Local hipsters, foodies and trendsetters may be drawn to Misery Loves Co. because of its inventive cuisine and food-truck origins. But it was the restaurant's gloomy, Lemony Snicket-esque moniker that enticed my 10-year-old son to join me there for lunch.
I'd eaten Misery's creative suppers before — think pig's tail with smoked apple, hakurai turnips and burnt hay — and was eager to see if lunch would be more family-friendly. On the day of our visit, my boyfriend, son and I scored a sidewalk table in front of the restaurant, nestled in a brick building along Winooski's main drag.
After sitting unnoticed for a few minutes, a server came out to inform us that we should order lunch at the counter. The small but intensely original à la carte menu is hand-scrawled on chalkboards inside.
There's nothing run-of-the-mill about Misery's sandwiches. The "Vonnegut" is fried egg, pork belly and American cheese; the "Rough Francis" combines fried chicken, hot sauce, blue cheese and pickled celery.
Despite those compelling combos, my boyfriend and I couldn't resist ordering the roast beef sandwich ($10), and Korean Reuben ($12), respectively. My son enjoys spicy flavors and I wanted him to try something new, so I crossed my fingers and ordered him the pork bun sliders with sriracha mayo and kimchi ($8).
If that doesn't sound like something your offspring would eat, check the online offerings of the day before loading the kids into the car. There's no official children's menu at Misery, but kid-friendly items such as grilled cheese sandwiches and hamburgers may be available.
We were thrilled to see the open kitchen behind the counter. From a stool, my son had a perfect view of the chefs working their magic. Then we took our Mexican Coca-Colas ($2.50) to an outdoor table and people watched while we waited for the food to arrive. It didn't take long.
My son ate two of his three sliders and described the filling as "good," though he found the sauce "too sweet." No mention of the sriracha mayo or kimchi, which was a good indication it wasn't too spicy for him.
Nothing could come between my boyfriend and his roast beef sandwich. I was able to steal one bite, and my teeth sank into a perfect, medium-rare, coriander-rubbed beef. Fresh radish, sweet caramelized onion jam and a generous smearing of homemade cream horseradish shot it into the gourmet stratosphere.
My Reuben was a lofty culinary achievement, too. The house-cured, smoked pastrami was so toothsome, I could have eaten only that. I would have preferred the kimchi to be spicier, but a mayo with piquant gochujang — a spicy Korean condiment — helped it along nicely. The firm but yielding bun held the fillings and sauces together without getting soggy.
We'd also ordered herb fries ($6) from the small-plates menu. Crisp and brown on the outside, soft in the middle, they came out dusted with sea salt, sprigs of rosemary and sage leaves. My son called them "awesome" as he reached for another handful.
I'd heard good things about the doughnuts, so we shared a large one filled with strawberry pastry cream ($3). Though the sugar glaze had turned runny from the heat of the kitchen, it reminded me of the doughnuts of my youth — not too airy or sweet.
Sorry, Lemony Snicket, but our visit to Misery Loves Co. was no series of unfortunate events. In fact, it wasn't miserable at all.