Stefan Hard / Staff Photo
Diners sit down for lunch last week at the Vermont Thrush Restaurant on State Street in Montpelier.
MONTPELIER — The new Vermont Thrush Restaurant, less than three months old, is tweaking its menu as the newest incarnation of the old Thrush Tavern — a central Vermont landmark — experiences a revival.
In its heyday, the Thrush — just down the street from the Statehouse — was a haven for politicians, the press corps, softball teams and all manner of central Vermonters. It opened in 1972 and closed 36 years later.
More recently, for much of the past year, the eatery was the Clean Slate Café. Owner Athene Cua closed the café a month before the Vermont Thrush Restaurant opened Nov. 5 under the ownership of Vermonters Cameron Moorby and Sarah Moos.
Fast-forward nearly three months, and the Vermont Thrush Restaurant today is fine-tuning its customer-driven menu as it aims for a bright future — a future that Moos hopes to see for at least another 15 years.
Vermont’s court administrator, Bob Greemore, is one person who can appreciate the history. He’s been eating at the restaurant about four days a week on average — for 40 years.
“It’s the closest place to my work,” he said.
The restaurant today features New England-style comfort foods with an Asian flair. The varied menu offers anything from a cold-smoked burger with sharp Cabot cheddar and house garlic aioli for $11.95 to a half sandwich and mesclun for $8.50. Favorites thus far have been the New York strip steak, zucchini-feta pancakes, and salmon and ribs.
The restaurant is implementing the menu changes, which have been tested out as specials, because of customer feedback, said Moorby, who also is the restaurant’s sous chef. The additions to the menu will come into place within the next week or two.
As part of the changes, bacon-cheddar pancakes will go on the brunch menu and a grilled pork loin sandwich with cranberry-sage aioli will be on the lunch menu, along with a cold-smoked tofu Reuben with creamy vegan cheese sauce and cashews.
Several flavor profiles of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches are being enhanced, such as a horseradish aioli for roast beef and a cranberry-sage mayonnaise for turkey, as well as more fresh vegetables from local vendors. Grilled salmon options for salads will also be added.
Going forward, the restaurant also hopes to add more fresh seafood options.
The bar features six Vermont drafts that are changed in and out. Domestic and imported bottled beers are also available.
Lunch specials have ranged from $7.50 to $12.95. Dinner specials have been priced from $11.95 to $22.95. A pub menu is available all day.
“You can get out of here in under $10,” Moos said.
The new owners have relied on their 10-plus years in the restaurant business and new connections to make up their current staff, around 10 full-time workers. They met with the previous tavern owners to obtain the rights to use the Thrush name at no charge, Moorby said.
They’re currently working on a new mahogany-based sign modeled after the original Thrush Tavern sign, and they’ve asked for logo submissions for another new sign to hang off the building.
In a basement office, a number of designs are posted on the wall, several featuring the state bird with a monocle.
So far, the new owners have found the design submissions to be lackluster, and they’re still looking for other submissions.
“I’ll know it when it hits me,” Moos said.
Moos is a Randolph native, and Moorby is from Maple Corner in Calais.
Moorby previously worked at A Single Pebble in Burlington, where he developed a connection with the restaurant’s founder, Steve Bogart. Bogart was aware of the availability of the Thrush property and told Moorby about the opportunity.
Moos and Moorby soon signed a five-year lease that includes two five-year extensions, and they moved from Burlington to Montpelier in the fall.
Bogart had pressed Moorby to pursue ownership of other restaurants, but the couple had waited until now.
“This one was the first one to make sense,” Moorby said.
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