By Julia Donnini
A southern transplant, I would regularly wander off a nearby beach to follow the scent of fellow patrons’ sunscreen, skin browned from the proximity to the equator. There my meals were complemented with the spray coming off of the Gulf of Mexico. Still, I can’t say I was surprised when in the parking lot of South Burlington’s Windjammer with my friend Brendan, we arrived not shaking the sand from our hair but tapping the salt from our boots. The inviting skiff is nestled cozily aside, a haven from the bustle of Williston Road. Broad beams stud the ceiling like the restaurant’s titled brig. Maybe the sun didn’t kiss our shoulders but the Windjammer exuded endless warmth.
Welcomed heartily, the walk to our table allowed for a quick survey. The establishment is versatile, equal parts luxurious and relaxed, which is how I imagine some seafaring towns in Maine. Upstairs is home to the Upper Deck Pub, the “original” sports bar as so advertised. And although pub fare was designed to tempt the wind-stricken, we glided by the staircase, ready for the full experience. Our broad booth fit snug into one of the restaurant’s many dining areas, simultaneously hugging us and providing a clear lay of the land. We had a brilliant view of the flow of the operation but felt pleasantly solitary. We were at the helm.
Perhaps foolishly, we decided to skip the extensive wine list, while still noting the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence.” Bottles in full display tempt from every angle and I’m resolved to complement my next visit with a glass. That Thursday though, I chose the local gem from the Alchemist Brewery, the Heady Topper. The exquisitely hopped brew was recently crowned the best in the world. The Windjammer is clearly in tune with the ideals of the locals and tempts international tastes.
To start, we opted to extinguish hunger pangs with the calamari. This amply dressed appetizer that begged to be shared. The starter invited indulgency, dovetailing the tangy banana peppers and sweet balsamic reduction. This classic dish sported an appreciated edge.
Completely satiated, we finally assessed the rest of the menu. The fare touts a good balance of locally sourced and quality ingredients. Just look to the artisan cheese board for a taste of local and imported treats. Our server, Allison, had a clear nose for my entrée craving and I was guided to the Scallops St. Jacques.
Dinner drifted effortlessly at the Windjammer. The timing of each course turned tidally, leaving us never wanting. The Salad Boat was not only healthful, it was a welcome assortment of fresh greens, olives, and pickled vegetables and we livened our legs to dress our own plates. While catering our salads, the choice of fresh multi-grain bread charmed, warming our welcome hands.
When our entrees arrived we realized we had selected an elegant version of surf and turf. Brendan had ordered the 10 oz. NY Strip, prime grade and perfectly blushed on the inside. Wild rice was the yin to his plate. Still, the “surf” was nothing to ignore: The creamy scallop dish was decadently tossed with wild mushrooms, shallots, and then broiled under a blanket of Gruyere. This was plated with a soulful scoop of mashed potatoes—a touch of down-home with panache. We sampled land and sea and yet the sweetest was to come.
Easily persuaded, we indulged with the blondie brownie sundae which boasted a slew of confection: a lava slide of hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped peanuts, and a fine dusting of sugar. Still, evoking a bright sky and arms lazy from a hand-cranked ice cream maker, the house made vanilla ice cream was our true selling point. Simple but perfectly spun, the ice cream left us sated for the night. The sirens had sung and we were happily tempted.
So with stomachs bursting, we fended the winter chill even in our steps home. The Windjammer is not just the ideal cove for a thaw, but for a meal to lavish on oneself.
Always welcome and never a stowaway, you can enjoy dinner at the Windjammer, 1076 Williston Rd. in South Burlington. The Windjammer is open 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday, 11:30 am-11:30 pm and Sunday 2:30 pm-10 pm. Call 862-6585 or visit www.windjammerrestaurant.com for reservations.