This past fall, I returned to the NTA. This time, as a group leader to assist in the next class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners. There are a lot of choices when it comes to the venue. I took my class in Hartford. Listen, nothing against Connecticut…but Hartford…it was basically a concrete jungle. When my instructor, Jen, and the assistant to my class, Meredith, told us that they would be heading up the Burlington class in 2016….I jumped at it. Partially because if I was going to return as a group leader, I wanted it to be under these two particular women. The other reason? Burlington. I’ve always heard what an awesome place it is and if I was going to give up three weekends and the money that goes with hotel stays, I was going to do it in a kick-ass place. 

Before we get into the food, the coffee, and where I went for CrossFit I need to tell you something about Burlington. It is the land of spectacular dogs. They’re everywhere. Every breed. Mixes. Mutts. All of it. I once turned a corner of a parking garage to be greeted by the smiling face of a Bernese Mountain dog. His owner was just out of my sight-line, but for a moment I legit thought he was just chilling there. After this encounter, I started to send a text to my fiancé to tell him, ‘Burlington is the land of wonderful dog encounters’. In the middle of constructing this message, a chocolate lab puppy and a baby husky collided at my feet and proceeded to wrestle. In true, basic bitch fashion: I can’t even.

I would recommend getting an AirBnB or something of the like if you plan to visit Burlington. There are so many cool little places (and a lot of bomb-ass tiny houses, actually) that hotels seem like a waste. Immerse in the town. Walk around, be a local. 

Coffee.

My favorite spot for coffee, by far, in Burlington is Maglianero CafeThey offer pour-over, Counter Culture coffee, but also have some kick ass specialty espresso drinks. My first visit, I had the Tomgirl Cappuccino.

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It was made with cashew and coconut milk, local honey, five spice, orange peel, manna, and pink Himalayan sea salt. I mean, it was crazy good. Maglianero quickly become my morning stop for daily coffee when I was in town. It’s also an art gallery. I didn’t pay much attention to that part of it, but if it’s your thing then you’ll dig it. I think.

CrossFit.

The only gym I dropped into when I was in town in Burlington, was Champlain Valley CrossFit. It’s about 15 minutes east of Burlington, in Williston, VT. I only ever was able to drop in on Thursdays, when they do what can only be described as a ‘Build your own EMOM’. A 40 minute EMOM where you select the movements that are a mix of a heavy lift, gymnastics/skill work, and conditioning. The facility itself is NOT small, and the back garage doors open up to a huge parking lot where they have platforms set up, and it’s not uncommon for people to roll their rowers or Air Assault bikes out there as well. The coaches are super welcoming, which I value in a drop in.  I was greeted by North East Games athlete, Danielle Horan. She introduced herself and this might sound weird, but I really appreciate it when ‘famous’ CrossFit athletes don’t act like you’re supposed to know who they are. It’s a weird pet peeve of mine. Like yes, I do know who you are…and I know your dogs name and that he likes to ride shotgun…but I appreciate you pretending that I definitely don’t. I felt right at home each visit. The members are quick to high-five a newcomer after a workout. And there are dogs there….what seems like all the time. Which I love. Every gym needs a good box dog, don’t you think?

Food.

This could take a while. I love the food scene in Burlington. It’s like every single restaurant is locally owned, operated and sourced. Lots of unique spots to check out, and I’m positive that there are tons of places I’ve yet to discover. In fact, Burlington is home to one of the top restaurants in the country, The Hen of the Wood, which I sadly have not been able to get to yet…but friends who have gotten in rave about it. Especially the oysters. 

My absolute, unrivaled, favorite place to eat in Burlington is El Cotrijo.

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This taqueria boasts a ‘farm-to-taco’ approach, and is a part of the Farmhouse Group…the restaurant group that is responsible for two more spots that we’ll get in to in a moment that I also am super into. El Cortijo has beyond your basic taco items on the menu. My favorite? Beef tongue. Legit stuff there, people. There’s also some breakfast tacos on Saturday and Sunday that I would recommend not skipping. To say I go there a lot when I’m in town is an understatement. It’s fair to say that 80% of my meals each weekend I spent in Burlington were from El Cortijo. Awesome tacos, totally affordable, and you can even get a half-margarita. Oh, the margaritas are also super fresh and absurdly good. Expect to wait here. The place is in an old diner car that seats, maybe 40 people. The booths fit 4 comfortably, and there’s a bar with some seats that you can usually snag. Just get a drink and wait. It’s worth it.

The Farmhouse Group is also the force behind Guild Tavern steakhouse in South Burlington. A little out of the way, but totally worth it. I had a very ‘treat yo’self’ evening there. The best steak tartare that I have ever had. It was served over a crispy potato cake with a cured egg yolk. After some raw beef, I had a tremendous steak all to myself. And it was glorious. Did I spend $100 on various versions of beef for just myself that night? Fuck yes I did. And it was worth it. The place has a super cozy, old-school, warm feel to it. If you’re there during the warmer months, a reservation is probably not necessary, but I’m told they get packed when it gets chilly out. 

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Last on my Farmhouse list is Farmhouse Tap & Grill. The home of the single best gluten-free bun-adorned burger that I have every had. To the point where I took a bite and asked my server to double check with the kitchen that they had, indeed, given me the gluten free bun. All of the restaurants in the Farmhouse Group support and source local ingredients, make everything from scratch, and I was never disappointed. Tap & Grill has an upgraded American ‘pub’ menu and an impressive tap list. TONS of local and regional beers on tap as well as a wide variety of ciders. This is a great spot if you’ve got a mix of people with all different dietary needs. There’s pretty much something for everyone and it’s ALL good. Oh. The fries. That’s all.

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Speaking of cider… do yourself a favor and plan a trip to Citizen Cider. Citizen opened just five years ago in 2012, and they’ve been on a light-speed trajectory ever since. They’re basically only available in VT and some parts of NY, so don’t miss em if you find yourself in Burlington. They’re doing really creative stuff with their ciders, including sours that utilize brettanomysus and lactobaccilys. Two strands of yeast that we often see in sour beers but not in cider. They provide a citrusy bite that is super refreshing and really complementary to the profile in a cider. You can do a cider flight, and try a variety. Do that. There’s a lot going on with cider these days. It’s not all super sweet, apple juice. It’s complex, and interesting. The staff when I was there was super chill. I went by myself on my way to dinner for a quick flight and found myself engulfed in an hour long conversation about the town, cider, and food with the bartender and the young women who sat next to me at the bar (who was also an off-shift staff member). The menu had some gluten free option that I would have loved to have tried (like the cider-smoked wings), was I not on my way to stuff myself full of beef at Guild Tavern.

A new addition to the Burlington-uber-cute-food scene is Monarch & the Milkweed.

IMG_0207 Now, this place IS the most Instagrammed restaurant in Burlington, so be ready to see people with their phones, staging their food by the window for the perfect shot. When you go, you’ll see why. The decor is minimalist and gorgeous and a glorious backdrop for food photos. I was completely obsessed with the mugs, flatware, and plates. If your into housewares, you’re going to lose your shit here. The food wasn’t bad either. Little breakfast bites like my brûlée banana steel cut oats with VT maple syrup. I also got a few scrambled eggs and bacon on the side. Because duh. 

If you are looking for a grocery-store, then head to City Market/Onion River Co-Op. It’s right downtown (across from El Cortijo) and is essentially Whole Foods but at better prices and tons of local shit. It’s easy to end up wandering around for a little too long and add one too many things to your cart. Especially if you’re like me and are a sucker for anything ‘local’ when you’re out of town. One local item that’s totally worth it: Mountain Home Farm Pastured Butter. Holy shit you guys. I quite literally said, “Oh my god” out loud when I unwrapped this stuff. It is the brightest yellow and richest butter I have ever had. My only regret is not buying 7 tons of it before leaving Burlington at the end of the class. 

I feel like I need to give an honorable mention to Farmhouse Chocolates + Ice CreamTheir salted caramels are well, everything that you want chocolate salted caramels to be. Chewy, rich, and without any junk. No soy, organic and fair-trade chocolate, local VT cream and butter, and Alaskan pure Sea Salt. I consumed far too many of these. Well, I’m honestly not sure there is such a thing because they’re seriously that good. If you happen to be in Burlington during the spring or summer, visit the Farmers market and grab some chocolates with a side of their ice cream (they even have a few dairy free options).IMG_0209

So there you have it. My picks for Burlington. When I travel, I focus on finding things that I can’t get at home. I don’t want to see chains or franchises. I want something unique to where I am. An experience that I can’t get at home. That’s the stuff that I’ll share with you.

Is there anything I missed? Something in Burlington that you love that I should check out? Let me know in the comments!

Happy travels.