In a city with so much to offer, it becomes so easy to forget about the culinary diversity that can be found in Burlington. This truth was highlighted in full-force by a new event called Dishcrawl. Similar to the popular idea of pub-crawls, Burlington's inaugural event sought to prove the depth and range of restaurant experiences found within Burlington's Church Street Marketplace. As a fairly new Burlingtonian, I still feel as if I have only just begun experiencing the myriad dining options that Burlington has to offer, with over 30 unique restaurant experiences in the Church Street area alone. With no itinerary provided save the meeting place, I went in to the event with an open mind and an empty stomach.
The first stop on our mystery tour was Nika, a new Mediterranean-inspired establishment in the heart of the Church Street Marketplace. As I entered the low-lit ambiance of the restaurant, I was greeted by Aziza, the leader and coordinator of the Dishcrawl experience. To my delight, she implored me to sample from the many dishes laid out around the bar. The first stop was highlighted by a delicate, yet flavorful flatbread pizza topped with duck confit, a tender and juicy skewer of chicken flavored with Mediterranean spices, and lightly-fried mushroom risotto arancini. I began to realize that practicing moderation in anticipation of much more food to come would prove difficult.
After sharing a personal word and exchanging thanks with head chef Dennis Vieria, we were on our way to stop #2: El Gato. Found at the southern end of the Church Street Marketplace, El Gato is a vibrant Mexican restaurant striving to bring authentic Mexican cuisine all the way from the border to Burlington. Before we were allowed to dig in to the bright array of classic Hispanic fair set before us, we were greeted by head chef Teresa Sanchez-Bertrand. She expressed to us her desire to bring the food she loved and cherised as a young child to a place devoid of other Mexican options, utilizing the availability of fresh and delicious ingredients in her traditional dishes. We were graced with an amazing citrus ceviche that was flavorful, yet not overbearing, a decadent carnitas dish featuring local pork, and a native, spicy soup called pozole. As the second new experience for myself on the tour, El Gato proved to be so much more than just a good margarita; its local ingredients and authentic flavors shined.
With two restaurants behind us, and stomach space becoming harder to come by, the group trekked on to Sherpa Kitchen, a well-established Nepalese restaurant. As we listened to the musings of chef and co-owner Pherba Sherpa, we were treated to a spicy menagerie of eastern favorites, featuring an excellent chicken curry, deep friend pakora, and pork momo dumplings accompanied by a delicious curry hot sauce. I was surprised and intrigued by the broad palate of flavors that surrounding countries like Tibet and India provide Nepalese cuisine, having never tried it prior to this event.
Finally, as the night wound down to an end, the group approached its final stop: Ben and Jerry's. As difficult as it was, I managed to miraculously find space for this familiar, delicious end to a wonderful experience. At the store, we were treated to our own, private tasting area manned by a smiling, excited Ben and Jerry's employee. Though food coma had begun to slowly take its effect on the group as a whole, we were guided through a brief, yet diverse journey through the many different types of flavors served at the Vermont-based ice cream shop. It began with Chocolate Therapy, a fan-favorite, and made its way through White Russian, Salted Caramel, and my own personal favorite, the Pineapple Passion Fruit Greek frozen yogurt.
Although I could not eat the entirety of all the samples due to fears of culinary overload, the sweet treat served as the perfect ending to a wonderful evening. Though I would not consider myself an amateur of the Burlington restaurant scene, I can say without a doubt that this Dishcrawl event opened my eyes to the immensity of the metaphorical iceberg that is the Burlington culinary experience, and just how little of the tip I had seen. In one fell swoop, I had the pleasure of enjoying three brand-new establishments, in the pleasant company of like-minded local foodies.
In this way, the inaugural Burlington Dishcrawl was a massive success, and I eagerly await its return in August. As an event catering to all ages and backgrounds, Burlington's second Dishcrawl at the end of the summer is a must-attend event for families, friends, and foodies alike!