by Mike Dunphy
“Haters gonna hate; Potatoes gonna potate,” reads a sign above the pick-up window at Buddy’s Famous, the new burger joint that opened in the marinara-colored, clapboarded bay house on Barre Street, so long the domain of Angeleno’s Pizza.
Whether it’s a call to embrace your inner potato and settle into a chair for a few idle hours, or something else altogether, the message is a good example of the light-hearted fun that permeates the restaurant from the moment you step inside and get a whiff of the carnivorous sizzle.
Roughly following the same layout as Angeleno’s, with the order station up front and three separate alcove-like dining areas, Buddy’s has replaced the Italian motifs with a gloss of 1950s burger joint nostalgia: familiar gray and white tiles, thick red stripes, and metallic detailing in the spacious standing-room-only pick-up and condiments area, before switching to simple block wood tables and chairs for the feast itself. The quiet corners and generous distance between the tables allows for some privacy but still a view of the action, particularly from the elevated section adjacent the pick-up zone.
Owing to the novelty of a dedicated burger joint finally opening in Montpelier after the city has proudly held off a certain global burger chain who-must-not-be-named for so long, it’s no wonder Buddy’s has kept busy since opening its doors at the end of November. The tables have been filling with nearly all of Montpelier society: high schoolers, families with kids, couples on dates. Even a solitary journalist has taken in the action, not to mention a “Vermonter” burger with bacon, cheddar (Cabot, of course), and maple BBQ sauce, along with a side of fries.
The grass-fed beef patties from Vermont Country Farms in Shelburne follow the slimmer 1950s model, similar to those at Al’s French Frys in South Burlington, instead of the thick slabs of ground beef seen at artisanal bistros such as Montpelier’s own The Blue Stone or The Three Penny Taproom, so double up if hunger pangs are stabbing the belly. Fries come with skin-on, which adds a nice downhome feeling, but, like the burgers, bring more satisfaction to the stomach than wow. Buddy’s other claim to fame, its ice cream-based shakes—Vermont Maple, Peppermint Stick, Fruity Pebbles—follow suit and ultimately inspire the most smiles.
What will probably turn customers into regulars is the warm welcome and playful spirit of the place rather than the burgers and fries. And that makes Buddy’s Famous a welcome addition to Montpelier’s downtown. Indeed, for a casual and fun date at an affordable price, there are few better options. Just save your order of the “Big and Messy” burger for another time, unless spilled ketchup, mayo, and mustard are a turn on.