Every town has its favorite flavors, and the tastes of Burlington ’s residents, it turns out, run spicy—with one Asian eatery after another offering up some of New England’s best of the genre. The top-notch Southeast Asian organic eats at Tantra (169 Lower Church St., 802/651-9660, 5–10 p.m. daily, $14–21) are a citywide hit—in particular the Thai specialties such as green curry and spicy beef, and the exotic martini menu.
Forget Americanized Chinese food. The immensely popular A Single Pebble (133-35 Bank St., 802/865-5200, www.asinglepebble.com , 11:30 a.m.–1:45 p.m. Mon.–Fri.; 5 p.m.–10 p.m. nightly, $9–20) cooks authentic Szechuan fare like “Ants Climbing a Tree” (a traditional pork and cellophane noodle dish) and Red Chili Shrimp, served family-style.
If you can’t choose a country, the top-notch pan-Asian fixings at Five Spice Café (175 Church St., 802/864-4045, www.fivespicecafe.com , $14–20) have all Burlington raving. The menu draws from Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, and China to cook up dishes like Burmese chicken with peppers and Hunan noodles. On Sundays, the place gets packed for dim sum.
Of course, Asian isn’t all you’ll find on the menu in Burlington—there’s plenty of Italian (inexpensive and otherwise), American, pub grub, barbecue, and seafood—and all in relatively close proximity to one another. So if you’re a fan of all of the above cuisines, the best way to decide your culinary fate on any given evening is to simply follow your nose. Wind up at Sweetwaters (120 Church St. 802/864-9800, www.sweetwatervt.com , 11:30 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Sat. and 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Sun., $16–24) and you won’t be disappointed. Part pub, part bistro, with lovely al fresco dining in warm weather, it offers a slightly trendy but solid menu of dishes like a kobe beef burger with bacon and cheese.
On any pleasant-weather day, the place to be is Splash at the Boathouse (College St., 802/651-1081, 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily, $6–12), housed on the floating boathouse at the end of College Street. The ultra-casual setting (looking out to the lake’s waters) matches the casual menu—the likes of Asian tuna sandwiches and fish tacos.
Seafood lovers shouldn’t pass up a chance to eat dinner at Perry’s Fish House (1080 Shelburne Rd., South Burlington, 802/862-1300, 4–9 p.m. daily, $12–20), which has been voted best seafood in town for 10 years straight. The casual spot steams gargantuan lobsters and also serves straightforward dishes like steamed clams and fried flounder.
Serious Italian takes center stage at Trattoria Delia (152 Saint Paul St., 802/864-5253, www.trattoriadelia.com , 5–10 p.m. daily, $18–24), with an excellent wine list and an emphasis on freshly made pastas and authentically cooked high-quality meats.
Hipster vegetarians aren’t the only ones crowding Stone Soup (211 College St., 802/862-7616, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.; 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Tues.–Fri.; 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Sat.). The hearty breads, soups, and sandwiches and incredible chocolate chip cookies have a fan base that reaches far beyond veganism.
The food is as whimsical as the hosts at Penny Cluse Café (169 Cherry St., 802/651-8834, www.pennycluse.com , 6:45 a.m.–3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.–3 p.m. weekends, $4–9), named for the hipster owner’s childhood dog and decked out with an ever-rotating collection of posters and local art. Dig into gingerbread pancakes at breakfast, or hang out till lunch and order up Baja fish tacos and a Bloody Mary.