Home News and Features New Filibuster Cafe Planning Jan. Opening

New Filibuster Cafe Planning Jan. Opening

Brian Lewis. Photo by Phil Dodd.
The Filibuster Cafe, which was scheduled to open in the old Asiana House location at 43 State Street in Montpelier in late July, has had to push back its opening until January because of flood damage to the building’s basement, according to owner Brian Lewis.

When it does open, the cafe will offer breakfast and lunch fare, Lewis said. “We’ll offer a full breakfast menu all day,” he said, noting he hopes to fill a niche left open with the closure in recent years of the Coffee Corner and the Down Home Kitchen.

Lewis plans to offer quick breakfast service in addition to a full menu. The quick service line will include eight or ten items, such as grain bowls and smoothies, he said. He will not offer pastries since there are already so many good bakeries in Montpelier, he said.

The full breakfast menu at the cafe, which has 88 indoor seats and 30 seats on its deck, will include traditional items such as corned beef hash, French toast, pancakes, and eggs, Lewis said. The restaurant will likely be open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends, and will have liquor, wine, and beer available.

Lewis grew up in Connecticut and spent 15 years cooking on the West Coast before coming to Vermont to work as executive chef at Sugarbush Resort a few years ago. He lives in Fayston, but said he “really loves” being in Montpelier and has his office in the city as well. “I have three boys, so I get a lot more work done at the office than at home,” he said. 

When the flood hit, “we were 100% ready, fully staffed and two weeks from opening the cafe,” Lewis said. “Our general manager, Jay Bothwell, was keeping track of the height of the river and let me know mid-morning that a flood was going to happen.”

Lewis called a friend who came over with his family and the six of them managed to move valuable equipment from the basement to the first floor of the cafe, which is relatively high and was not flooded. The items they moved include a convection oven, two freezers, several stainless-steel tables, chairs, and inventory.

That move was a money-saver for Lewis, but he is still facing a lot of repair work in the basement, which has been stripped down to the studs. The basement houses the prep kitchen, bathrooms, a seating area, dry storage, and a walk-in cooler. 

The landlord, Overlake Park, LLC — which is owned by the Jacobs family — is taking care of moving electrical panels upstairs and repairing and replacing the heating system. Two new heats pumps have already been installed upstairs, Lewis said. He said Jesse Jacobs of Overlake Park has been a pleasure to work with.

After moving the Filibuster Cafe’s equipment upstairs on the day of the flood, Lewis and his crew went across the street to flood-proof the Yellow Mustard sandwich shop, which Lewis also owns (in addition, he has two other restaurants: the Filling Station in Middlesex and the Parkway Diner in South Burlington).

It only took about 45 minutes to move the Yellow Mustard’s equipment up onto counters, which saved that equipment from the two feet of river water that flowed into the restaurant. With hard work, and due to some fortunate features of the space (the floor is tile over concrete, not wood), Lewis was able to re-open Yellow Mustard about three weeks later.

While Lewis is optimistic about the downtown and its ability to bounce back from the flood, he is concerned about the empty state offices in Montpelier. “If the downtown is going to succeed in the long term, the state workers need to come back,” he said. “Otherwise, downtown could slowly bleed to death.”