Hen of the wood
as reviewed by: Maddie kennedy
In our humble opinion, this is perhaps the best restaurant in Burlington. Hen of the Wood will not only leave you amazed, but to put it simply, you will leave happier than you were before. It embodies much of what Vermont represents as a state (literally an entire page of the menu is dedicated to cheese) while still serving up creative and masterful dishes.
A brief history... because edu is important.
Originating in Waterbury, Vermont in 2004, now with two locations (Burlington and Waterbury) Hen of the Wood has a simple mission; they want to create a comfortable atmosphere while serving the most fresh, eye-catching food that they possibly could. And they do just that. Working with local farmers, using Vermont cheeses, in addition to doing ‘in house’ cured meats and breads. Hen of the Wood embodies the farm to table method and does it right. The restaurant is pretty expansive. Two bars sandwich the main dining area, one liquor bar and the other completely dedicated to food. This is where some serious magic happens. Behind the food focused bar there is a wood fired oven, a cast iron griddle, and some serious professionals plating intricate starters and mains for eager diners. Even though this is considered to be one of the most upscale restaurants in Burlington, you still feel comfortable. Yet it’s a large space you get the feeling that you’re in a log cabin. It’s woodsy, and cozy. It almost feels like Christmas, if Hen of the Wood were a tree it would be a Pine.
WHAT DID WE ORDER??
Hen of the Wood Toast
o This. Was. So. Tasty.
o Fresh slice of fat toast, topped with hen of the wood mushrooms, house cured bacon, and a poached local egg.
Wood Fired Bread with Radish Butter
o Yeah, everyone likes bread and butter. But the saltiness of the butter with the hint of sweet in this bread was SO right. Who knew something so simple could taste this good?
Grilled Octopus with Scallions, Sunchokes, and Ginger
o Charred Octopus with all kinds of flavors. The meat was juicy, the ginger bright, and the tentacles tasty.
The Halibut and Creamed Corn
o A comforting dish with a bit of the bite. REALLY fresh fish, and perfectly seared.
The Roasted Broccoli
o Always a pleasant surprise when a vegan dish is actually filling, delicious, and creative. The tomato puree that the broc sat on was actually to die for. My dad isn’t even a vegan and he ordered this, SO YEAH.
Crushed potatoes with Tarragon
o BUTTERY and melt in your mouth. Perfectly crisp, while still tender on the outside they were melt in your mouth.
just do it.
Overall, if you're just visiting Burlington, Hen of the Wood is a must and if you live here on the reg it is also a must. Try the cheese, try the toast. You'll be happy, full, and already excited to go back. 10/10.
so what's in a name?
Hen of the Wood (noun) : “a polypore mushroom that grows in clusters at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The mushroom is commonly known among English speakers as hen of the woods, hen-of-the-woods, ram's head and sheep's head. Typically found in late summer or early fall. It is thought to resemble a hen.”
The name just fits. Not only are mushrooms foraged (meaning you cant plant them) but they are also rare, making it a rewarding experience when you find one. A restaurant as good as Hen of the Wood isn’t easy to find, you have to look for gems like this. This place is a constellation of simplistic but HIGH quality ingredients. I remember coming to Burlington for the first time and hearing about a great spot on Cherry street serving up legit VERMONT food and let me tell you they did not disappoint. Now, it is my 4th time here and I am always excited to see what kind of new plates they are offering like Wood fired Bread avec Radish butter, Hen of the Woods Mushroom toast with House Bacon, & a Poached Farm egg, as well as Ham Wrapped Rabbit Loin with Apples, pecans & Buttermilk - just to name a few.
It is always an exciting treat to dine at Hen of the Wood, so when I had my parents visiting I was quick to make a reservation. The food, the ambiance, and the drinks are a necessary experience when visiting our lovely state. Hen of the Wood is farm to table but not cheesy or touristy, it is REAL Vermont. A restaurant that utilizes local farms, businesses, and people to create a memorable dining experience, and perhaps the best meal you could eat in Vermont.
the shining stars
The HOTW TOAST
We have something to admit, we nixed the poached egg on the HOTW toast because Dad (aka who is paying) isn't fond of them. Nonetheless, this toast was incredible. The meat was outstanding. Perfectly crisp, salty, and fatty in addition to being paired with the fresh toast, seasoned mushrooms this was a 10/10. If you tend to avoid meat, this is well worth cheating for.
The yogurt sauce paired with roasted veg is just the beginning. THE MEAT! perfectly tender, and combined with the supporting actors (the yogurt + veggies) this was an A+ starter. A bit adventurous, but WELL WELL WELL worth trying.
Like we've said before this veg focused dish was fantastic. Some people are scared when they see a vegetable as the main event but the way the broccoli was served (huge pieces, instead of small florets) and the grain (it was served over millet) created the feelings that you were eating something filling, satisfying, and maybe a little bit meaty.