story and photos By Lettie Stratton
You learn something new every day. Last Wednesday, for example, I learned that Junior’s Downtown is more than just a pizza joint. Yes, Junior’s not only offers delicious Long Island-inspired pizza—just what you need to satisfy your late-night hunger pangs—but they also have a wide array of pasta dishes, Panini sandwiches, salads, and desserts.
It may be easy to miss these other menu offerings since the first thing you see on the counter when you walk into Junior’s is a display of piping hot pizza pies. The pizza beckons from the large windows that look out on Main Street in the heart of Burlington’s downtown district. Located near Nectar’s and other nightlife hotspots, it’s no wonder why Junior’s is open late nights Thursday through Saturday.
I got to the restaurant before the lunchtime rush and had time to peruse the menu at my leisure, listening to ‘70s rock come through the speakers and the shuffle of feet in the kitchen. I watched the few patrons lazily choose their early lunch slices and dispense their fountain sodas. Shelburne News’ 2008 review of the restaurant by Margo Callaghan hung in a frame on the burnt orange wall next to a La Dolce Vita movie poster. Black and white checkered tablecloths and silver bar stools added to the classic pizzeria-like feel of the establishment. I considered an order of linguini with marinara and grilled chicken, baked ziti, or a Caesar salad, but in the end I simply couldn’t resist what was right in front of me—the pizza.
My server was helpful and friendly and directed me toward her favorite pie, the Grandma, which turned out to be just as she said: fantastic. This specialty pizza was covered with marinara instead of regular pizza sauce and topped with diced tomatoes, basil, garlic, and light cheese. The best part, however, was the sesame seed crust. At first glance, I thought sesame seeds probably had a better home atop a bagel, but my taste buds proved me wrong. The seeds on the pizza crust were toasted to perfection and offered a nice crunch in contrast with the tender topside of the slice.
The high quality of Junior’s’ ingredients was evident at first bite. The freshness of the tomatoes and basil made all the difference while the modest amount of cheese made room for these flavors to stand out. I also indulged in a veggie pinwheel, served with marinara that was not overpowering and allowed the spinach, tomato, and cheese to take center stage. Next time, I’ll be sure to leave room for dessert. The brownies looked fabulous.
Take advantage of Junior’s’ outdoor seating before the Vermont winter is upon us! Sit down, grab take-out, or have it delivered. Visit Junior’s Downtown at 176 Main Street in Burlington, call 862-1234, or check out www.juniorsvt.com.