294 Mountain Road, Stowe
Sitting off to the side of Stowe’s scattered downtown, Doc Ponds is a welcome oasis of chill in a town that takes sometimes feels a touch too stodgy. With a laid-back, graffiti-hip-hop-punk-indie vibe, Doc Ponds takes its beer list and menu seriously without taking itself too seriously. It can be a fine line to walk in a town like Stowe, where the Boston Brahmin crowd still holds court, but somehow it all works in a way that doesn’t seem forced or fake.
It’s a granular-level attention to ambience and detail that the owners of the famous upscale restaurant, Hen of the Woods, are known for, but in the more relaxed setting of a ski town beer bar. There’s a turntable prominently displayed near the entrance, over which hangs a sizable library of great records. On my first visit, I heard (and might have sung along to) songs by The Beastie Boys, Black Star, and The Pixies, and for someone like myself whose esteem for an establishment increases along with the quality of its music selections, it made me feel at home. That’s a playlist I might have made.
The artwork on the walls is tasteful and playful (one wall features handmade snowboards), as are the cocktails, such as a Mezcal Toddy and a drink called Stoop Juice, made of vodka, radler, and lime. And the beer list, of course, is a veritable who’s who of Vermont’s best brews (with a smattering of choices from out-of-state craft breweries), from von Trapp to Zero Gravity. And I felt a jolt of hometown pride to see a sour by Astoria’s Singlecut among their well-curated beer list. These people know what’s up.
Oh, and the food is exactly what you’d expect from owners who are seeking to adapt their haut cuisine to a more chill clientele. Tamari roasted broccoli. Farro risotto with winter squash and beets. And a crispy chick pea dish whose recipe I’ve tried to mimic and have put into heavy rotation at home.