Named for the rare mushroom that grows wild in the forests, Hen of the Woods (92 Stowe St., 802/244-7300, www.henofthewood.com , 5–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat., $16–28) is dedicated to seasonal cuisine fresh from local farms. Wine-soaked cherries that burst on the tongue; roasted chicken as soft and sweet as butter; heirloom tomatoes coaxed out by a pinch of salt—each bite here threatens to short-circuit the brain and reawake the sheer pleasure of just eating. The 19th-century mill building-turned-dining room features an ample North American wine list and an ever-changing artisan-cheese list. In nice weather, outdoor patio seating overlooks the rushing Thatcher Brook.
Wing lovers rejoice at the sight of the menu at Waterbury Wings (1 S. Main St., 802/244-7827, www.waterburywings.com , 11 a.m.–midnight Mon.–Sat. and 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Sun., $5–14), filled with the classic bar food doused in sauces like wasabi-teriyaki and spicy horseradish. Not surprisingly, the vibe here is ultra-casual, with live bands every Saturday night, pool tables, and plenty of napkins passed around.