Revolution Kitchen’s “Good for You” Food
Revolution Kitchen, on Burlington’s Center Street between Daily Planet and Phoenix Books, is one of the few restaurant’s in Burlington featuring an all-vegetarian menu. Yes – one of the few restaurant’s in the Queen City to serve a meat free (and often a raw, dairy- and gluten-free) menu.
Debra Maisel and her husband and business partner, Peter Maisel, have been vegetarians for over 25 years, and this is the couple’s third vegetarian restaurant together.
“We opened our first restaurant, Baba Roots, in Portland, Oregon, in the early ’90s, before a vegetarian scene really existed anywhere,” says Debra. “At the time, vegetarian restaurants were hard to find—even in New York City—so we decided to open a vegetarian restaurant that was also macrobiotic. We were young, so it was all a fun learning experience.”
Deb and Peter opened their second restaurant together—another vegetarian spot, Luna 61—in the Hudson Valley and ran it for 18 years before deciding last year to pick up and move their home base and careers to Vermont.
“We were living in a tiny rural town a couple of hours north of New York City,” says Deb. “It was tough to make such a big change at our age (they are both in their 50s), but it was time. And we just went for it.”
Not only were Deb and Peter ready to trade in their pastoral surroundings for a more active, urban environment like Burlington, they wanted to be closer to their children, both of whom attended the University of Vermont. They had spent a lot of time in town over the previous 10 years, and their daughter, Chelsea, a nurse, still lives in town with her husband.“One day, I want to teach my grandkids to bake,” says Deb.
When I went to meet Deb and Peter and to see the space, Deb welcomed me with a slice of her famous chocolate-banana cream pie (which I devoured on the spot) and a bowl of water for my dog. She and Peter were warm and welcoming and seemed so comfortable in the restaurant and with one another. Peter, who has bright blue eyes and forearms covered in tattoos, finished food prep while fielding my questions. Deb, donning a sundress and Converse sneakers, proudly showed me around.
When I asked them how they have managed to work together and be married for most of their adult lives, Deb said that they do not bring the stress of work home.
“When I have to put up my hand and stop a conversation,” she says, “I do. And we move on.” She adds: “Plus, everything became a whole lot easier when we both realized who is boss.” Hint: It’s Deb! She was joking with me, but it is clear that whatever the specifics of their arrangement, it works.
“It’s gotten easier for us over the years,” says Deb.
The restaurant is simply decorated, comfortable and airy (with a slightly industrial-ish feel thanks to a big garage door that opens onto the street) and includes a blackboard near the bar up front showcasing a handful of their purveyors. They source from Arcana Farm and Half Pint Farm, Vermont Creamery, Vermont Soy and Lunaroma for the bathroom soap.
It was an hour before dinner service when I arrived, and the owners were impressively calm and articulate. The more time I spent with them, the clearer it became that they are seasoned restaurateurs. And these days, it’s really about serving their customers good food—good for you food, to be specific. This is the restaurant’s tagline, and it reflects the pair’s decades-long commitment to serving and preparing food that is local, fresh, meat-free and organic, when possible.
“Peter and I first decided to become vegetarians for mostly ethical reasons,” says Deb. “We loved animals, thus we did not want to eat them. Over the years—and as we’ve become more informed—we’ve put more of a focus on the environment. We realized that we cannot sustain a healthy earth with large-scale meat consumption and production.”
There’s also a personal health element. “Being vegetarians is cleaner and more conducive to living a longer, healthier life.” They are careful to keep their politics to themselves and they are not on-a-mission vegetarians looking to convert their customers.
Thankfully, being lifelong vegetarians does not mean a life without nachos. Deb loves Peter’s nachos. “They are vegan and divine,” she says. “We don’t make them with chips, but with wontons filled with house-made guacamole and covered in black beans, salsa and a cashew queso.”
These, along with anything Thai (Peter’s specialty), are the most popular items on the menu. Deb recommends the Prik King stir-fry—a delectable sauté of Japanese eggplant, cauliflower, red peppers, carrots and tofu in a spicy curry ginger sauce.
Deb was particularly excited about their take on ceviche—made with marinated mushrooms instead of the typical fish (the recipe follows). They work with a local forager, Motown Mushrooms, to source the most pristine fresh mushrooms. The current version includes oysters and shiitakes with crunchy carrots and red peppers in a bright dressing served with root chips. It is inventive, fresh and simple food that lives up to the restaurant’s “good for you” motto. I promise, you won’t miss the meat.
To find out more about Revolution Kitchen visit them online at RevolutionKitchen.com