Generally, I don’t look for food at gas stations. Notable exceptions include saag paneer from Indian restaurant Rickie’s at South Barre Citgo — and, of course, fritos and sour candy to fuel long car journeys.
I recently discovered another dining destination adjacent to a decent pump – which I’m embarrassed to admit has been running for about five years just minutes from my home in South Burlington. In my defense, Vermont’s Tastee Grill occupies a low-rise brick building with yellow siding that’s tucked well behind the Sunoco pumps at 1041 Shelburne Road. And I especially avoid this part of the bustling and charmless artery.
But, based on my first order of a crispy, generously layered Reuben sandwich with a side of generously crunched house macaroni salad with fresh vegetables ($10.99), I’ll be cruising this stretch of road more frequently.
Early last Thursday afternoon, chef-owner Vick Miles flipped, fried and grilled regularly behind the counter. Almost all of the neatly handwritten items on the breakfast and lunch boards are ringing below the $12 Dining on a Dime threshold, and every order seemed to offer good value for money. At the top of my list to try next are the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich and the Philly Cheesesteak (each $10.99).
Miles knew most of the customers who stopped by – or maybe they all knew him. Turns out even I knew Miles. When we chatted later he told me he had cooked for 17 years at the Dutch Mill Family Restaurant a little further south on Shelburne Road. I had seen it at this equally simple, restaurant-style spot, a favorite breakfast destination when my kids were younger.
Miles, 64, earned a culinary degree in his native North Carolina and then a degree in hotel and restaurant management at Champlain College. He moved to Vermont in 1968. “I went back and forth between Burlington, North Carolina, and Burlington, Vermont,” Miles said. He opened Vermont’s Tastee Grill under a different name with a former business partner in 2017.
The chef proudly noted that he prepares and cooks almost everything from scratch, including the deep-tanned, fresh-cut fries and his smoked pulled pork. I’ll skip over the Southern specialties that Miles described to me, including pinto beans with ham hocks and collard greens and smothered pork chops — his childhood food.
A framed, undated newspaper article on the back wall of the restaurant tells the story of Miles’ mother, Mildred, a caterer who cooked for North Carolina prisons and hospitals. “Cooking is a way to show love and care,” Mildred told the reporter.
Miles credits his mother for his love of cooking. “I come from a family where food was important,” he said.