Penny Cluse Cafe
- 169 Cherry Street, Burlington, VT, 05401
(Published in 7 Nights 2005-06)
You can get a basic breakfast at any one of Burlington's downtown diners. On weekends, brunch is served at finer establishments like Leunig's and Smokejacks. But only one "a.m." eatery does it all, every day until 3, for a clientele so devoted it's willing to wait up to an hour and a half for huevos rancheros. Or apple-bread French toast. Or baja fish tacos.
Whether it's for lunch, brunch or breakfast, a critical mass relies on one restaurant for a reason to get up in the morning. Both the bright- and the bleary-eyed find their way to Penny Cluse Café, which combines the down-hominess of a diner with the cool cuisine of a California café. For $1.50, you can get a bottomless retro-style cup of coffee or a glass of fresh-squeezed tangerine juice. The chicken-and-biscuits attracts a different kind of customer than the peanut-ginger-sauced "tofu scram" with home fries and corn muffins. All made on the premises, of course.
Generous helpings of black beans, avocado salsa and sour cream spice up the Southwestern-style dishes. The menu also says sí to Mexican-style chorizo sausage and grilled polenta. As for ambiance, Penny Cluse feels more Georgia O'Keeffe than Edward Hopper. Wood floors and colorful, art-adorned walls advance the subtle sunbelt theme. By sunset, owners Charles Reeves and Holly Cluse are back home on their own range, resting up for tomorrow's ranchero rush.