Lamenting Boston’s relatively mild winter this year and looking for colder climes and some actual snowfall, with a side of poutine, smoked meat, bagels, and French classics? Montreal is merely a five-hour drive away, a not-too-inconvenient trek for a long weekend of eating, snowshoeing, and eating some more. (Sure, it’s worth the trip in the summer as well, although if you can brave the cold, you’ll find shorter waits at a lot of the most touristy hot spots. Winter visitors may find that they can waltz right into Schwartz’s when that smoked meat craving hits.)
Be sure to peruse Eater Montreal as you plan your trip, starting with the Ultimate Visitor’s Guide to Eating in Montreal. Don’t ignore the actual drive, though — taking a meal break around the three- or four-hour mark in each direction will make the remainder of the drive a breeze and allow for a bit of Vermont exploration. Here’s one excellent restaurant to visit in each direction of the drive.
156 Church St., Burlington, Vermont
Given the right traffic and weather conditions, you might be able to zoom up to Burlington, Vermont, in about three and a half hours; more likely it’ll be around four. But if you leave Boston in the early afternoon and can get that much of the drive under your belt in one go, you can (and should) stop for dinner at the destination-worthy Honey Road and arrive in Montreal with enough time for a nightcap before bed.
Honey Road debuted in mid-2017, courtesy of Oleana alum Cara Chigazola-Tobin and Hen of the Wood alum Allison Gibson. The owners serve as executive chef and general manager respectively. Chigazola-Tobin has landed on the James Beard semifinalist list twice (2018, 2019) for her work at the restaurant, and the restaurant itself was a “best new restaurant” semifinalist in 2018.
Under the watchful eye of a neon flamingo, try to snag a seat at the bustling restaurant’s bar and prepare to eat as many of Honey Road’s Eastern Mediterranean mezze as possible. The cocktail list tempts with options like a barberry caipirinha and a turmeric-ginger-infused gin drink, but more driving awaits, and a bartender will be happy to suggest low-alcohol or spirit-free drinks that make use of some of the bar’s flavor-packed ingredients.
The menu varies with the seasons and features plenty of local ingredients. Keep an eye out for a couple must-try dishes or variations on them: grape leaf dolma, stuffed with earthy lamb and served with a thick yogurt, and sticky sweet-spicy harissa chicken wings, served with dried lime labne.
7 North Main St., White River Junction, Vermont
From farmers market vending to a food truck to a takeout shop in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to a full-service restaurant in White River Junction, Vermont, Sarin Tin and Lay Yi’s Phnom Penh Sandwich Station has come a long way in the past five years, serving the Upper Valley region exemplary Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine all the while.
While the Lebanon shop still exists — at least until later this year, when its building is demolished — the sit-down location in downtown White River Junction, open since late 2018, is the place to go for a more leisurely meal (including an expanded menu and a small selection of beer and wine). Located alongside the train tracks, the small, cozy space was home to a diner, Polka Dot Restaurant, for over 50 years.
Depending on the border crossing and traffic, travelers returning from Montreal will likely hit this spot, open for lunch and dinner every day except Sunday, in a little over three hours, leaving only about two hours of driving back to Boston post-meal.
Start with the fried bread appetizer — the crispy bread is topped with an umami-rich pork and shrimp spread and is meant to be dipped in a sweet, spicy, sour sauce. The main course depends on whether you’re in a sandwich mood or looking for a comforting bowl of soup or curry.
Sandwich seekers can choose the Vietnamese banh mi, featuring ham, head cheese, and pate, or the Phnom Penh sandwich, which comes with a choice of protein, such as lemongrass beef or ginger garlic pork. On the soupier side, especially for a cold winter day, the mi kary does the trick. The enormous bowl includes shrimp, tofu, and yellow noodles in a hearty curry broth, embellished with bean sprouts, carrot, potato, green beans, and crispy wontons. With roots in Malaysia and Indonesia, this dish has spread around Southeast Asia in various forms (often called curry laksa) and feels like a natural fit for Phnom Penh Sandwich Station’s menu — and a satisfying way to wrap up a long weekend of feasting.