Dutch Mill: not your average diner

by Lettie Stratton

You can’t look at The Dutch Mill Family Restaurant without being at least a little curious about the history of the place. It’s certainly not your average building. I had the chance to sit down with owner/chef Jamie Bissonette and his son, Michael, to chat about the restaurant and how it came to be the place many locals and out-of-staters alike are familiar with today.

I arrived just as lunchtime hours were ending; a party of four was finishing up their food on the other side of the restaurant. I listened to the quiet clink of their coffee mugs while waiting for the father/son duo to join me. Booths and tables of all sizes, hanging flowerpots, floral curtains, and Red Sox paraphernalia created a comfortable small town feel in the dining area, with the hum of Sports Center in the background. The daily specials were handwritten on a whiteboard in colored markers.

Jamie explained that he has been involved with the Dutch Mill property since he was 5 years old. His parents, Charlie and Corrine Bissonette, bought the place, built in 1927 by a bootleg counterfeiter, in 1968. “It’s changed dramatically since then,” he said.  “This was our 45th working summer.”

The Family Restaurant opened in 1995. “I had never cooked breakfast before we started,” Jamie said with a laugh. The supposedly fancy chef that was hired didn’t work out, and Jamie received a frantic call explaining that the guy just couldn’t cook. “We served 168 people our first day,” he said. “I learned real fast!”

Dutch Mill serves traditional American fare in the form of breakfast and lunch. Top sellers from the menu include the Reuben and the BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. They even smoke their own meat out back. “This is not diner food,” Jamie said.

Jamie’s son Michael, 24, has become a driving force in the kitchen and in other aspects of the restaurant as well. “We sell lots of combo club wraps and salads,” Michael said. “We really have something for everyone.” Jamie said one of his favorite menu items is one of Michael’s creations—oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon, served with toast.

Dutch Mill doesn’t serve dinner because they run a catering service in the evenings that keeps them busy. Their service is unique in that the customer can create their own menu. “We’ll do whatever the customer wants,” Michael said. Most places have a set catering menu from customers to choose from, but Dutch Mill’s method allows for much more freedom. “We sit down with the customer face-to-face and ask how they want it done,” Jamie added.

Jamie and Michael estimated that their customer base is 60 percent local, 40 percent tourist, with those numbers changing a bit in the winter to weigh more heavily on the local population. “We have a great nucleus of local diners,” Jamie said, “but there are also people who drive 30 miles or more to eat here.” Last Sunday they served a whopping 280 customers. “We’re very fast,” Jamie said. “You won’t wait more than 10 minutes for your food,” Michael added.

Word of mouth certainly helps, but Jamie explained that Michael has really stepped up Dutch Mill’s advertising in the past two years. The restaurant works with the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA) to offer a $5 senior ticket for anyone over the age of 65. “It’s a nice way to get people out,” Michael said. “We really love what we do here, and the staff we have now is incredible,” Jamie mentioned.

Visit Dutch Mill at 4309 Shelburne Road for breakfast or lunch, Tuesday through Sunday from 7:30 am-2 pm. Call (802) 985-3568 or email info@dutchmillvt.com for more information. Don’t miss out on the many delicious family-style creations, and be sure to say hi to Jamie and Michael before you leave!

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