Readers picked their tasty favorites: life-changing burgers, top chefs, perfect pizzas and more.


Best pizza

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. Pizza on Main

3. Blue Stone

Nominees: The Bench, Downtown Pizza, Firetower Pizza, House of Pizza, Jeffersonville Pizza Department, Jimmz Pizza, Junior’s at Stowe, The Matterhorn, Pizza Joint, Zachary’s Pizza

Piecasso was the runaway winner, yet again. See our writeup.


Best burger

1. Doc Ponds

2. Prohibition Pig

3. The Bench

Nominees: 10 Railroad Street, Black Diamond BBQ, Blue Donkey, Burger Barn, Charlie B’s, Depot Street Malt Shop, Harrison’s, Idletyme Brewing Co., Lost Nation, Plate, The Reservoir, The Roost at Topnotch, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, The Whip

“The burger that changed my life.” That’s really how one online fan described the burger at Doc Ponds: “Hands down, the burger I had was one of the top 3 burgers I have had in my entire life. They cook it in a special way that our waiter explained to me but that I immediately forgot, and it was so tender and delicious. When I was done eating, I just sat for a bit reminiscing on what had just eaten. It was just that good.” Well, AndreaTheGreat of Queensbury, N.Y., illustrates two things: the need for editors, and that DP’s burgers are just that good. And Andrea, it’s pretty simple to remember … Vermont beef, cheddar cheese, special sauce and those oh-so-delicious buns.


Best tacos

1. El Toro

2. Cactus Café

3. Prohibition Pig Brewery

Nominees: Aztlan Foods, The Bench, Caja Madera, Green Goddess Café, The Roost at Topnotch, Taco Truck All Stars, Tap 25

Donald, we’re still waiting for a taco truck on every corner. In the meantime, there are plenty of local chefs and cooks putting their own spin on this staple of the Mexican diet. But not all tacos are created equally as El Toro runs away with this one. Olé!


Best wings

1. Black Diamond BBQ

2. The Reservoir

3. Wicked Wings

Nominees: The Bench, Doc Ponds, Charlie B’s, The Matterhorn, Picnic Social, Piecasso, Pizza on Main, Prohibition Pig, Rimrocks, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, Sushi Yoshi, The Whip

It was neck and neck — wing to wing? — in this category. See our writeup.


Best vegetarian / vegan food

1. Green Goddess

2. Pete’s Greens Farm Market

3. Plate Restaurant

Nominees: The Bench, Commodities Natural Market, Idletyme Brewing Co., Saensook Thai Kitchen, Sunflower Natural Foods, Sushi Yoshi, Zenbarn

How’s this for a twist on the traditional breakfast sandwich? Crispy organic tofu, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, roasted red peppers and roasted tomato salsa. Or the Shangri-la wrap? That same tofu, baked, with carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, almonds, crunchy noodles and Asian ginger dressing. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options here, from juice concoctions to build-your-own salads to everything in between. (P.S.: They take good care of meat lovers here, too.)


Best new restaurant (opened in 2016 or 2017)

1. Black Diamond BBQ

2. Bierhall at von Trapp Brewing

3. Zenbarn

Nominees: Blush Hill Bistro, Bustin’ Belly Grill & Deli, Butler’s Pantry, El Toro, Hender’s Bake Shop, Hot Tamale Co., Junior’s at Stowe, The Kitchen, Ornella’s Northern Italian, Picnic Social, Saensook Thai Kitchen

See our writeup.


Best chef

1. Eric Warnstedt, Hen of the Wood, Doc Ponds

2. Michael Kloeti, Idletyme and Michael’s on the Hill

3. Jason Pacioni, Black Diamond BBQ

Nominees: Scott Collins, Zenbarn; Andy Figliola, 10 Railroad; Jack Foley, 158 Main; Eli Fortney, Topnotch Resort; Rich Haab, Sunset Grille; Aaron Martin, Plate; Justin Perdue, Picnic Social; Jack Pickett, Bierhall at von Trapp Brewing; Frankie Salese, Junior’s at Stowe; Cortney Quinn, Topnotch Resort; Cody Vasek, Trapp Family Lodge; Steve Zeno, The Whip Bar & Grill

Modest. Confident. Accessible. Words that describe Eric Warnstedt, the eight-time James Beard-nominated chef who helms three of the best restaurants in Vermont: the inventive Hen of the Wood, with locations in Waterbury and Burlington, and Doc Ponds in Stowe, a groovy, casual après-ski — or après-bike, depending upon the season — spot that everyone, from rusty Toyota-Tacoma-driving, bearded hipsters to Stowe’s moneyed masses, seems to love.


Best restaurant, fine dining

1. Hen of the Wood

2. Michael’s on the Hill

3. Harrison’s

Nominees: The Bistro at Ten Acres, Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort, The Dining Room at Edson Hill, Flannel at Topnotch Resort, Plate Restaurant, Solstice Trapp Family Lodge, Trattoria La Festa

Waterbury’s Hen of the Wood makes it three in a row in this category, with all of the usual suspects in close pursuit. Bon appetit!


Best casual restaurant — Stowe

1. The Bench

2. Doc Ponds

3. Piecasso

Nominees: Bierhall at von Trapp Brewing, Blue Donkey, Café on Main, Charlie B’s, Depot Street Malt Shop, Idletyme Brewing Co., Junior’s at Stowe, The Matterhorn, Picnic Social, The Roost at Topnotch, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, Sushi Yoshi, The Whip Bar & Grill

In. Cool. Hip. Drive by any evening and the parking lot overflows with cars idling for a spot. The Bench has a great beer selection, a clean, rustic look, great service, an easy-to-enjoy menu, and that vibe. Families feel welcome, too.


Best casual restaurant — Waterbury

1. Prohibition Pig

2. The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room

3. Zenbarn

Nominees: Arvads Grill, Blackback Pub, Blue Stone, Blush Hill Bistro, Maxi’s Restaurant, Ocha Thai Smile


Best casual restaurant — Lamoille County

1. Lost Nation Brewing Co.

2. Black Diamond BBQ

3. Pizza on Main

Nominees: 10 Railroad, 158 Main, The Charlmont, Downtown Pizza, El Toro, Hoagie’s Pizza & Pasta, Landmark Tavern, The Village Tavern

They came for the beer and stayed for the food. No one got lost.


Best family-friendly dining

1. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

2. McCarthy’s Restaurant

3. The Bench

Nominees: 158 Main, Arvads Grill, Blue Donkey, The Charlmont, Depot Street Malt Shop, Harrison’s, Hoagie’s Pizza & Pasta, Idletyme Brewing Co., Picnic Social, The Roost at Topnotch, Sunset Grille & Tap Room, Sushi Yoshi, Zenbarn

Where you gonna go? Pie-Cass-O! See our writeup.


Best outdoor dining

1. Idletyme Brewing Co.

2. Lost Nation Brewing

3. Topnotch Resort

Nominees: The Bench, The Bistro at Ten Acres, Blue Donkey, Hen of the Wood, Harrison’s, Picnic Social, Prohibition Pig Brewery, The Village Tavern, Whip Bar & Grill

You can’t beat the patio at Idletyme on a sweet summer day in Stowe. Right on the Recreation Path, dappled shade, the rush of the West Branch, fried pickles and a freshly brewed double IPA. Ahh.


Best draft beer list

1. The Bench

2. Doc Ponds

3. Blackback Pub

Nominees: 10 Railroad Street, Hoagie’s Pizza & Pasta, Idletyme Brewing Co., Lost Nation Brewing, Prohibition Pig, The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Tap 25, The Matterhorn, The Roost at Topnotch, Stowe Public House, Zenbarn

Beer list as art form. Remember when the beer list sat on the table in a plastic sleeve, and Heineken or Amstel were the most adventurous choices? No longer. Seems as if every watering hole/restaurant these days features a great beer list. Hill Farmstead’s Edward and Mary, Ten Bends’s Rotary Chaos, Allagash’s Confluence, and 14th Star’s Tribute — the list changes all the time — that’s just a drop in the barrel of the brews you might find at The Bench.


Best bartender

1. Andrew Kneale, Harrison’s

2. JT Vize, Piecasso

3. Kate Wise, Doc Ponds

Nominees: Madeleine Burns, The Bench; Jane Foster, Edson Hill; Otis Helfrich, Sunset Grille; Emily Hassard, Zenbarn; Gretchen Jarvis, 10 Railroad; Brian Krux, Topnotch/Black Diamond; Tom Moog, Moog’s Place; Jeremy Moselle, Matterhorn; Jesse Sanguedolce, Matterhorn; Dennis Tallagnon, Backyard Tavern; Jayson Willett, Junior’s at Stowe; Mary Windler, Rimrocks

Andrew Kneale grew up in Stowe, in the biz, as they say. He grew up watching his parents, Kathy and David, run the popular Partridge Inn restaurant. He was mostly grown up when they opened the equally popular Depot Street Malt Shop. Harrison’s is the third family owned and operated Kneale eatery in Stowe, named in honor of Andrew’s dad and Kathy’s husband, the late — and beloved— David Harrison Kneale. Clearly, Andrew grew up learning something; he’s a perennial winner in this category.


Best après ski, partytime

1. The Matterhorn

2. Piecasso Pizzeria & Lounge

3. Doc Ponds

Nominees: The Den, Mansfield Base Lodge, Martell’s at the Red Fox, The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Smugglers’ Notch Tavern, Sushi Yoshi, Zenbarn

The Matterhorn’s theme song should be Del Shannon’s “Runaway” — it keeps running away with this one. Stowe, Waterbury and Lamoille County folks like to party, but when they gotta pull the lever and choose their favorite after a day on the hill or a lung-burning ride in the woods, they belly up to the bar at the ‘Horn.


Best après ski, upscale

1. The Roost at Topnotch

2. Idletyme Brewing Co.

3. Cork Wine Bar & Market

Nominees: Field Guide, Green Mountain Inn, Hob Knob Inn, Solstice and Hourglass Bar, Stowe Mountain Lodge

The Roost squeaked out a win in this category as the top 3 vote totals were oh-so-close, followed by a pretty competitive group in the back field. Not surprising as all three offer cozy, comfortable elegance, the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a more grownup environment after skiing, recreating, or just meeting up with friends.


Best server

1. Seth Burbank, Harrison’s

2. Mary Windler, Rimrocks

3. Lex Collazo, Sunset Grille

Nominees: Becca Aranda Bishop, Martell’s at the Red Fox; Noelle Hopkins, Flannel at Topnotch; Ricky Klingert, Bistro at Ten Acres

In Europe, wait service is a profession and waiters and waitresses are, if not revered, respected in a way that many Americans fail to grasp. Waiting. On. Tables. Is. Hard. Work. Chefs can often be hostile to front-of-the-house crews, and owners aren’t always the easiest. (The customer is not always right, people!) So it’s great to see folks ‘round these parts actually know the names of the people taking such good care of them. Burbank took it in a landslide. Next time, we’ll bypass the bar (sorry, Andrew — we’ll be back for a nightcap) and ask for Seth’s section.


Best breakfast / brunch

1. McCarthy’s Restaurant

2. 158 Main

3. Butler’s Pantry

Nominees: The Bagel, Deb’s Place, Dutch Pancake Café, Flannel at Topnotch, The Gables Inn, Green Goddess Café, Harvest Market, Hender’s Bake Shop, K.C.’s Bagel Café, Maxi’s Restaurant, Park Row Café, Stowe Street Café, The Whip Bar & Grill

McCarthy’s: where everyone knows your name. Or where you know everyone’s name. Or where the waitress — and Diane! — remembers your name. Even the visitors seem to know you. Cheers without the booze. Simple, well-prepared American breakfasts — eggs and bacon, French toast, pancakes — and they’ve been doing it right since time began.


Best place for dessert

1. Ben & Jerry’s

2. Stowe Ice Cream

3. Laughing Moon Chocolates

Nominees: Depot Street Malt Shop, Harrison’s, Harvest Market, Hen of the Wood, Hender’s Bake Shop, Plate Restaurant, Michael’s on the Hill, Mountain View Snack Bar, Trapp Family Lodge, The Whip Bar & Grill

A theme emerges. Ice cream. Put a cherry on it.


Best place to grab a quick bite / takeout

1. Piecasso

2. The Kitchen

3. Nepali Kitchen

Nominees: Apple Core Luncheonette, The Bagel, Black Diamond BBQ, Blue Donkey, Café on Main, Edelweiss Mountain Deli, Green Goddess, Harvest Market, Hender’s Bake Shop & Café, KC’s Bagel Café, Mac’s Market, Mountain View Snack Bar, Pizza Joint, Stowe Street Café, Sushi Yoshi, Thompson’s Flour Shop, Village Market of Waterbury

Lots of contenders, and a close finish among the top dozen or so. Everyone has their favorite place, but if you’ve ever been to Piecasso at lunchtime for the two-slice-and-a-soda special, well … See our writeup.


Best baked goods

1. Harvest Market

2. Elmore Mountain Bread

3. Hender’s Bake Shop & Café

Nominees: Black Cap Coffee & Beer, Café on Main, Cake & Crumb Bakery, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Deb’s Place, Edelweiss Mountain Deli, The French Way BakeryGreen Goddess, La Strada, McCarthy’s Restaurant, Stowe Street Café, Sweet Crunch Bake Shop, Thompson’s Flour Shop, Trapp Family Lodge

1992. That’s the year Harvest Market opened in the former Boots ‘n’ Boards ski shop. After an extensive retrofit and remodel, of course. Can you believe it? Twenty-five years! Did you know founder Donna Carpenter apprenticed at Ina Garten’s East Hampton, N.Y., shop, The Barefoot Contessa, before opening her own version on Stowe’s Mountain Road? Did you know that Ina helped to design and lay out the space and even shared some recipes? An auspicious start, to be sure, but one that Carpenter and her talented crew of managers, bakers, chefs, baristas and deli masters have perfected over the years. That recipe is all their own. And those baked goods? Made fresh daily, just like grandma’s — from scratch.


Best local farmers market vendor

1. Pete’s Greens

2. Black Diamond BBQ

3. Sage Farm Goat Dairy

Nominees: Applecheek Farm, Bambi Freeman’s Sterling Brook Farm, Sandiwood Farm, Farm at Wolcott Pond

Long before farm-to-table, locally sourced foodstuffs and organic-organic-organic became everyday terms, there was Pete Johnson, who started Pete’s Greens 22 years ago, and whose business motto fits our state to a T: Vermont Can Feed Itself. The operation now cultivates about 200 acres in the Northeast Kingdom, plus its impressive farmstand in Waterbury Center. See our writeup.


Best local caterer

1. Black Diamond BBQ

2. Susanna’s Catering

3. McCarthy’s Restaurant/Diane McCarthy

Nominees: Alpenglow Kitchen, Le Petit Gourmet, Simply Done Catering, Thyme to Dine, Vermont Harvest Catering

See our writeup.


Best local spirits maker

1. Green Mountain Distillers

2. Smugglers’ Notch Distillery

3. Caledonia Spirits

Nominee: Boyden Valley Winery & Spirits

This list includes all of our local spirits makers. They all go down smoothly. (Recipe tip from the Skinny Pancake at Burlington Airport: Tom Cat barrel-aged gin from Caledonia, cider vinegar, maple syrup, one giant ice cube, stirred, not shaken.)


Best local brewery or cidery

1. The Alchemist

2. Lost Nation Brewing

3. Stowe Cider

Nominees: Big Tree Brewing, Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Idletyme Brewing Co., Prohibition Pig Brewery, Rock Art Brewery, Ten Bends Beer, von Trapp Brewing

A quick story: “I’ve heard a lot of stories about how much people love Heady Topper, but this one amazed even me,” Shane Rumrill told the Stowe Reporter after The Alchemist opened in Stowe. “Two weeks ago a guy driving a car with Canadian plates pulled into the lot. We got to talking and he told me he was from Brazil and had rented the car while visiting Montreal. He’d read about Heady on the internet and was super excited to get his first taste … But there’s more. He wasn’t just visiting Montreal. He was on his honeymoon! He had left his bride behind for the day for a case of Heady Topper.” What else do you need to know?


Best wine shop / selection

1. Cork Wine Bar & Market

2. Stowe Wine & Cheese

3. Fine Wine Cellars

Nominees: Crossroads Beverage & Deli, Leisure World, Pete’s Greens Waterbury Farm Market, Stowe Beverage

What did the grape say when it was crushed? Nothing, it just let out a little wine. Thankfully, no groaners in this crowd, where the finishers all scored high, 90 to 100, on the spectator scale — not a plonk in the bunch.


Best beer shop / selection

1. Craft Beer Cellar

2. Stowe Public House

3. Stowe Beverage

Nominees: Black Cap Coffee & Beer, Commodities Natural Market, Crossroads Beverage & Deli, Edelweiss Mountain Deli

Did you hear? Craft brews are a thing. Who knew? So we conducted a test and it didn’t involve kegs, funnels or quarters. We wondered if we tasted one locally available beer a day — sold in bottles, cans and on tap — how long it would take us to try them all. 5,211 days, it turns out. Results were close, with the top three getting hoppy with the vote totals, but Waterbury’s Craft Beer Cellar came out ahead.


Best place to meet for coffee

1. Black Cap Coffee & Beer

2. PK Coffee

3. Stowe Street Café

Nominees: Deb’s Place, Green Mountain Coffee Cafe, Green Goddess, Hender’s Bake Shop, Maxi’s Restaurant, McCarthy’s

Did you want your half-caff mocha cinnamon latte for here or to go? Voting was close … loyalties run deep when it comes to a favorite coffee bar, hangouts with good friends, good conversation, a kickass wi-fi connection, and a great cup of joe. Or whatever you’re drinking.

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