The opening of the Pickled Perch is providing a new dining option for Colchester residents at its prime location on Blakely Road overlooking Malletts Bay.
Glancing at the menu, diners will recognize classic bar food like fried chicken, ribs and fish and chips at affordable prices. Upon further inspection, however, they will realize they have not stumbled into just any new restaurant in the area.
With local, seasonal vegetables from Farmer Hil in North Ferrisburgh, grass-fed beef from Green Pasture Meats in Vergennes and other local ingredients, the inventive but approachable menu created by chef Kevin Sokal is sure to appeal to everyone from local families sitting down at the patio to vacationing couples at the bar.
“We kept the menu small and approachable, fun plays on classics,” Sokal said.
After working as a sous chef at Hen of the Wood in Burlington, Sokal moved out west to work at Juniper and Ivy under chef Richard Blais, who is known for his appearances on Top Chef and Iron Chef America.
“Working there I learned just how far you can stretch original ideas without pushing the envelope too much,” he said. “If you look at the [Pickled Perch] menu and the specials, you’ll see a lot of that – like the street corn fritters are a play on Mexican street corn, just done totally different.”
Most recently, Sokal was head chef at Hatchet Tap & Table in Richmond, but left to help open the Perch.
The Pickled Perch has a small menu but will feature a large specials list that will change up based on the season, available ingredients and chef’s inspiration. Last week, Sokal created a special dessert that was a play on peaches and cream, involving pickled peaches, mascarpone cream and cornbread puree.
General manager and pastry chef Elizabeth Keller will usually be in charge of the dessert menu and said she gets her inspiration from reading food magazines and trying recipes from her sister who tries food from around the country on business trips.
She said restaurant-goers will always be able to order her chocolate cake and multiple flavors of budino, an Italian custard-like dessert, but she’ll be adding more options once she can get more help in the kitchen.
“It will always be seasonal, and it will be random,” she said, adding one dessert will have a fruit element.
After opening weekend at the end of last month, owner and investor Sven Kvinlaug was excited about the future of the restaurant in Colchester.
“The biggest compliment we had was that every plate that came back was clear, nobody was leaving stuff,” he said. “People were happy, people loved sitting outside and the local people especially were really just like, ‘phew, finally we have another place; we don’t have to drive into downtown Burlington.’”
Kvinlaug’s philosophy for the restaurant focused on good, locally sourced food at an affordable price that families can enjoy any day of the week.
“I was willing to sacrifice a little bit of margin on the food cost if I could eliminate waste and keep people coming back,” Kvinlaug said, adding every dish is priced below $20. “I want people to feel like they can bring their family here and come back in the winter time. I want to make sure they feel comfortable here.”
Kvinlaug is also excited to have the new dining hub for families, but wants to be able to fit around already-established Colchester joints like Rozzi’s and the Spanked Puppy.
“The point was, we didn’t want to step on their toes,” he said. “We wanted to do stuff that they didn’t have, so that we can complement each other and both do well.”
“I’m just excited to become the hotspot and see a lot of the same people,” Sokal added. “I’d like to see a lot of the local families be able to come in here once or twice a week, not just on weekends, and be able to eat and the kids have fun.”