Eating and Sleeping - Then & Now
Monday, January 7, 2019
Written by Cory Ayotte
A hog barn becomes a pizza place, a clapboard mill becomes a cozy inn—the stories behind some iconic Valley favorites
The quaint and rustic inns and restaurants of the Mad River Valley have provided guests with an authentic Vermont experience for decades. Some of the inns and restaurants have changed owners and names, while others have remained in the same hands since opening. All have contributed to the rich history of the area. Here’s a look at some of the most storied establishments.
No article about dining in the Mad River Valley would be complete without including Chez Henri, the Parisian bistrot tucked away in historic Sugarbush Village. Proprietor Henri Borel, now ninety-one, has been serving authentic French cuisine for over fifty years. In 1964, Sugarbush founders Damon and Sara Gadd, close friends of Borel’s, asked him to open a restaurant at the mountain. Borel intended to call the restaurant “L’Escargot,” but the Gadds envisioned “Henri’s Place.” So, Chez Henri, it was. After half a century, patrons still gather around the bar during the winter season, socializing over fondue and red wine.
MAD RIVER BARN
The Mad River Barn, just five minutes down the road from Mt. Ellen, has been in operation since the 1930s. Located on Route 17, the Barn started as a bunkhouse for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public relief program founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After the disbandment of the CCC in 1942, the bunkhouse was converted into an inn by Les and Alice Billings. In the late 1970s, Truxton and Betsy Pratt, owners of Mad River Glen, acquired the inn. Betsy ran it until 2012, when it was sold to the current owners, Andrew, and Heather Lynds.
After extensive renovations, the inn ushered in a new era, hosting weddings and serving daily dinner in a family-friendly atmosphere. Upstairs in the more casual dining space, a crackling fireplace is situated next to the bar and game area, which includes air hockey, shuffleboard, and foosball, keeping kids and adults entertained. Downstairs, with cheery orange chairs and long wooden farm tables, the atmosphere is a little more traditional.
You can find Rumble’s Kitchen just steps from Sugarbush’s Super Bravo lift. Originally known as Timbers, this post-and-beam restaurant was built in 2006 in the Vermont vernacular style of a round barn. The restaurant is now named in honor of Sugarbush majority owner Win Smith’s late Bernese mountain dog, Rumble (who was in turn named after the famed Castlerock run). Rumble spent nearly nine years as the mascot of Sugarbush, and the restaurant’s decor includes images of Rumble and his doggy friends. Once the lifts stop turning for the day, kick off après-ski with a cold Rumble’s Ale (special to Sugarbush) and one of the many farm-to-table menu items while reminiscing about your day with friends and family.
The Ulla Lodge (now the Hyde Away Inn), pictured in the 1950s
HYDE AWAY INN
The Hyde Away is a farmstead that dates back to 1824. Long before the Hyde Away became an inn, the C. D. Billings & Son clapboard mill operated on the property. C. D. Billings started his business in 1884, and by 1889, the mill was producing 700,000 feet of clapboards per year. Skip ahead a few decades to 1949, when the property was transformed into the Ulla Lodge, named after Ullr, the Norse god of snow. For the next few decades, the Ulla Lodge was a retreat for skiers (and at one time was owned by Sugarbush founders Damon and Sara Gadd). In the early 1970s, new owners came in and changed the name to the Snuggery Inn with Zach’s Tavern. It quickly became well known for wild après activities and its legendary hot tub in the silo.
In 1987, the inn was renovated and re-branded as the Hyde Away Inn. The Hyde Away is now owned and operated by Ana Dan and Paul Weber. Today, the inviting environment allows guests to have a cozy dining experience in the main dining room or a casual gathering in the tavern, where seating extends into the silo (the hot tub now sits outside as a decorative piece).
The Pitcher Inn, pictured in the early 1900s. (The inn was rebuilt after a fire in 1993.)
THE PITCHER INN
The Pitcher Inn, situated in Warren Village, has been catering to the needs of travelers since the Civil War era. Before a fire destroyed most of the complex in 1993, the cute town inn was known as an amazing breakfast spot with several lodging rooms. Loggers, day travelers, and Valley guests would stop to rest up when passing through town. (True to its name, the Pitcher Inn featured a unique collection of pitchers, collected and donated by guests from their world travels.)
In January 1998 the inn reopened, after being resurrected by Maggie and Heather Smith, and Heather’s father, Win Smith. With its luxurious, one-of-a-kind rooms, the inn is a Relais & Châteaux member, now under the stewardship of recently named chef Adam Longworth and general manager Lorien Wroten. It is celebrating its twentieth anniversary under the current ownership.
TUCKER HILL INN
Originally known as the Tucker Hill Lodge & Restaurant, the Tucker Hill Inn opened its doors in 1948. In its early years, owners Ann and Francis Martin operated a 600-foot-long rope tow behind the lodge. George Schenk, the founder of American Flatbread, set up his first ten-ton oven on the outdoor patio of the inn in 1987, and three-time James Beard Foundation Award recipient Gary Danko cut his teeth here in the 1980s. Patti and Kevin Begin purchased the inn from Alison and Phillip Truckle in 2015, and today, the friendly bed-and-breakfast offers a quintessential Vermont lodging experience with a cozy pub and a warm, firelit dining room.
George Schenk working the oven during American Flatbread’s early years
AMERICAN FLATBREAD at LAREAU FARM INN
After three years cooking outside at Tucker Hill using a backyard oven he’d created, George Schenk moved his bakery to Lareau Farm to accommodate the crowds. Lareau Farm was settled in 1794 by Simeon and Abiah Stoddard. One of Waitsfield’s first settlers, Simeon ran a medical practice and hog barn on-site. After Simeon’s death in 1841, Robert J. McAllister purchased the property and operated a dairy farm until his passing in 1930, when the farm was passed to Phillipe and Fleurette Lareau. Today, Lareau Farm is a vibrant part of the Mad River Valley community, serving as a bed-and-breakfast, event space, farm, and restaurant. Tables are situated around the wood-fired pizza oven, creating a mesmerizing show as you wait for your food. Outside, the large lawn allows children to play, and a fire pit serves as a gathering place for waiting diners.