Updated: Mar 8, 2019
As I was looking through my emails still trying to market our new business—I stumbled upon a recent post by Eat Stowe about a new place that opened up. Ranch Camp, as it is called, seemed like a really cool place, they even had a fun slogan that perfectly summed up what they're all about—Bikes, Beers, & Burritos...Hey, we like all three of those things, so...LET'S GO!
We were already going to be on vacation in Stowe for a week, and after hearing about them, we decided to add Ranch Camp to our growing list of stops. It was a rainy/drizzly day in Stowe (of course), no biking for us today, but we were still intrigued and just had to check it out. We pulled up and parked in the lot behind the building. As we got out of the car and were about to head in we discovered a mountain bike trailhead (Cady Hill Forest) right across from the building. With over 6 miles of trails, Cady Hill Forest looks like a mountain biker's paradise. If you're more of a casual biker, you're in luck as Ranch Camp is relatively close to the 'Stowe Bike Path' that offers miles of gently rolling pathways through Stowe's downtown and countryside. With mountain biking trails on one side, roadside bike paths on the other—Ranch Camp has nailed it on the head with their location, which is no real surprise. “'The idea behind Ranch Camp was to create an anchor for the local riding community and beyond,' says Ryan Thibault, one of the shop’s co-owners. 'We wanted to build a hub where everyone can gather before and after rides for quality bike sales and service, fast-casual healthy food, and great beers.' The shop was founded and is co-owned by three dedicated mountain bikers, with Nate Freund and Evan Chismark rounding out the team. Evan, a champion of local trail stewardship and involved in the riding community of Stowe, is currently leading the charge as General Manager of the shop." [Cited from HERE]
The entrance itself was decorated with the bike lover in mind. Hanging up above was an antique bike that was worn and rusty, letting all know that this is a good resting place for bikes and riders alike. Looking towards your right there are hooks to hang up your
equipment and of course, bike racks for your trusty steed. Keeping in theme there are giant windmill looking flowers made from old bike wheels decorating the front porch. Warm lights strung across overhead engulfed the wooden entrance, welcoming us into this bike haven.
We walked in, and a very concise sign pointed you to where you wanted to go: Bikes, Beers, or Burritos. Each area was very well defined, broken up into three distinct spaces; a bar, a bike shop, and a 'cafe style' dining area. To the left was the bike shop and poking our heads through, the guy behind the counter smiled and greeted us while we were exploring. They primarily focused on the mountain biker (which makes sense being located in Stowe, VT), selling all sorts of equipment and gear from brands like Specialized, Ibis, Evil, and more. The bike shop is also fully equipped for repairs, and they even have plenty of bikes that you can rent and take out on the trails. Chris was like a kid in a candy shop since he's a Specialized bike owner himself—although not a mountain bike. But his love for biking in general always makes his eyes light up regardless. If you went straight ahead past the bike shop you'll come upon the bar (as the sign suggests). It is a seven-seat bar with six beers on drafts and a wide selection of bottles and cans with an emphasis on keeping it local. Most of the beer and cider they offer come from Vermont and some are even brewed just down the street. For other seating, there are three high-tops towards the right end of the bar and just outside a dining area overlooking Mountain Rd. with six four-tops and even a life-sized Jenga game!
As for the burrito part of this trifecta, the order counter is just past the bar and to the right. You order at the counter and they give you a number card to put on your table while you sit. Their menu had a little something for everyone, from salads & apps to
burritos & sandwiches. They had a nice sized kids' menu and even make it a point to cater to everyone's dietary needs, while making it fun and casual: "Special dietary needs? Just say the word broseph and we'll get you taken care of." This kind of humor is found all over the menu like their 'Murica Fries: "Fresh russet potatoes fried to perfection, house spiced with a sprinkle of this & that. Hand cut? Darn right they are." After looking over everything, we had to get a burrito, I mean come on. So we dove in and got ourselves the 'Percyrrito'. Dry rubbed and braised pork with black beans, brown basmati rice, apple & avocado guacamole, Pico de gallo, Vermont cheddar and a Maple Roja sauce. YUM! But the other burritos they offer sounded just as amazing. 'The Vermexico' with seasoned and grilled flank steak—or even the 'El Monte Verde Burrito' with house rubbled and smoked chicken! Ranch Camp also has TONS of vegetarian options (even though it's not me and Chris' cup of tea) they even a nice even mix of gluten-free options as well to satisfy every kind of hungry eater.
If we thought choosing something to eat was hard, deciding on a beer was nearly impossible! The amount of beer they have on draft and cans is unreal. Just about all of them are locally brewed beer, or pretty close to it. From Vermont, on tap, they had Upper Pass, Lost Nation (we did a post on them HERE), Burlington Beer Co., Fiddlehead, and Zero Gravity. With styles ranging from Pilsners to Goses. As for cans, they had over 30 beers and ciders! Even Stowe Cider! (Check out our last post on Stowe Cider HERE) Not one for glass pints? No problem, they got fives wines each for either the red or the white wine drinker. For a place that prides themselves on good local beer, they sure do have a little something for everyone.
We had checked out the bike shop and we had some great local beers. The space was very cool, lots of warm wood throughout the whole space. With a perfect view, perched upon a hilltop—I got to say, Ranch Camp is pretty sweet. But one question still remains—how did the food taste? Well, let's just say we'll be biking back for more! The dry-rubbed braised pork melted in my mouth and the apple & avocado guacamole all paired so nicely that no flavor overpowered the last—we kept fighting over eating it. Who would take the next bite? (Since we were sharing—let me tell you, I did not want to share.) Finally, Chris (being the gentleman that he is) gave me the last bite....then got himself a turkey wrap! Once again they dry-rubbed the meat, this time smoking the turkey. Filled with the turkey, bacon, VT cheddar, spinach, garlic roasted tomato, red onion, and a cranberry vinaigrette, this wrap was phenomenal. The smoked turkey was so flavorful, and together with the cheddar and bacon—I think I saw Chris' knees buckle. Ranch Camp also makes their own hot sauces, a Maple Verde, and a Maple Roja. The Maple Roja sauce (house-made) was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Meaning I can taste some of that sweetness when I bite into the burrito, but just a hint. When I had that sauce by itself, it had a whole different flavor (but still amazing). This sauce on Chris' turkey wrap amplified the sweetness from the cranberry vinaigrette, and then really gave it so much more depth with a spicy kick. The Maple Verde sauce was just as amazing, but I think this one is my favorite. It's spicy, but not up in your face kind of spicy. It had more of a slow burn quality to it that lingered—even on the 5th or 6th bite. It was almost like magic, and it was also an extremely consistent flavor every time I bit into this heavenly sauce. What makes a great burrito, in my opinion, is the sauce that's paired with it, and Ranch Camp's house-made sauces were impeccably made with such high quality.
As we were chewing and chatting about Ranch Camp, we noticed that some actual bikers were braving the rain, and heading up the hill. A few of them however...took a little longer. With their arms fully outstretched pushing their bike, head hung low, swinging between their shoulders with each exhausted step...Chris' heart ached for them, he's been there too. Panting, soaked, and shakey they finally rested their bikes on the racks outside and made their way in. One guy that looked like he had the worst of it flopped down on a couch in the small 'lounge space' across from the bar. Just as he sat up, his buddy handed him a beer and I saw the look of exhaustion on his face melt away into relief. He made it! Now there's a beer and a nice fat burrito with his name on it. I observed, (maybe even ignoring Chris at times..) the bikers slowly coming in one by one. Each talking about the trail they were just on, or their new build. The clinking of cold local pints filling the air, everyone engrossed in conversation—yep, this is the place to be.
As we were leaving, Chris, again, was looking at their products wondering if he should get this or that. He was as giddy as a school girl here at Ranch Camp. What are the things he loves the most? I mean sure, he loves his family, but also biking....and beer. And I know a lot of other people that feel the same way. They're some of the most down to earth people, and just always love having a good time. I think Ranch Camp was very aware of this demographic, and so they embraced that type of 'feel' in the space. If me and Chris lived in Stowe, (which we might one day, who knows.) I guarantee you Chris would be in there every day, either fueling up in the middle of his bike ride, getting a tune-up before his next ride, or just grabbing a couple of beers after work. This is the place to be. Even though I'm not a biker myself, this place makes me want to be one. Which to me, speaks volumes about Ranch Camp. To see a company that loves this activity, fully embraces that love and then opens a haven for that community to meet and grow in, it's soul-warming. Ranch Camp is newly opened, and they're doing a terrific job. Opening up a new establishment isn't easy, (I know it, I've been through it) but because they clearly had this one vision in mind and stuck to it—it all works so beautifully. Ranch Camp is Stowe's newest treasure, that is sure to become an inspiration for years to come. Not a biker? No problem, after having a beer and a burrito, you'll want to be.
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Ranch Camp Illustration
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