were in the outskirts of poutine country, we happily housed a plate of it here and washed it down with a real quick glass of wine and a beer. We just sat at the bar for a minute, but the place was packed and in a great central location, right on the main drag.
American Flatbread – …And then we ate again. I heard rumors of an amazing gluten-free pizza crust and this place DELIVERED (not literally. But maybe literally, we wouldn’t know). I downed half of a personal Cheese and Herb pizza but was too drunk to finish the rest in public, however reheating it in the hotel microwave and eating it in bed was an absolutely lovely experience.
Ri Ra – Stopped at this big Irish pub restaurant chain Saturday morning for an unsuccessful attempt at watching a particular Premier League soccer game (Come On You Spurs), they didn’t have the channel we needed but were friendly and accommodating as they could be under the circumstances. We stayed for a mimosa and a Bloody Mary.
Foam Brewers – Super chill industrial space offering a number of brews named after bands (My Morning Jacket, Beach House, Pavement). I can’t speak for the beer from my gluten-free perspective, but was happy with a can of Citizen Cider, plus there was a guy slinging $1 oysters. Conor liked the two beers he tried, both of which were the citrusy IPA kind he’s into.
Hen of the Wood – The coziest, prettiest spot to kick off a wintry Saturday evening, complete with a fireplace, an open kitchen, and a stellar menu with an emphasis on craftsmanship and local ingredients. This was the place that was most recommended by the Internet and my friends. We only stopped by for a cocktail at the bar but easily would have stayed for more if time (and $) had allowed. Date night approved, especially if you’re trying to impress someone.
Vermont Pub & Brewery – We were only here for one drink and sat right next to the door so we didn’t get a full experience, but they did offer their own beer and local wine – I had a glass of white from a winery we passed on the way home, pretty cool.
Mad River Distillery – Came in here on a whim as it was across the street from our hotel and it did not disappoint. I had a pina colada made with maple rum, which ended up being the cocktail of my dreams (even served in a coconut shaped glass with a fake bamboo straw!), and Conor had an old fashioned. Highly recommended for a creative cocktail and friendly bartenders that know their stuff.
Manhattan Pizza & Pub – Since we had eaten literally almost everywhere else we stopped by here for a quick meal. It’s a no-frills pie AND a by-the-slice spot, so the crowd is a mix of people eating in and taking out, a good portion of college kids, and everyone’s drinking. We had poutine (again) and two hefty slices of pizza at the counter before heading out to drink some more. Great beer selection, a surprisingly decent Mule, and there’s also free range, boneless Gummy Bears on the menu.
JP’s Pub – Dive bar so great, we came here twice, and played endless amounts of foosball both nights. We accidentally ended up here during SantaCon which is typically the worst night of the year but was surprisingly not too bad here, with Santa clad patrons really getting into Christmas Carol karaoke. If you’re a dive bar person like us, go here.
City Market/Onion River Co-op – My new favorite grocery store. Very Whole Foods-esque, but a co-op! Their deli counter offers gluten-free bread and the store itself offers an insane array of gluten-free items. I’m killing myself over not picking up some GF challah. You can also dine-in, which we did, and possibly run into some Burlington citizens holding a town hall.
Zero Gravity Craft Brewery – Home of the famous Bernie Weisse, this was our last stop of the weekend, where we swung by quick and picked up six packs of Conehead to take home. We were only here for 10 minutes and had a quick sample of the Bernie beer, but the bartender was happy to help us learn more about the beer in the short time we were there.
If you have any other Burlington recommendations we didn’t mention here, let us know!