Berkshires After Dark: Authentic fish and chips in Vermont
BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Happy Thursday, dear readers! A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Berkshires After Dark-type things to do and see al fresco. It turns out, there's a whole lot more out there than I realized. So I've updated that column, which you can read here: http://goo.gl/rHspkC.
I left work Tuesday night craving ease, peace and quiet. So instead of continuing onto Route 2 when I got back up to Williamstown, I headed north onto Route 7, into Vermont and downtown Bennington.
I visited two places, both of which I've never been to, but will definitely visit again.
With some more writing and a load of weekend laundry ahead of me, a caffeine fix was in order. I popped into South Street Cafe, where an open mic was in progress. (More on this place at a later date.)
As 7 o'clock rolled around, dinner was my next mission. I recalled a recent conversation with my colleague Ed Damon, about finding a good fish and chips place. He recommended the Lil' Britain Fish & Chip Shop in Bennington, which happens to be right around the corner from the cafe.
They’ll be open later tonight to take part in Bennington’s town-wide “Midnight Madness” event.
You can't miss the spot at 116 North St., where the eatery has a Union Jack-clad awning and flag over the storefront window.
By the front there's a classic red UK telephone box replica and a lone cafe table up for use on the sidewalk.
The place is no bigger than any walk-in New York City pizza joint. I only saw two guys, both very cordial, working.
The walls are decorated with various pictures of fish and chips, the United Kingdom, local awards and plaques, and a map where visitors from the UK can push a pin into their hometown. A sales rack also offers classic Brit treats, like Lyle's Golden Syrup and Black Treacle, and Bolands biscuits.
There are several tables and chairs inside and a small counter for ordering.
I asked for a small order of fish (haddock) and chips, which comes with a choice of side; I got a traditional British side of mushy peas (sounds odd, tastes delicious). I also got from the cooler a bottle of cold lemon tea, which is labeled as a house brand. They have a variety of specialty soft drinks, but no alcohol is served.
The rest of the menu includes traditional chip shop fare: fried seafood, meat pies and pastry, bangers (English sausage) and mash (as in mashed potatoes). There's also a page of burgers on the menu, and specials like this week's fish tacos.
Prices range from $1.50 for a side cucumber salad to $14.50 for a large platter of fried scallops chips (the Brit version of thickly cut fries), and a side.
I was surrounded by a rather fantastic mix of patrons. The table directly next to me included a couple of women who had just finished their meals and were speaking in French. There was a young couple, looking to be of Asian Pacific descent, sitting by the window next to a tall, slim younger-looking guy with shoulder-length hot pink hair, who was working on a laptop.
Soon after, the couple of women were replaced by an older couple who I overheard announcing in thick Southern accents that they were visiting from Chattanooga, Tenn.
Less than 10 minutes later, it was delivered to my table. Everything was cooked to perfection: Piping hot, golden in color, not too greasy and in ample portion. The fish was fresh and meaty, not like the mealy frozen stuff. It tasted the way my great grandmother used to fry the fish my great uncle caught on Cape Cod.
Lil' Britain, which closes at 8 p.m., is not a late-night destination. But for great food and social atmosphere, it's a classic neighborhood hub, simple and friendly. I left relaxed, sated and happy.
If you go ...
What: Lil’ Britain Fish & Chip Shop
Where: 116 North St., Bennington, Vt.
When: Open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m Dine in or take out.
Contact: lilbritainfishandchips.com or facebook.com/lilbritain. (802) 442-2447.
Style: Traditional British-style fish and chip shop.
Food: Menu, priced $1.50 to $14.50, includes seafood, burgers and various traditional sides.
Entertainment: Soccer matches are usually on the television.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.