The dogs behind some of Vermont’s favorite restaurants
Courtest of David Herskowitz
No doubt about it, our furry friends often feel like family. Several Vermont restaurant owners had such an intense bond with their canine companions that they named their businesses after them. Others bring their pups to their eateries each day. Seven Days spoke with several such entrepreneurs to learn the stories behind the dogs that make their restaurants unique. Just one question: Where are the cats?
Penny Cluse Café
169 Cherry Street, Burlington, 651-8834
When Holly Cluse and her husband, Charles Reeves, opened Penny Cluse Café in 1998, Cluse’s childhood dog, Penny, had already been dead for seven years. So why did they choose her name to brand their hip breakfast spot?
“Penny Cluse had kind of a ring to it,” reasons Reeves.
Adds Cluse, “She was just a fantastic dog.”
When Cluse was growing up in Summit, N.J., one of her family’s neighbors found a stray pup while staying at a lake house in the Poconos. After hearing tales of the friendly hound-shepherd mix, the Cluses headed to the mountains and brought her home. Reeves, who first met Cluse in high school, was equally enchanted with the dog.
One quirk Penny shared with her namesake restaurant was a deep fondness for eggs. So ardent was her passion that Cluse’s mother would cook them especially for the hound.
Does the café use Penny’s recipe? “Oh, no,” says Cluse with a chuckle. “She just liked them plain.” Though it’s hard to imagine any dog turning up her nose at a Zydeco breakfast with andouille and black beans on the plate beside the over-easies.
Old age eventually got the best of Penny, who was put down at 14, just after Cluse graduated college. Cluse still fondly remembers family trips when Penny squeezed into the backseat with the rest of the kids. “She loved to play ball, and she was easy and loyal,” Cluse says. “She had a great disposition, a great family dog.”
According to Reeves, the restaurant is a way to keep Penny in the family. “We have Penny postcards and pictures of Penny right when you walk in,” he says. “It’s like she’s our patron saint.” Cluse, who’s in charge of the restaurant’s banking, says, “I’m constantly depositing checks in her name.”
But don’t expect a generalized canine theme at the popular local haunt. “It could be named after your great-aunt Harriet,” says Cluse. “It’s really more in memory of a wonderful member of our family.”
Monty’s Old Brick Tavern
7921 Williston Road, Williston, 316-4262
Before Monty’s was Monty’s — before the historic brick place was a restaurant, in fact — David Herskowitz wanted a dog to enliven his just-built Williston home. In that summer of 1999, he recalls, Vermont breeders didn’t seem to have any golden retriever puppies for adoption. So Herskowitz traveled to Connecticut, where he met a 4-month-old troublemaker.
The dog, whom Herskowitz would name Monty, was old for a purebred pup still seeking a home. The breeder said he “was always escaping and eating cow poop out on the farm.” Herskowitz thought a dog like that belonged in Vermont.
Though Herskowitz’s uncle has long done field trials with Labs and goldens — including some of Monty’s relatives — the puppy did not excel at the sport. Monty was more notable for his “handsome” looks and skills as a swimmer.
In 2005, Herskowitz opened a breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Williston called the Old Brick Café. When he rebranded it as an upscale pub in 2009, he wanted a new name, too. But Murray — the name of the 1842 structure’s original owners — lacked pizzazz. So Herskowitz named the place after his loyal friend Monty, who by then was ailing. “He just had some problems with his wrists,” says Herskowitz. “Some days he’d be limping around; some days he’d be fine. I was carrying him all up and down the stairs.”
Before his namesake restaurant opened last year, Monty got a tour of the kitchen. Later, he enjoyed socializing with other dogs on the patio. Though the menu offers no dog-specific dishes, Herskowitz says patrons have ordered the Monty Burger for their pets. Most canines just take advantage of a free bowl of water and a biscuit.
By the time the business took off, Monty’s sore wrists had been diagnosed as bone cancer. He passed away last Thanksgiving. Though Herskowitz is still mourning his mascot, he says he’s considering adopting another puppy. A golden retriever.
Muddy Paw Coffee
Route 100, Cabot Annex Plaza, Waterbury, 244-1119
Muddy Paw Coffee, Creemee and Grill
at South Main Sunoco, 150 South Main Street, Waterbury, 244-8700
Lots of restaurants have Facebook profiles. Far fewer have a presence on Dogbook — the canines’ (and canine lovers’) social-networking companion. One of them is Muddy Paw.
Molly Estey owns and operates the two Muddy Paw locations — one a one-seat coffee shop with a drive-though, the other a sit-down restaurant at a gas station. She brings her own dog, Brodie, to work every day and encourages her employees to follow suit. Also a yoga instructor, Estey likes to keep herself and her staff healthy. Instead of cigarette breaks, Muddy Paw peeps and pups get 15 minutes to play outside for every hour they work.
At the coffee shop, Yuffie, a show-quality Chihuahua, often meets customers. Brodie, a 4-year-old brindled greyhound mix, greets guests by leaning into them, sometimes almost knocking them over. When he spends time at the gas station, Brodie enjoys playing with Bo, a 6-month-old treeing Walker coonhound puppy, and Jeffrey, manager Emily Carhart’s Boston terrier/beagle mix.
Both locations have dog tie-ups, but Estey is working to make the gas station a canine gathering place by building a patio in the parking area. There, people can already feed their dogs vanilla creemees dressed with all-natural, pig-shaped, bacon-flavored biscuits. This summer, Estey will add a line of yöghund (“Yogurt for Dogs”) probiotic treats. The parking lot offers easy access to mountain biking trails where, Estey suggests, dogs and owners can indulge in “Brodie’s favorite sport.”
Most of the dogs at Muddy Paw were rescued — including Brodie, who came from a kill shelter in New Mexico. With dogs like him in mind, Estey donates a portion of her proceeds: Fifty cents from each sale of a pound of Port City Coffee Roasters coffee goes to a revolving group of local animal shelters, says Carhart.
Estey knows those efforts — and the canine-friendly theme — help her build a loyal customer base. “We’re catering to a segment of the population that understands community giving and tends to have dogs,” she says.
1880 Mountain Road at the Gale Farm Shopping Center, Stowe, 253-7785
266 North Main Street, Barre, 479-2225
Yes, the wiener-dog association is an old one. But these two joints — which aren’t related — both have canine themes that go beyond the image of a dachshund in a bun.
When Barre Dogs opened last fall, owner Wendy Waggoner hung up framed portraits of her three terriers, miniature schnauzers Perry and Olivia and Scottish terrier Katie. Customers took it as an invitation to discuss their own animal friends, and soon photographs accumulated. Even a few images of cats have cropped up on the eatery’s bulletin board.
Photos also appeared at Stowe Dogs. After six years in business, “All our walls are completely covered,” says owner David Foltz.
Waggoner’s pets stay home, but four months ago, Foltz’s cairn terrier, Maggie, started coming to work each day. The state health inspector has given Maggie the official OK as long as she stays in front of the counter. “I wish I had known six years ago [that you could get a permit],” Foltz says.
In her position as official greeter at Stowe Dogs, Maggie receives one plain hot dog a day, lots of attention and all the belly rubs she can handle. “She loves kids,” adds her proud papa.
As long as they don’t eat off the tables or bark, Foltz welcomes all canine comers. “Maggie and the dogs play around in here,” he says. “We have biscuits out in a bowl, and if I have overcooked hot dogs or people don’t eat all their food, I wrap it up for other dogs.”
1500 Edson Hill Road, Stowe, 253-8741
Some dogs have near-legendary appetites. From an early age, Gracie Archdeacon was one of them. “She was part beaver,” jokes her owner, Paul Archdeacon. “She ate a part of our staircase. She ate furniture. She ate shoes.”
Archdeacon and his wife, Sue, adopted the feisty Airedale-yellow Lab mix from the Humane Society of Chittenden County a year before they opened a restaurant in 1991. “We were just about to open, and we couldn’t think of a name,” Archdeacon recalls. So the place became Gracie’s. “It was a fluke, and it just kind of took off.”
Though Gracie only made visits to her namesake, she quickly became a local celebrity. Archdeacon recalls, “When we first opened, my wife would drive by [with Gracie], and people would go crazy when they saw her.”
Soon the locally focused menu started going to the dogs. As the restaurant moved around Stowe, from Main Street to Mountain Road to Edson Hill, the canine theme grew more pronounced: Currently, the burgers served on homemade buns are all named after breeds. The Chihuahua features guacamole, while the Rottweiler comes with horseradish sour cream for an appropriate “bite.”
Gracie herself preferred an unconventional snack when she visited the restaurant’s patio — popcorn paired with white wine.
Gracie suffered an untimely demise in 1992 — a topic which, 18 years later, Archdeacon still finds too painful to discuss. Her successors: a pair of bluetick coonhound mutts named Norman and Stanley. The 6-year-old brothers were rescued through North Country Animal League. In their honor, a bluetick coonhound burger, topped with blue cheese, now graces the menu.
Norman and Stanley aren’t the only dogs who make Gracie’s a regular hangout — especially in September, when Stowe’s Mountaineer Inn hosts Camp Gone to the Dogs, a program for those who want to combine a vacation with canine quality time.
Archdeacon says his patio has hosted as many as 17 hounds at one meal — most of them well behaved. But when dogs can’t keep their voices down, he confides, he has a simple solution: threatening to put a baby at the next table. The loudmouth “[won’t] bark after that.”
Seems even dogs like to enjoy a good meal in peace.