Penny Cluse has been owned and run by husband and wife team Charles Reeves and Holly Cluse for about 25 years. At the beginning of Oct. they told their staff that they would close by the end of the year – thus I am pushing this article ahead of others in case you have a chance to get there. It’s a really popular place; our first visit we had to wait about an hour for a table. It’s in a corner building with the main dining room slightly above street level with a smaller dining area up one more level. The kitchen is below and you can look in the windows as you walk by on the street. The couple opened the restaurant in a former Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in 1998. He was a culinary arts graduate who always wanted a breakfast and lunch place and thus created this fine place named for his wife’s first dog, Penny. It has since become a Burlington ‘go-to’ spot and has hosted many famous people including Joe Biden, Janet Yellen, Suzanne Vega, and Jake Gyllenhaal to name a few. The couple does not plan to sell the restaurant or the concept cause it wouldn’t be the same without their presence. They also owned Lucky Next Door which hasn’t reopened since the pandemic. The menu offers interesting options and a few daily specials are also available. Not much time left, so get there if you can.
Banana Bread comes with maple-walnut cream cheese. You can also buy a loaf to go. The slice comes hot off the griddle with the chunky spread. It was tender and tasty alone but also excellent with the sweet rich spread. It was fun to split as an appetizer while we awaited our main dishes.
Chicken and Biscuits are made with rich chicken and vegetables in a stew that is served over buttermilk biscuits. There were lots of chicken pieces mixed with carrots, peas, celery, and peppers in the gravy. The biscuits are more of a cupcake shape but broke apart well to mix with the other ingredients. It is like a deconstructed pot pie and very good.
The Penny Cluse is 2 eggs any style, homefries and biscuits with herb cream gravy. It’s the same muffin-shaped biscuits covered with a thick rich gravy filled with herbs. My choice was over easy eggs and they were cooked perfectly and allowed the yolks to blend with the gravy. The homefries were well-browned potato pieces mixed with well-browned onions. It was a delicious and filling plate of food.
Our next visit was closer to lunchtime and the wait was not so long. The Chile Relleno Plate includes 2 fresh poblano peppers that are roasted and stuffed with jack cheese and then egg battered and griddled, all served with black beans, salsa ranchero, and corn tortillas. There was also an option of salsa verde and so we chose a ‘Christmas style’ with both red and green salsas. They were marvelous. Well stuffed with cheese the tasty peppers were nicely coated and came out not greasy. The black beans were saucy and tasty – highlighted with a dollop of sour cream and fresh salsa. It was a terrific plate. The tortillas were on a separate plate and unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo but they were standard and fine.
The Smoked Turkey Reuben included roasted turkey on griddled rye with Swiss, sauerkraut, and their “rushing highways” dressing. It came with pickle slices and some red cabbage salad. The lightly toasted seedy rye bread was stuffed with fresh, moist, and smokey turkey and good wet sauerkraut. Their dressing was similar to the standard 1000 Island, but I would have put on a bit more. Otherwise, it was a fine rendition of a classic sandwich.
On the side we had a Mac & Cheese which came hot from the oven. The pasta shells were mixed with tasty cheese and cream. It was not runny but plenty moist and made a great side dish for the sandwich.