The only reason I made a reservation at this restaurant is because the owner of another restaurant (Osteria Pane e Salute) stated in his website that if he had a choice of eating at another local restaurant, he'd choose the Barnard Inn Restaurant. I'll take a chef's recommendation any day so I called the Barnard Inn and made reservations over a month in advance. It turns out making reservations for the dining room is totally unnecessary.
The Barnard Inn is about 10 miles outside Woodstock, VT and is literally in the middle of nowhere! Our GPS system had trouble locating it and I had to slam on the brakes when the inn just popped up out of nowhere. We were one of the first diners to arrive and, not knowing where to go, we entered through the front doors and right into the dining room.
It's important to know that this restaurant is divided into 2 parts: the dining room and the tavern. The dining room is a more elegant setting with a price tag to match ($60-ish per person for a 3-course menu not including drinks). The tavern is located around the back of the inn and is on a first-come-first-served basis. The tavern is about half the size of the dining room but the locals know better than to eat in the dining room - the food served in the tavern is comparable to that of the dining room but the ambiance is more laid back. The catch is that if you don't get to the tavern before 7pm, you could be waiting a long time for a table to clear. The bar in the tavern isn't very big, either.
When my fiancee and I walked into the dining room, there wasn't even a hostess to greet us! I guess we were a bit early. When we did find one of the 2 waitresses working that night, she said that we were to be the only guests eating in the dining room! This means they had set up everything just for us! She told us we could sit wherever we pleased. Feeling awkward about having them keep an entire area open just for us, we offered to switch over to the tavern but she insisted we stay in the dining room since they had printed out menus that night just for us. So now we felt obliged to eat in the dining room and picked the best spot right between the crackling fireplace and the picturesque windows that allowed us to view the sunset over the snowy hills and that perfect Vermont scene.
At this point I was reeling at how unbelievably romantic this all was! I couldn't have planned a more romantic dinner and felt blown away by this red carpet treatment. The food was incredible. For the appetizer I had the Grav Lox and my fiancee the Tomato Bisque. Both were incredible. For the main course I had the salmon and he had the gnocchi. Again, incredible. The whole dinner I kept smiling. And then I commented to my fiancee that this restaurant was so incredibly romantic it would be the perfect place for someone to propose. He agreed and, in a moment of utter spontaneity, proposed! He had actually planned to propose back at our bed and breakfast (The Village Inn at Woodstock) but changed his mind halfway through dinner because the dinner was just too perfect and romantic.
So as you can see, I'm incredibly biased in loving the Barnard Inn because such a momentous occasion took place here. But the food was also top notch. The bill ended up coming to about $225ish (not sure if that included gratuity) but I can't imagine a more romantic setting. Had this restaurant been in a more metropolitan place, the price tag would have been double.
I want to go back to this restaurant again, just because it was sheer magic. Next time I'd try the tavern, because it can get lonely in the dining room! Make sure you're bringing a dinner guest that knows how to talk or else dinner will pass by slowly. The diners in the tavern seemed to be having a wonderful time (we could hear their laughter) and I've never seen a place more packed. Clearly this is the place to eat at when you're in that neck of the woods.
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