On a good night in my house, dinner hits the table at 6:30 p.m. But when we dine out as a family, we eat closer to 5 p.m. — senior-citizen hour. We go early so we're less likely to have to wait for a table with our hungry, impatient children. We find other diners at that hour either have kids, too — or some hearing loss.
You definitely want to arrive early at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill; on a weeknight, get there around 5:30, maybe 5:45. Any later and you can expect a lengthy wait in a narrow foyer with nary a seat in sight. We arrived to snag a table in the quiet dining room with a handful of families and a few customers enjoying drinks after work. If the weather had been nicer, we might have chosen a table on the front patio where the kids would have been freer to roam.
The Farmhouse menu is as family-friendly as any restaurant in downtown Burlington, full of comfort food — fried chicken, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and burgers in at least five varieties, including beef, turkey, pork, veggie and portabello. The emphasis is on locally sourced ingredients, which means your burger will cost $14, but the taste of high-quality, grass-fed beef from a local farm is worth it. The beer menu is a wonder, with more than 15 selections on tap, several of which are brewed in Vermont.
My children agonized over the menu. Burger or mac and cheese? Kids' mac and cheese or adult? Which did I think would be better? UN Security Council negotiations have been quicker and less complicated than placing our dinner order. In the end, they split the difference: one ordered a burger; the other opted for mac and cheese. They agreed to swap tastes.
My husband ordered the grass-fed Vermont beef burger, and I took a chance on the Farmhouse veggie burger. I have never ordered a veggie burger in my life, but the topping combination of kimchi, sharp cheddar cheese and pickled jalapenos sold it.
The adults sipped Hill Farmstead ales while the kids enjoyed Rookie's Root Beer — both on tap, both delicious. All around us, kids colored with crayons and tantalizing food was delivered to nearby tables. We saw one order of onion rings that looked as big as stroller wheels. The passing plate smelled like heaven.
Our meals were beautiful to look at and even better to eat. My daughter almost swooned when she first tasted the macaroni and cheese. When she discovered the pot of housemade garlic aioli on our table, she grabbed a few french fries from her brother's plate and started dipping. Across the table my son kept mumbling, "This meat is amazing." My husband mumbled in response, "Mmmm hmmmm."
It may have been the quietest dinner in our family's history.
The one bite of beef I managed to get was amazing, but it was nothing compared to the veggie burger. The patty is more like a soft, well-seasoned falafel than a soy product posing as meat. One perfect bite — kimchi, sharp cheddar, fresh buttery roll, well-seasoned patty, then a pop of pickled jalapeno — and I was in love. I find myself dreaming about this sandwich almost daily.
Sadly, my kids' busy schedules assure I'll be in this dream state for a while.