Bargains, bistros, and a Lincoln site
The area’s lures attract fly fishermen, foodies, shoppers needing an outlet
The hamlets of Manchester Center, Village, and Depot make up the township of Manchester, once considered Vermont’s foremost summer resort community and now perhaps best known for its high-end designer outlet stores. Manchester still flourishes in the summer and again in ski season. But right now during stick season, hotel rates have temporarily plunged, and outlet discounts are among the best of the year. As it turns out, there’s plenty to do beyond pushing a shopping cart, and the dining is hard to beat.
The massive Federal-era Equinox Resort (3567 Main St., 802-362-7823, www.equinoxresort.com, rates from $206) remains as great a getaway today as it was in stagecoach and railroad days. The spa entrance is even guarded by a massive antique scale that Golden Age visitors used to make sure they had gained weight during their stays. (Oh, for the good old days.) Just down the street, the Reluctant Panther Inn & Restaurant (39 West Road, 800-822-2331 or 802-362-2568, www.reluctantpanther.com, rates from $233) is the town’s newest boutique hotel. All 20 suites have in-room fireplaces and spa tubs. For bargain lodging in the countryside, the Stamford Motel (6458 Main St., 802-362-2342, www.thestamfordmotel.com, rates from $70) has lovingly refreshed rooms. Owners Karen Geriak and Adam Dworkin (who used to run an in-town eatery) also have a delightful small restaurant on the premises, Nipper’s Cafe.
If you don’t start the day with Adam’s Pancake French Toast at Nipper’s (breakfast from $6.50), then join the locals at Little Rooster Cafe (4645 Main St., 802-362-3496, breakfast from $6.95, sandwiches from $8.95) for the signature “cock-a-doodle-doo’’: two poached eggs on sourdough toast with smoked salmon, caper-dill-mustard sauce, and a side of hash browns with Vermont cheddar. Or you could save Little Rooster for a focaccia sandwich at lunch. The sunny cooking of southern France and Italy at Bistro Henry (1942 Depot St., 802-362-4982, bistrohenry.com, dinner from $26) will make you forget about the chill outside. With luck, chef Henry Bronson will be serving wild mushroom risotto with foraged mushrooms. “Early dinner’’ (seating 5-6 p.m.) offers a $26 three-course prix fixe. Or drive another 6 miles to Chantecleer (8 Read Farm Lane, East Dorset, 802-362-1616, www.chantecleerrestaurant.com, dinner from $28), where Swiss chef Michel Baumann serves gemütlich European cuisine such as sauteed veal medallions with homemade egg noodles.
DURING THE DAY
Manchester almost became the summer White House. Mary Todd Lincoln brought her sons in 1864 and made reservations to return to the Equinox the next summer with Abe. Son Robert Todd Lincoln so fondly remembered the town that he established the family estate here, naming it Hildene (1005 Hildene Road, 802-362-1788, www.hildene.org, admission adults $16, youth $5, under 6 free). The grand house is decorated now for the holidays, and a beautifully restored Pullman rail car sits in the woods a short distance from the Hildene welcome center. (RTL ended his days as the CEO of the Pullman Palace Car Co.) Great hiking trails crisscross the 412-acre estate. Hildene makes superb goat and cow’s milk Havarti-style cheese, and it’s often possible to observe the cheesemaking and meet the gregarious Nubian goats. Open-water fishing is done for the season and ice-fishing has not begun, but anglers dream about the sport all year long. The American Museum of Flyfishing (4104 Main St., 802-362-3300, www.amff.com, adults $5, children ages 5-14 $3, family $10) chronicles the evolution of fly-fishing and its related arts (tying flies, crafting rods) with a visual grace that parallels the Zen state of trout fishing. Manchester-based Orvis practically owns the sport of fly-fishing, and the Orvis Outlet Store (4382 Main St., 802-366-9134) carries discontinued rods and reels and all the fly-tying paraphernalia a fisherman could dream of. For everyone else, the Manchester Designer Outlets along Depot Street gather more than 50 designer names from Armani to Yves Delorme.
Manchester definitely slows down in the evening. Most visitors make late reservations for dinner and eat the evening away. But The Perfect Wife Restaurant & Tavern, (2594 Depot St., 802-362-2817; www.perfectwife.com) features an eclectic mix of live funk, blues, jazz, and rock on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Don’t miss chef Amy Chamberlain’s trio of “poppable sandwiches’’ (as she calls sliders). The $13 plate contains a cheeseburger, a crabcake with remoulade, and a grilled chicken slider with herbed aioli.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.