guest blog

Small City Guide: Burlington, Vermont / Part I

by Paige

Burlington, VT is a very special place. If you’ve spent time there you know this already. If you haven’t, I hope to introduce you to a bit of its magic so that you’re motivated to check it out for yourself. I lived there for 5 years and it will always have a nice big ‘room with a view’ in my heart.

Nestled into the Green Mountains, it’s the smallest U.S. city that is the largest in its state. It’s a tiny big town. With a population of only 40,000 (as of the last census in 2000) it boasts all kinds of small town goodness (coming right up). And while not as quirky as the smaller towns in Vermont, it still embodies quite a bit of what I’d always imagined it would have, my childhood idea of the Bob Newhart charm. And adequate amounts of plaid.

It’s location is pretty primo too. Only 1 3/4 hours away from Montreal, 3 hours from Boston, & 6 1/2 hours from NYC, if you need a break from all the trees & cheerfulness, concrete & culture is just a hop skip away. The best of all worlds in my opinion.

Here is the first of the two best shopping areas:

Church Street Marketplace / Downtown

It wasn’t easy to narrow my favorite places down to few enough for a ‘little’ guide! But here goes…

Where to Shop:


1. The Lotus Shop – This store is a fairly new edition to the Church St. Marketplace and
a welcome one at that. It carries a wide selection of lovely goodies including yoga clothing (owner Liza Ciano also owns a yoga studio called
Yoga Vermont), conscious living accessories, design treasures, cool letterpress cards, and other things to grace your world. 197 College St.
(just off Church St.) 802.660.9718 open daily

2. Crow Bookshop – With all the gigantor book emporiums dominating the book market these days,
it’s nice to see a used/discount book store still marching on. It has such a warm atmosphere with helpful & knowledgeable staff. I’ve found
many a great book to add to my bookshelf collection. (to see highlights of my bookshelf booty visit my blog on Wednesday’s at
www.paigeandmodern.com) My favorite part of their website is their ‘inessentials’ page where they “shamelessly pander stuff you clearly don’t
need” like their cool branded mugs, etc. A must for all book worms! 14 Church St. (up towards the top, by the namesake ‘church’)
802.862.0848 open daily


3. Sweet Lady Jane – This shopping gem is where my closet would like to go to die. Meaning it’s
heaven. Owner Rachel Strules has a keen eye for what will make a woman feel both strong AND feminine in all sorts of gorgeous styles &
colors. Definitely worth a visit! 40 Church St. / 802.862.5051 open Mon/Tue, Sat/Sun 10am-7pm, Wed/Thurs 10am-8pm, & Fri 11am-5pm

4. Stella Shoes – Every time I walk down the stairs into this sensation of a subterranean store, my
wallet may tremble, but my feet start to flutter with excitement. They carry high quality brands in the latest styles that always prove to be a
sound investment. (that’s the argument I make with my wallet anyway…) Go, go, go! 96 Church St. / 802.233.2800 open Mon-Sat 10am-8pm
& Sun 12pm-6pm

Where to Eat:


1. Muddy Waters – A great place to start your day, spend time working or reading, get that afternoon boost, or hang in the evening studying or
playing scrabble. The coffee is good, their ginger tea is even better, and they make super tasty juices & smoothies. All served with a hip smile.
184 Main St. / 802.658.0466 mon 7:30am-6pm, Tues-Thurs 7:30am-11pm, Fri/Sat 7:30am-12pm, & Sun 7:30am -10pm

2. Sadie Katz Deli – This had been the Oasis diner for 50 years prior to the torch being passed to the new owners. Great vintage atmosphere & a classic diner menu with the welcome deli twist of a potato latke included with most meals. Yum. 189 Bank St. / 802.864.5308 Mon-Fri 7am-4pm (breakfast served till 11am), Sat 9am-4pm (breakfast served all day), & Sun 9am-3pm (Breakfast served all day)

3. Mirabelles Cafe – I am somewhat of a breakfast sandwich connoisseur. It is my favorite way to start a day; bagel, bread, croissant, all completely acceptable vehicles for the egg & cheese I love so much. But this spot has the Rolls Royce of them all. They use home made square biscuits. It’s a lot of work to eat the whole thing, but brings almost illegal amounts of joy to my tummy & taste buds. They also have amazing cakes, cookies, & pastries along with other great breakfast & lunch options. Sooo good. 198 Main St. / 802.658.3074 Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat 8am-5pm, & Sun 8am-2:30pm

4. Stone Soup – This vegan-friendly, cafeteria style eatery is a great place to go for a quick & uber healthy lunch or dinner. The selection is small, but packs a solid taste punch. And because you can build your own plates, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal. Just be careful that your eyes don’t get sneaky and bigger than your stomach, they charge by weight! The menu also includes great sandwiches, soups, & pizza options.
211 College St. (just off Church St.) 802.862.7616 Mon 7am-7pm, Tues-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 9am-9pm, closed Sundays.

5. Saturday Farmers/Artists Market – The perfect thing to do on a Saturday morning is get a coffee and stroll through the market. Filled with local vendors peddling everything from fresh cut flowers to the best burger ever. Going on at the same time is the Artists Market where you’ll find the best smelling hand made soaps at Missy Bly’s Clean Bee Soap stand and even live demonstrations of the mad pottery wheel throwing skills of Jeremy Ayers. Definitely worth a wander. City Hall Park (corner of College & St. Paul) May – Oct 31st Saturdays 8:30am-2pm rain or shine

6. A Single Pebble – Super fine Chinese cuisine. This is my favorite place to have dinner. The food is exquisite, offering traditional Chinese dishes that are far superior to any other I’ve tried. If you like salty chewy goodness, try the mock duck. And the simple & classy Asian style interior has multi-level spaces that offer ample opportunity for private or large parties. Triple yum! 133-35 Bank St. / 802.865.5200 lunch: Mon-Fri 11am-1:45pm, Dinner: Nightly starting at 5pm

7. Ben & Jerry’s – These ice-cream icons started it all right in this town. I think their first shop was even a soup place and the ice-cream was just another thing for the menu. The soup slowly got edged out by the demand for their homemade creamy goodness & the icon’s were born. So no meal would be complete without finishing up at their Church St. shop. I recommend the New York Super Fudge Chunk. 36 Church St. / 802.862.9620 open daily

And not pictured, but no less important, is where to go for drinks & good times.

8. 1/2 Lounge – This small & swanky bar has a great location right on Church St. with outdoor seating, delicious drinks, & often, good music. It’s my fave spot for warm summer nights. 136 1/2 Church St. / 802.865.0012 open nightly

9. Red Square – Right next door from the 1/2 Lounge is a bigger and more bustling drink experience. A wide music & customer variety that makes for very different flavor night to night. Usually a good time. In the summer they have lots of outdoor seating and an outdoor stage that gives the whole neighborhood a chance to rock out. 136 Church St. / 802.859.8909 open nightly

10. JP’s Pub- In my opinion there’s no better way to end a night out than with karaoke. Good or bad, I always enjoy seeing people step out of their comfort zone, up on to that stage, and give ‘er. And this is one of the best spot’s I’ve ever haunted. Friday and Saturday are the big nights, full of college kids and long waits to sing, but Wednesday night is the gem, when no one but a few hard core regulars are there and you can own the stage. If you go, be sure to say hi to host Dave for me! 139 Main St. / 802.658.6389 Wed, Fri, & Sat 10pm-2am

Now we’re moving on to the other best…

Pine Street


If I had to pick a street in the whole wide world to live on and love forever, this would be it. My studio was on Pine Street when I was in Burlington, and it had everything I needed: a good deli, great coffee shop with free wireless internet, a lighting shop (I have an addiction…), and wonderful gallery. With only a few blocks to shop, this area offer quality not quantity. It’s a little off the common tourist path, but well worth the adventure!

Where to shop:


The Lamp Shop – This is without a doubt my favorite shop in all the land. I worked there, so might be a teeny bit biased, but that aside, it still offers the best selection I’ve ever seen for vintage lighting, at 1/3 the prices of shops in NYC. That alone would be worth an interior designers’ time to drive on up and peruse. With pieces from 1900 – 1960’s (antique to modern), owners Liz Segal (pictured) and Andy Arp specialize in offering authentic era solutions for both heritage homes & hipsters alike. They also provide lamp repair and custom design services. As Tina Turner sings, they’re “simply the best”. 424 Pine St. / 802.864.6782 Tues – Friday 10am-5:30pm, Sat 10am-4pm


Pine Street Artworks – Owner Liza Cowan (pictured) is a fierce warrior for the development of all things cultural & cool on Pine Street. Her gallery/shop is a beautiful, open space filled with the best of local artists, a tasteful selection of national / international art, amazing vintage posters & advertisements, as well as her own creations. Her well designed & sometimes provocative, window displays add so much class to an up and coming neighborhood. When she’s not busy planting cultural seeds, she’s updating her excellent blog: www.seesaw.typepad.com. Stop by and feel the art (not literally touch it of course…) 404 Pine Street / 802.863.8100 Tues-Sat 11am-5pm

Not pictured, but no less loved:

Where to eat & drink:

The Fresh Market Cheese Outlet – It will set you back a few pretty pennies, but eating at this up scale deli/gourmet market is straight up delicious. Whether you want to eat in or take out, all options are thoughtfully prepared (ie: delicious). 400 Pine St. (same bldg as Pine Street Artworks) / 802.863.3968 Mon-Sat 7am-7pm & Sun 10am-5pm

Speeder & Earl’s Coffee Shop – A wide open, sun filled space that offers good coffee with good service (hi Marie!) and free wireless internet access. I spent many a day “working” there (aka visiting with friends & lurking on FaceBook). Check out their great
web site for pics & info. 412 PIne Street (also in same bldg as Pine Street Artworks – three birds with one stone!) / 802.660.3996 open daily

Well that’s it for Burlington, VT: Part I. I hoped you enjoyed it and stay tuned for Part Deux: Meet their Makers.

(A big shout out to photographer Dave Seaver who was my right hand eye for all but one of the Burlington shots – the opening city from the water shot was taken by Dicky Hayward. Thanks Dave!)

Suggested For You


  • Wow, Paige. Thanks so much for your write up of Burlington’s South End. “Fierce Warrior!” I love that.

    I like to call The South End “A bit of Brooklyn in Burlington.” Maybe because I moved here from Brooklyn eight years ago, but also because it represents the most culturally forward and eclectic shops and businesses in the city.

    I’d just like to give a heads up to readers that in addition to the places Paige had the space to write about, there are a few other great shops in the same two block stretch of Pine Street:

    AO! Glass has a shop inside Pine Street Art Works selling the gorgeous, sleek, modern, Swedish inspired glass they blow. http://aoglass.com. Also inside Pine Street Art Works you will find Waste Free Living, a green general store.

    Speaking Volumes is the best used-bookstore in the area, and it also houses a working vintage photobooth. It is next to Meyers Bagels, making fresh Montreal style Bagels in their wood fired oven.
    Battery Street Jeans (on Pine Street) sells vintage and used clothing. Great Harvest Bread is a beautiful, sunny, spacious bakery and coffee shop.

    A very short walk away you will also find New World Tortilla, Lake Champlain Chocolates Factory & Cafe, and Bite Me Pizza.

    You could easily spend the day shopping and eating along Pine Street.

    Thanks again, Paige.

  • I am very surprised that you chose not to include Scribbles, the stationery store on Church Street!

    Not only do they carry a charming assortment of products from many of the print companies discussed on design sponge, but they are the only place to order designer invitations on the marketplace. They’ve got everything from Jill Bliss and Blue-Q to Hello Lucky and Little Otsu. Dog friendly too!

    I strongly encourage a visit.


  • I just discovered the site…I have to say you are right on about Sweet Lady Jane – and I think the owner Rachel is a very special lady – she’s my daughter!!

  • Thanks for the write up of our humble burg! It really is a great place to live and work. Pine Street in particular is fun and funky and thriving.

    We also have a lively, locally owned altweekly newspaper here — Seven Days. (Yes, I work for Seven Days, but I’m also a fan). We’ve got a calendar of event listings and club dates, restaurant news, music and theater reviews and lots of writing about local politics and cultural affairs. You can find free copies pretty much anywhere around town.

    If you’re looking for user reviews of local restaurants, check out 7 Nights, our dining and nightlife guide. You can pick up a print copy, or browse listings online at http://www.7nvt.com.

    Also, I second gd’s recommendation of American Flatbread and 4 Corners of the Earth Deli. Yum!

  • Thanks so much for including us! We love this town and hope that people continue to support all of the smaller indie retailers and artists!

    Ummmm…I know it’s very hard to narrow down the food here, but shout out to the knockout Penny Cluse Cafe on Cherry Street!

  • Just to add to the growing list. Lake Champlain Chocolates(free samples& watch them make their confections!), Bennington Pottery North, Leunigs Bistro, the NY/VT ferry crossing,and while it isn’t “in” B’ton it’s pretty close in Shelburne,VT; The Shelburne Museum, a days worth of wandering around on the 45 landscaped acres thru 39 buildings (20 that were relocated including an entire steamboat) that house the collections of Electra Havemeyer Webb ( I love her name!). Her 17th-20th century collection of fine and folk art will blow your mind, not to mention offer the opportunity to get up close and personal with the exibits.From the minute you spiral thru the round barn entrance you will think you are entering another world. Bring a picnic and remember the fireworks on site for the 4th of July! I live 1 1/2 hr away and this is our favorite getaway weekend, we never run out of things we want to do but we always run out of time!

  • Don’t forget Pure Pop for your CD needs (long gone, but hi to Casey, Sue, and Mia)… Not sure if they’re still around (I lived in B-ton from ’97 – ’03), but try Calliope or Vermont Folk Instruments for your musical instruments (hi to Doug and Steve!)…

  • Thank you for the little tour!
    I’ve never been there before….the Lamp shop looks totally cute and fun!

  • Holla!
    Burlington has blessed me with working with not only Ms. Paige Russel, but also Liza Cowan of Pine Street Art Works and Liz Segal of The Lamp Shop, as well!
    From you, I have evolved into a person making lights and running a gallery right on the very Pine Street you speak of!
    It’s a working artist collective and art gallery, called The S.P.A.C.E. Gallery. http://www.spacegalleryvt.com
    Thank you ladies, and thank you Burlington.

Leave a Reply

Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.