Tucked away on the corner of Maple and Saint Paul St. exists an unassuming hotspot for Burlington’s hipsters and foodies. The Saint Paul St. Gastro Grub (founded in 2014) has built a reputation for quality nightlife within the city. While many bars are disappearing due to Covid-19 restrictions, The Gastro Grub is still busy despite no longer offering indoor dining.
The Gastro Grub seems to have amassed a cult following for its fried food and draft beers. Its Yelp page is studded with four and five-star reviews. Yelper Holly T. exclaims, “…I strongly recommend their fried chicken sandwich, it is unlike any I’ve ever had”(2020).
I went myself to see what all of the buzz was about, and since I was born in St Paul, Minnesota, to see if it lived up to the name. When I arrived, I was not sure if I was in the right place. The sparsely decorated wood paneling of the bar practically blends into the surroundings. There is no neon sign or flashy exterior to mark its existence. Instead, a collection of dim bulbs hang over a patio with a few picnic tables scattered about.
As I got closer, I noticed a window where a bartender perched to offer walkup service to a short line of thirsty neighbors. The hand-sharpied menu is boldly plastered on the walls and door offering a simple list of classic comfort foods like chicken wings, burgers, and notably a $4 corn dog. The prices for most of the other items fell around the $12 mark which can be pricey for a high schooler.-
Despite the cost, I ordered a feast: the chicken sandwich ($12) , fish sandwich ($12) , and cheeseburger ($13). After I ordered my food, I was pleasantly surprised by the expedient nature of the kitchen. Everything came out hot within ten minutes. On my way home, the aromatics of the freshly-fried food filled the car.
I started with the fish sandwich. The fish, like all of the other Gastro Grub sandwiches, came on a brioche bun which was lathered in tartar sauce and American cheese.
As I took my first bite I was reminded of my days working in the fast food circuit, where I would often eat a filet-o-fish on my breaks. The bite was familiar and enjoyable, but not a giant leap from anything I had made at B-Bops McDonald’s for a third of the price. Despite the British influence on the name, the Gastro Grub’s fish was underwhelming.
Next, I reached for a fry, something I used to make everyday at work and hold to a high standard. The fries met my expectations as they were freshly cut and cooked to a nice dark brown with a fluffy interior and crispy exterior.
The burger, again on a brioche bun, comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, house pickles, and cheddar cheese. The toppings were synergistic: the sweet ‘bread and butter’ pickles balanced the salty cheddar cheese while the tomato and lettuce added freshness and color. The patty was cooked medium, my preferred level for a burger.
Finally, and by far the most critically acclaimed entrée: the chicken sandwich. It comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a roasted garlic aioli. Now, I have run the gauntlet on chicken sandwiches, from Popeyes to Raising Canes, to Chick-fil-a, to McDonalds and Wendy’s, but I would have to agree with Holly T, “it is unlike any I’ve had.”
I am a self-proclaimed chicken-connoisseur. I often fry up chicken for family and friends using my own portable deep fryer and even have a recipe which has turned me into a bit of a chicken sandwich fundamentalist. A good fried chicken sandwich does not need more than a handful of bread and butter pickles, and a dab of mayo.
When I took my first bite, I was blown away with the flavors of the Gastro Grub variant. The garlic aioli was buttery and smooth, while the onion, lettuce, and tomato were refreshing and balanced creating an excellent flavor profile. The chicken was tender with a great crispy fry and a southern-style batter. It is truly a marvel how something so bad for my heart can make my heart feel so good.
After eating my entire chicken sandwich I noticed that next to it, untouched, were the truffle fries . My hopes were not very high based on the messy appearance– so with every expectation that I had been swindled out of $4, I took a bite of a thickly coated truffle-fry and abandoned my preconceived notions. The fries were sinfully delicious; there were plenty to share, but share I did not.
Fresh chives were scattered atop as a garnish for a bit of color, the earthy flavor of truffle oil combined with the fluffy texture of the parmesan created a symphony of bitter, salty, umami flavors. The fries deserve all of the credit given by online reviews.
I went to the St. Paul Gastro Grub with an empty stomach and left with an empty wallet. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The Saint Paul Street Gastro Grub is located at 205 Saint Paul St. and open from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. every day except Monday. To learn more visit their website: http://www.stpaulstgastrogrub.com/ or call to place an order at: (802) 540-8383