Fast food doesn’t have to mean just fast food
shops like McDonalds and Taco Bell. Likewise, delicious food is not solely the domain of haute cuisine restaurants. Sometimes the two – fast and fabulous – go together in one dining establishment. Toss in relatively inexpensive and you have a great dinner-out or take-home food bargain right in the Vermont capitol area of Montpelier and its sister city, Barre.
Starting in Barre, consider Del’s Pizza and Pasta House at 248 North Main Street (476-6684). While you can get a very leisurely meal here as well, perfect to linger over with friends or your partner, Del’s has quick service and a sturdy, tasty menu. Do yourself a huge favor and check out the daily specials; I’ve found some luscious surprises here, including the best sweet potato fries ever. Let your server know you’re in a hurry – if you are – and you are almost guaranteed to both get your fill of rib-sticking deliciousness and get out in time for your next hop.
Turn onto Barre-Montpelier Road from Main Street in Barre and take a drive up to Ming Moon Buffet, a Chinese restaurant with an almost magical selection. On any given day, you can order from the menu or load up on the buffet line which includes the usual suspects with a bit of Japanese, American, and yes, even pizza available as well. Their creamy coconut chicken, stuffed mushrooms, and chicken chow fun are my all-time favorites. Yet my mouth also waters at the crab rangoons, the plump dim sum, and even the waffle-cut roasted potatoes which serve as a fine bed for some of the spicy options. Take home or eat there, Ming Moon can be found at 1400 US Route 302 (aka Barre-Montpelier Road, 476-8880), in the same shopping center as Odd Lots!
Go a bit farther up the same road and you come to something of the quintessential New England diner, the Wayside Restaurant & Bakery. Before you sit down, check out the baked goods at the counter; these are freshly made on premises. It’s hard for me to resist taking a cookie or brownie back to the office while the breads and pies have called out to me more than once. Try one of the Wayside’s private label old-time sodas or a fountain drink. Although their coffee is not bad, by any means, it is surprisingly average for their amount of business; but I’m a heavy-duty Columbian roast drinker so your tastes may be more in line with their brew. Next, peruse the menu which offers most of your hearty, standard Yankee fare. Like any good place, the burgers are delish, the fries quite tasty, and the pies dress up the coffee nicely. There are specials, too; one morning’s breakfast menu featured venison sausage, for example. Find the Wayside on Route 302 in Montpelier, just over the Barre/Berlin town lines (223-6611). Just be prepared for a packed dining room; I rarely see the parking lot empty which may speak volumes about the place.
Turn onto River Road/Route 2 from Barre/Montpelier Road, also known as Route 302, and head for downtown Montpelier. You have too many good choices here, but none of the bigger fast food restaurants since Vermont’s capitol city has no McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, or Taco Bell. The closest you come to fast food chains is Subway and Quiznos sandwich shops. Instead of these, turn down onto State Street and take your pick of Positive Pie 2 (named actually for the math symbol, 22 State Street, 229-0453), the city extension of the popular Plainfield pizzeria, or Nini’s Wrap Works (8 State Street, 229-6788). Eat there or take it home for fast food with quality. The chicken parmiagiana sandwich at the former is delightful while the latter has some extraordinarily tasty veggie wraps.
Last but not hardly least is a marvelous place that serves only take-out orders but of a quality and ethnicity usually hard to find so far out in the boondocks. Susan’s Kitchen, open 3-6 PM Tuesday through Friday, dishes up fantastic mostly vegetarian fare at very affordable prices. You usually have a few different choices on any given night, when you might select a mushroom version of spanakopita or a timbale or perhaps even something African or Egyptian. You can call ahead or simply stop by to see what’s left of their everyday-made-fresh menu options; it’s definitely worth the trip. Don’t forget the good cookies or other desserts. Susan’s Kitchen is located at 209 Barre Street in Montpelier (223-8646).