By Shelbie Ladue
Nestled between Wind Ridge Publishing and a charming home on Falls Road is Rustic Roots. The former Lemon Peel, a craft eatery, features an all-new menu, expert staff, and updated interior. Potted plants reside on every wooden table, unique artwork by local artist Lin Warren lines the freshly painted walls of copper and midnight blue, and sultry jazz music accentuates the earthy atmosphere. Owner and head chef Mike Orfan purchased the business in October 2012 and has since established a spot to bring the community together over wholesome food and local brews.
Orfan initially developed interest in New England while skiing and riding with his longtime girlfriend, Ashley, during the winters. Originally from New Jersey, Orfan knew he wanted to open a restaurant in Vermont because “it’s very real here as far as the food movement goes – there’s more respect for food in general.” The pair was on the lookout for a place and jumped at the chance to open a business in Shelburne. The charcutier attended culinary school in New Jersey where he worked with and was instructed by restaurant owners and chefs from the kitchen. “It wasn’t anything like attending a more structured college,” Orfan says. “It was a great experience.” Although food was never the driving influence of his youth, Orfan began working in restaurants at the age of 16.
Rustic Roots is a scratch kitchen in the most literal of terms. Everything from the coffee-maple sausage and fennel bacon, focaccia bread, crepes, mayonnaise, and sweet cream is made fresh, in house daily, using local ingredients. “My work is very old-fashioned and rustic,” Orfan notes, pointing at the menu; hence, the name of the eatery. “Our roots are also very old.” The main focus of the restaurant is to turn the most simple of ingredients into something better, something that transcends food.
“Food is not just about eating,” Orfan points out. “It’s about building relationships and experiencing life together.” Although hesitant about expanding the eatery’s hours, a handful of communal-styled dinners were held this winter featuring a delectable seven-course meal with a spotlight on Shelburne Vineyard’s wine. Ultimately, Rustic Roots would like to host similar monthly dinners on a smaller scale, connecting the community with local chefs, breweries, wine crafters, and artists. In the near future, Orfan would like to broaden connections with local vendors. “Purchasing the beer and wine and working in the kitchen for 16 hours every day…. It’s been a bit of a challenge.”
Rustic Roots has been rebranded but some aspects of the former crepery remain the same. “People don’t want to let the crepes go, and that’s fine by me!” Orfan laughs. “They’re simple, a gluten-free option, and since this is a scratch kitchen, I can do pretty much anything as far as requests go.” Although the hearty Rustic Breakfast is a customer favorite – two eggs, fennel bacon, coffee-maple sausage, and a popover, along with an occasional late morning Mimosa – there is also a children’s menu including baked pancakes, grilled cheese, and an apple cheddar crepe.
“At the end of the day,” Orfan says, “I try to keep things as simple as possible.” In the next few months, patrons can expect select dinners and brunch offerings. Rustic Roots serves breakfast and lunch between 9 am and 3 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Parties of six or more are encouraged to call in advance. To request your craft experience, call (802) 985-9511, visit www.rusticrootsvt.com, or stop by 195 Falls Road in Shelburne.