It is 8:45 a.m., and closing time is more than 12 hours from now, but Matt Burt is already moving about and breathing life into one of Colchester’s newest restaurants.
Burt manages the recently opened Burger Bar on Route 15 across from the UVM Health Center’s Fanny Allen campus and neighboring a Dunkin Donuts. A handful of years ago, I went to this building when it previously existed as a sports bar, and I remember a dimly lit and overall unremarkable experience. Now the space feels warmer, the bar more inviting to sidle up to. Burt’s personality embraces you like an old friend.
“The food has to come first,” a point Burt emphasized multiple times while we talked. “We have a simple approach, nothing pretentious. The only thing upscale is the brioche bun, unless you count the blue cheese burger or mushroom Swiss.”
The bun may be the only thing Burt calls upscale, but don’t let him fool you. The Burger Bar is the extension of Bessery’s Butcher Shoppe and Delicatessen, a staple of the New North End of Burlington since 1963. The burgers are made with high-quality 1855 Black Angus Beef, raised by family ranchers and only offered at USDA Prime or Upper Choice quality tiers.
Speaking of tiers, if you’re looking for what’s unique on the menu, it has to be the tower burgers. This quartet of double-patty, triple-bun beauties photograph like artisan Big Macs and sport worthy monikers such as the “Big Baconator” and potentially redundant “Big Texas.”
Burt also talks up the Philly sandwiches he offers and teases they’ll be serving brisket and other barbecue specialties from time to time as well. When it’s his turn to order off the menu, he says his particular weakness is the fried chicken sandwiches.
The bar carries a variety of Vermont beers on tap and in the can, and even recently dropped a Budweiser tap to make more room for local suds. Burt looks forward to warmer weather when he can start offering more local produce from Mazza’s farm in his dishes – and yes, there are a variety of salads on the menu for those seeking healthier options.
Burger Bar has also managed to strike up a healthy relationship with its populous neighbor, St. Michael’s College. The restaurant will serve plates at an on-campus food festival in the near future, and although the spot’s official hours are listed as 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Burt is willing to hold the doors open for local talent and a good crowd.
Just recently, No Dolphins, a rock quartet founded at SMC, stuffed themselves into the southwest corner of the tavern and added live music to the Burger Bar’s offerings. A quick hop to BB’s Facebook page advertises Tuesday night trivia, and there’s even outdoor seating coming in the near future. The message is being broadcast that this new burger joint is hopping.
Burt makes sure to thank his friend Chantal, local disc jockey at Star 92.9 FM, for talking him up and having him on air.
“And I have to thank Kathy O’Reilly,” exclaims Burt of the economic director for the town of Colchester. “I say it again with gusto, ‘thank you.’ She has only been there to help.”
Burt may be a busy, busy man, but he’s never too busy to take a moment to greet you with a warm hello or remember to thank you.
An hour later, I walked out of the Burger Bar savoring a classic cheeseburger and fries that Burt was kind enough to cook up for me as a chaser to my morning coffee. The food was delicious, and I was already looking forward to bringing my family back and watching Burt in action, welcoming customers with a warm smile, cold beer and hot food.
Burger Bar is at 831 College Pkwy in Colchester. Check out the full menu and hours at burgerbarvt.com.