Home Food and Drink A New 200-seat Restaurant to Open in Montpelier

A New 200-seat Restaurant to Open in Montpelier

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Photograph of Main Street Montpelier with artist rendering of Hugo's restaurant sign.
An artist's rendering of what the new Hugo's Restaurant Sign will look like on Main Street, Montpelier. Courtesy of Stonorov Workshop.

Novelist and founder of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Thomas Christopher Greene, announced last Tuesday via Facebook that he’s opening a new restaurant, Hugo’s Bar and Grill, at 18 Main Street in downtown Montpelier. 

This location has held numerous restaurants since 1880. Longtime residents recall this was the location of the Lobster Pot Restaurant, “Where Lobster is King,” famous for its boat-shaped salad bar and tanks with live crustaceans. The restaurant dated back to the 1950s before it was taken over by the New England Culinary Institute to become its flagship restaurant, Main Street Grill and Bar. That restaurant was later transformed into the more modern NECI on Main, and then the recent, yet short-lived, La Brioche Cafe.

Hugo’s, named after Greene’s photogenic chestnut-brown Labrador retriever, will have a few different elements. The basement and first-floor levels will be Hugo’s Bar and Grill, featuring food that, according to Greene, “will be accessible, affordable, new American bistro and locally sourced where possible, including the freshest fish brought in from Boston and local meats and vegetables from Vermont.” The third floor level “will become Upstairs at Hugo’s, a piano cocktail bar with a late-night menu.” 

Two Vermonters, both with solid food and beverage backgrounds, have been slated to run Hugo’s front and back of the house. Keith Walker, most recently sous chef at Hen of the Wood restaurant, will helm the kitchen as executive chef. Jana Markow, who recently served as general manager at Julio’s Cantina, will be Hugo’s front-of-the-house manager. Markow also ran Cafe Anna at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and was manager at Sarducci’s before that, so her Montpelier experience is noteworthy. 

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Greene hopes to update the building and transform it into “another clean, well-lighted place in Montpelier.” Architects for the project are Stonorov Workshop, who designed the now-closed breakfast and lunch spot Down Home Kitchen as well as Rabble-Rouser Chocolate and Craft. Greene also intends to relight the massive, red-lettered neon “RESTAURANT” sign (dating back to the Lobster Pot days) that sits atop of the building. 

Although it has not been officially announced, word has it Hugo’s aims to be fully open early January, which seems ambitious given the complex employment situation found throughout the hospitality industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.