Tip Top Café
- 85 North Main Street, White River Junction, VT, 05001
(Published in 7 Nights 2008-2009)
Anyone who thinks of White River Junction as a place to hop off the highway for a bathroom break and a quick burger hasn't been there lately. Over the past decade, the old railroad town at the intersection of interstates 89 and 91 has experienced a renaissance. A theater company, a cartoon-art school and a tapas bar have all taken up residence in this burg that's seeing better days.
The Tip Top building, an arts complex in the center of town, typifies the trend: It houses 40-some artists' studios, a gallery and the sophisticated Tip Top Café, which bills itself as "an upbeat American bistro." Contemporary decor, large white serving dishes and sleek, bullet-shaped salt and pepper shakers give it the feel of an urban museum café.
But here it's the chef's creativity that's on display, starting with Tip Top's starters: A pair of sea-monster-sized prawns with sweet 'n' tangy dipping sauce command attention, as does the grilled Caesar salad — long leaves of romaine with a hint of char, topped with crouton bits, dressing and Parmesan. Grill time imparts a tantalizing smoky flavor. For cocktails to wash it down, there's no better "Black Martini" in the Upper Valley.
Even Tip Top's traditional entrées have novel twists: Take the steak, seared dark on the outside but juicy rare within, served on a bed of mashed potatoes topped with crisp strips of fried leek and surrounded by a puddle of paprika-cream sauce. A glass of Syrah is a perfect complement.
Another clever concoction from Chef Eric Hartling: a Vermont version of risotto that blends the creamy rice with cheddar and strews it with bits of thick-cut bacon and tender cubes of butternut squash. A drizzle of apple-cider-reduction sauce sasses it up.
Are these destination dishes? Only one way to find out. Tip Top is proving that the "creative economy" tastes damn good.