Local Flavor: three nearby restaurant recommendations

Culture Staff

Food is necessary to fuel our every move, but mealtime can also be a transportive culinary experience. Eating establishments surrounding campus serve up both local recipes and dishes from around the world.

Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch, weekend brunch or a sit-down dinner, there’s a spot for you.

The Culture staff recommends three restaurants close to campus where you’ll get the most flavor for your buck.

Pho Dang

Marjorie McWilliams

Staff Writer

A rectangular, warmly lit room with clusters of small square tables makes up the interior of Pho Dang, a Vietnamese cafe in Winooski.

Fairy lights line the ceiling, shining down on the modest Thursday evening crowd. Quiet with a hum of chatter, Pho Dang is a perfect place to catch up with a friend over a hearty portion of Vietnamese fare.

Traditional pho, rice plates and noodles are moderately priced, ranging $6 to $9.

Though Pho Dang offers only four appetizers, the Cha Gio (four deep fried eggrolls) is a rewarding choice. The delicious crunchy outside is a golden brown and the inside is packed with steamy pork.

Among the extensive choices for those in the mood for pho, a vietnamese soup, pho Tai Bo Vien is a gratifying pick for meat lovers. The salty broth has a hint of sweetness and surrounds flavorful, tender beef meatballs and plenty of thin, clear noodles. Crunchy white onions and scallions provide a contrasting texture and taste to the other mild flavors.

The pho is served with crispy bean sprouts on the side, which can be added  along with sriracha or hoisin sauce.

Less than 10 minutes passed between ordering and receiving the steaming hot meal. The staff was friendly and quick to share favorites or opinions.

Pho Dang’s warming meals, cozy atmosphere and relatively inexpensive cost makes it a perfect choice for any student looking to roam off campus for a satisfying meal.


El Cortijo

Anna Kolosky

Staff Writer

One of my favorite restaurants to frequent is El Cortijo, located on Bank Street next to Dobra Tea.

El Cortijo is a cozy Mexican restaurant decorated with hanging plants.

Large windows let in natural early morning light, and the restaurant boasts a machine that squeezes juice out of oranges right in front of you.

El Cortijo is  always my first choice for brunch on the weekends and is a great place for lunch or dinner as well.

From the brunch menu, I recommend the Nitty Gritty pancakes, which are $8.95 and come with a side of syrup and whipped cream.

The pancakes are always huge, fluffy and cooked to perfection. It’s a pretty sweet way to start the day and never gets old no matter how many times I order it.

For those who want something more savory, I recommend a chorizo bowl that costs $11.95. The chorizo is paired with avocado crema, salsa, black beans, rice and an assortment of other vegetables and seasonings that make this meal stand out.

The chorizo is hearty but not heavy and is balanced by the lightness of the crema and salsa. The beans add texture and saltiness, while the rice soaks up all of the flavor and packs an extra punch.

Overall, El Cortijo has meal options for everyone, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


Ahli Baba’s Kebab Shop

Cyrus Oswald

Staff Writer

Ahli Baba’s Kebab Shop on Main Street is an awesome late night stop for your savory cravings, even if the food sometimes leaves something to be desired.

The gyro is often perfectly cooked, with a delicious portion of tzatziki sauce and fresh tomato on top. But on the occasional off day, their kebabs are lukewarm at best, with bland sauce and just not enough zest. A gyro costs $7.66.

The service is also a point of interest, with a rotating cast of characters behind the counter. Sometimes you’ll receive your food before you even have time to sit down at one of the few stools, and sometimes you wait 10 or 15 minutes.

Although the Ahli Baba’s food truck on campus offers similar menu options, the downtown spot has an ambiance not to be missed.

One wall is covered with retro album covers, and another wall is a garage door, open on warm summer evenings.  

Often when I go, I have the pleasure of experiencing an unusual phenomena, from accidentally free gyros to more than interesting music on the speakers.

The food is agreeable and the atmosphere is engaging.

No two times have I had the same experience at Ahli Baba’s, but perhaps this inconsistency is what makes the kebab shop such a consistently good time.