A nine-foot wooden canoe suspended over the bar captures the spirit of South Hero's Blue Paddle Bistro: local flavor with a sense of fun. In an historic white house that has been a parsonage, a post office and, most recently, a chocolate factory, co-owners Mandy Hotchkiss and Phoebe Bright have created a cozy, unpretentious spot where upscale dining pulls up a chair alongside down-home comfort food.
Simple fare is prepared with creative flourishes, whether it's Gorgonzola-stuffed meatloaf or bourbon-marinated flank steak. Grated carrots are part of the "Paddle" nachos, along with black beans and Jack cheese. Kalamata mayo gives the grilled chicken sandwich a tangy kick. The "Pasta Sauté #1" may sound unimaginative, but its savory surprises include shallots, dried cranberries, walnuts, grape tomatoes, Asiago cheese and maple-roasted garlic cream sauce.
Even the humble tater gets special treatment here. Hand-cut French fries, sparkly with sea salt, come with all the burgers and sandwiches on the menu. Local ingredients are very local: pies baked at an orchard down the street; tomatoes harvested from a neighbor's garden.
Sunday brunch is fast becoming an indigenous tradition. Sing-alongs sometimes erupt between rounds of flapjacks. The secret is out: On weekends, growing numbers of mainland diners are crossing the causeway to see what's cooking in the Islands.