Critical potluck: Readers bring their own dish
Compiled byEveryone's a critic on the Seven Nights website. Readers can leave "comment cards" touting their favorite restaurants or warning others away from places they dislike. Even the highest-rated restaurants - on the website, it's a user-generated star ranking system - attract the occasional, fly-in-the-soup naysayer. It just goes to show that one person's "best ever" is another's "mediocre." Here we reprint some of the year's best controversies - self-appointed tastemakers are indicated by their chosen screen names. Bear in mind we can't - and don't - corroborate their dining experiences; nor have we corrected their grammar or spelling. Don't agree with the customer critics? Tell us about it. Add your feedback to the mix. 
That's Life Soup
41 Elm Street, Montpelier, 223-5333
Rated: 3 Stars
"Alchemilla" says: "The soup, French grilled sandwiches, and salads are all freshly made, and delicious! My favorites are the Caldo Verde, Portuguese kale soup, and the black bean soup . . . Very classy place - cloth tablecloths, handmade cloth napkins. The waitstaff are superb, as is the manager who adds so much to the wonderful atmosphere."
"Dippy" says: ". . . the service was so foul, I didn't get to try the soup . . . I have seen this soup place publish some of their recipes in 7 days, and I must say I wasn't impressed by the amount of flour they used. To me that's as bad as using MSG!"
(Editor's note: Seven Days has not published any recipes from That's Life Soup.)
115 Church Street, Burlington, 863-3759
Rated: 4 Stars
"Mcourcy" says: "This restaurant has to be one of the best Burlington has to offer . . . We always sit by the window and watch the action on Church Street. The delicious crab cakes, calamari, filets or Roasted Duck are to die for. They have a great wine selection and jazz band on the weekend. Their staff is genuine and friendly with icon Bob at the helm . . . Nothing compares or comes close!"
(Editor's note: Live music at Leunig's is Tuesday through Thursday, not on weekends.)
"johjoh prum" says: "I am so tired of hearing how great people think Leunigs is. Has no one out there ever had a truly great meal? I have been there on many occasions and while the location is phenomenal, the service is atrocious and the food is not anything exceptional. (Not to mention the small wine list). I bet if a truly fine French restaurant were to replace the Parisian farce that is Leunig's . . . people would wonder why they ever spent their money there."
Sean and Nora's
276 N. Main Street, Barre, 476-7326
Rated: 3 Stars
"Anonymous 346" says: "I love this restaurant, and everything about it. The menu selection is great, and the food is fresh and well prepared. I particularly like the salads, which I think are the best in the area. The servers are very pleasant and professional, although sometimes I think they are stretched a little thin and service suffers. The decor is terrific, especially the artwork and colors, a real comfortable feeling."
"Anonymous 351" says: "Mediocre food. Mediocre wine selection. Candles for some ambiance would be nice. Not a good place for couples on the weekend. Twice we got a terrible table. Very hectic. They need to replace the faucets in their bathrooms. For the water to run continuous you have to hold on to them with one hand. Impossible to wash your hands that way. The service was friendly but not knowledgeable about the menu and the wine selection."
25 Church Street, Burlington, 658-1323
Rated: 3 Stars
"Jessiej02" says: "I visit Adriana's once a week because I just can't get enough of the atmosphere and fantastic food. While the menus are eclectic, they are exciting and liven up the bland stereotypical food that is offered on almost every other restaurant on Church Street . . . Our dinner was fantastic!! Wonderfully fresh and properly dressed salads and great risotto. Our NY strip steaks were cooked to PERFECTION, the sides were really good, and the paella was the best I've ever had!! The negative responses I've read . . . are clearly from people who don't understand food."
"Whistle Reviews" says: ". . . The eggplant bruscetta had a nice olive tapenade, but was served on soggy bread, cold "grilled" eggplant, and a weak side of wilted mesclun greens that had seen more of the heat lamp than the bruscetta . . . Someone should remind the chef to remove the stickers off the vegetables before he cuts them next time. The curt manager offered a harissa couscous dish to make up for the error, but it was so spicy it felt more like it was his revenge instead. Usually, restaurants try to sweeten the deal after a mistake, but a dessert menu wasn't even offered. With all the glam and deceptive menu we expected more than a mediocre display of unrefined food."
A Single Pebble
133 Bank Street, Burlington, 865-5200
Rated: 5 Stars
"Gourmet Gal" says: "This is definitely not your typical Chinese restaurant. The food is incredibly fresh and creative. Everything I've tried on the menu (as well as the specials) have been outstanding. The dry-fried green beans, the red oil dumplings, and the mock eel are musts! The wine list has something for everyone, and the cocktails are delicious (and generous). You won't be disappointed."
"IanDean" says: "Maybe my expectations were too high from all the previous reviews on this place . . . maybe I caught them on a bad night. The ambiance and service were much better than the average Chinese food that could've came out of any greasy Chinese take-out place. I ordered the mushu shrimp . . . and I ended up taking two bites and throwing in the towel. Single pebble is an okay place. The food doesn't warrant the prices. I can walk into any Chinese take-out, put the food in a nice looking plate and lazy susan and it's comparable to what you get at this restaurant."
137 Route 15, Essex Junction, 872-9998
Rated: 4 Stars
"Debbie" says: "My husband and I eat here often since it is so reasonably priced. We have liked every dish we have tried but the Banh Xeo, a curried flavored crepe filled with shrimp, chicken, & pork, served on a bed of lettuce, cucumber and cilantro is superb. Freshest, tastiest Oriental food to be found anywhere. No heavy, sugary sauces to hide flavors."
"If it Wags" says: "The food reminds me a little of Vietnamese food, and I order it when I am really missing the real thing and can't get to Boston or Montreal. The soup I have tried was not good at all and I would not order that again. Their fresh spring rolls are really good . . . All in all, we get take out from here often, but I always feel a little disappointed because Vietnamese food can be so, so much better and is even my absolute favorite meal on earth - but not from here."
28 N. Main Street, St. Albans, 524-1405
Rated: 4 Stars
"Prof.Bill" says: "Recently dined at Chow Bella for the first time. What a find! Excellent service, varied menu with imaginative appetizers and entrees (The Pork medallions with red-pepper sauce were very tasty as was the house salad with the Maple vinaigrette dressing). Desserts are all made in house. Fresh, varied, and thoughtful presentation. Wait staff exceptional! A pleasant surprise!"
"Anonymous 145" says: "I had also heard fantastic things from locals about this place - I was somewhat disappointed. Had the veal dish and sauce was watered down. Wine list could have been great, but the first 3 wines we requested were sold out (disappointing!!) forcing us into a more expensive and less tasty bottle. Service a little over-excited too - waitress asked us 3 times if we were ready (all in a 5 minute time frame) and was quick to grab plates while we were still eating. Probably won't go back, as it was also a little pricey."
156 Church Street, Burlington, 658-1119
Rated: 4 Stars
"AroundBtown" says: "I love Smokejacks. It is a definite go-to for any meal. The brunch is great with an amazing selection of mimosas. Lunch also includes some great new fresh dishes and dinner is always beautifully done, perfect portion size, and great local fresh ingredients. The cheese list is always fun to experiment with especially with their great selection of wines. And if I'm ever in doubt about any dishes, I can always get the seared tuna salad which never disappoints . . . one of my favorite dishes in town! The waitstaff is always friendly and helpful and the ambiance is that of a trendy big city restaraunt without the pretentiousness."
"Ed" says: "Smokejacks used to be our favorite restaurant in town . . . Our plan was to have a couple drinks, apps, salads, bottle of wine with dinner, dessert, and coffee. We were in and out in 1 hour and 5 minutes. We finished our drinks and were never asked if we wanted another - the glasses were left on the table. Our salads were basically dumped on the table while still enjoying our cheese plate. The salad plates were actually used by the server to push the cheese plate aside. The $22 steak dish was worth $12 at a pub. My wife's polenta while looking pretty was devoid of taste. Bottom line: lame food and even lamer service. Not a mistake we will make again."