While Boston's Hidden Restaurants is primarily a site that features restaurants in the Greater Boston area, every now and then we take it to the road and search the rest of New England for special and unique dining spots. And one such spot is a restaurant that we have known about since before the site began. The place? Eaton's Sugarhouse in South Royalton, Vermont, a combination restaurant/country store/antique shop that has been serving food to diners since the 1960s yet remains under the radar even though it is nearly within sight of one of Vermont's busiest roads.
Route 89 is one of America's most scenic highways, yet because it cuts through mostly rural countryside in both New Hampshire and Vermont, it often seems a challenge to find a place to eat along the road, especially along the lengthy stretch in Vermont between the New Hampshire border and Montpelier. But about midway between these two points is South Royalton, a small town that does have a few restaurants, including Eaton's Sugarhouse, which is less than a minute east of Route 89. And the short approach to Eaton's is classic Vermont, with rolling farmland and softly rounded hills, and with the restaurant tucked into a wooded area at the base of one of these hills. The outside of Eaton's has a front porch complete with chairs, local notices, and an ancient block of post office boxes, while the inside features several sections of food items, souvenirs, and clothes before opening up into a rustic dining area overlooking the hills and mountains to the west. A semi-open kitchen sits to the left of the dining room, while the room itself has a mix of tables and booths, with tables and benches being made of rough-hewn wood.
Eaton's Sugarhouse is only open until mid-afternoon, so much of their menu features breakfast items. Waffles, pancakes, and French toast are popular here, and pure Vermont maple syrup (of course) is served with these dishes. Omelets and a few other items can also be ordered for breakfast, which is served until closing. The lunch menu at Eaton's features classic home-cooked New England comfort food, such as an admittedly unhealthy (but delicious) chicken-fried steak, a hearty turkey club with real turkey meat used along with a heaping helping of bacon, and a delectable open-faced roast beef sandwich with perfectly cooked meat, loads of gravy, mashed potatoes, and peas. The lunch menu has a number of other classic dishes, including corn bread, chili, homemade soups, hamburgers, hot dogs, a roast turkey dinner, and a ham plate. Desserts are homemade and include a maple pecan pie that is out of this world, as the unmistakable taste of real VT maple complements the rest of the ingredients perfectly.
Vermont is a state full of classic roadside restaurants, and Eaton's Sugarhouse is perhaps one of the most notable (and certainly one of the most accessible) of the lot. There is surely something special about finding a spot that serves homemade meals within a country store, especially when the food is hearty and good like it is at Eaton's. It may not be fine dining, but Eaton's Sugarhouse is a unique place frequented by farmers, truckers, and locals, as well as those few visitors to this beautiful New England state who know of its existence.
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