By Lin Stone
As many readers may know, the Shelburne restaurant, Barkeaters, gleaned its name from the English translation of the Mohican word Adirondack. Step up to the front door and you begin to see a theme unfold: canoe paddle door handle, birch tree branch curtain rods, canoe shelving in the bar …you get the picture. It feels like a cozy Adirondack lodge although the cuisine is rooted in farm fresh Vermont.
One of three owners, Caroline Kovac explains, “We’re originally from the Adirondack region and now live in Vermont. We love both places and wanted to pull together what we love about each place in this restaurant: the relaxed Adirondack lodge feeling and the Vermont farm fresh great food.”
Although the restaurant is in its first year, its team is experienced. Restaurant owners Caroline and Jack Kovac and Jen Sinclair, along with their Chef Barbara Cote, have brought a unique and hearty amalgamation of skills, knowledge, and experience to the table. And to our plates.
The Kovacs are travelers with suitcases of restaurant experiences; Sinclair and Cote have been restaurant professionals and proprietors for decades.
Caroline reminisces: “Jack, Jen, and I had several planning sessions where we each answered one single question: ‘What would we want if we walked into the perfect place to eat?’ We all would say, ‘I want to sit back and relax in a cozy and quaint place that’s not pretentious, with good food and good service.’” She added, “Particularly when I’m traveling, I don’t want to have to rush in or rush out. Sometimes you can’t stop to eat until 3 o’clock when shopping and visiting museums, but nonetheless, I’m hungry now and I want to rest my feet. Where can I go?”
Cote graduated from culinary school in 1992, has been cooking and refining her approach to food by keeping her watchful eyes on diners’ plates: “I like to make peoples favorite foods. I always come back to the things that people consistently like, order, and eat. I guess you’d call it contemporary comfort food with fresh seasonal twists. In my experience, good comfort foods outsell salads all day long. [Although we’ll have plenty of summer salads on our menu too.] For example, one of my personal favorite dishes, and our customers’ too, is the Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breast, stuffed with spinach, roasted red peppers and Vermont chevre and then wrapped in prosciutto with whole grain mustard sauce. It’s salty and sweet, rich and satisfying – what’s not to like?”
When I came in to the restaurant early for the interviews I found our Shelburne News editor Margo Callaghan cozied up to the bar with our Charlotte Citizen editor, Sheri Duff. They said they wouldn’t be there when I came back in an hour to eat … but they were. Albeit now a cozy and chatty group had gathered around them and the laughter rallied round them too. Barkeaters’ cozy atmosphere? Check.
Cote, Sinclair, and the Kovacs noted that the Seared Espresso Ground Coffee Bean Crusted Pork nearly always made everyone’s favorite top three menu choices, but this writer was looking for something fishy this evening and chose the Lobster and Crab Topped Haddock served with lemon buerre blanc. It was everything Barkeaters’ promised: yummy comfort food with a touch of summer sashay – the tender haddock carried the warm sweet chunks of lobster and crab softly nested in breadcrumbs and the lemony buerre blanc was a perfect foil for dipping. My sometimes-vegetarian dinner companion tried the Garden Vegetable Stir Fry with a colorful array fresh vegetables, ginger, and garlic tossed in a Szechwan and teriyaki sauce served over steamed rice. Colorful, fresh, and slightly zesty and can be ordered with proteins, tofu, chicken, etc. The portions were Adirondack size and hearty. Good food? Check. Good service? Check. Repeat customer? Double check. And one of my favorite touches: complimentary dark and white chocolate bark served after dinner in a miniature birch bark canoe.
For hundreds of years part of Native Americans’ livelihood was tied to the effective use of a bow of arrow: without the proper tools and skills they could not hunt for food. Barkeaters’ quiver is full and their aim is skillful: they hit the mark. It was a cozy and quaint relaxed evening out, the food and service were good, and we’ll be back.
The weather is warm, the patio is open, and the new summer menu started. Soon it will be open for dinner on Sunday nights too.
Barkeaters is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. through dinner and Sunday for brunch from 9 am-2 pm. 985-2830 or www.barkeatersrestaurant.com.