MANCHESTER — Pearl’s Place & Pantry in Manchester needs no introduction. Since Steve and Lauren Bryant opened their restaurant in late May, guests have been lining up at the door for some Southern cooking and hospitality.
“There is more demand than our ability to serve,” said co-owner Steve Bryant, who recommends making a reservation if you plan on visiting Pearl’s. He and his wife also own many other successful Vermont eateries, including the Dorset Inn, curATE at the Southern Vermont Arts Center and Publyk House in Bennington.
The restaurant, which can seat up to 107 guests when including seating on the landscaped patio, underwent major renovations before its grand opening.
The Bryants gutted the old Bistro Henry’s building to reconfigure the interior layout. New floors, new slate and metal roofing, new plumbing and electrical, and a new kitchen were added to the building.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Steve said.
Lauren Bryant, who graduated from the New York School of Interior Design, created the interior space, giving it clean lines and light, neutral colors. A mixture of old and new dinner plates hang on the walls throughout the restaurant, while old bird cages, painted an antique white, act as chandeliers in the back dining room.
To add to the atmosphere, Steve, who has Southern roots, always has country music playing throughout the restaurant.
Popular dishes at Pearl’s are fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, fried chicken and the house-smoked barbecue platter that includes your choice of up to five different smoked meats — turkey breast, St. Louis-style pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork and cheddar jalapeno sausage.
Chef Mike Bazan, a Texas native, said the secret to great barbecue is “low and slow.”
Bazan added it’s also important to find the right blend of woods when smoking meats because different woods give the meat different flavors. At Pearl’s, they smoke their meats with hickory and a mixture of fruit woods, like apple and cherry.
Chef John Stern, who has lived and cooked in restaurants in Florida, Texas and Georgia said, “Barbecue is a culture, a part of life, a tone, an atmosphere.”
Stern, with a personality that epitomizes Southern hospitality, said that when it comes to barbecue, “There are no customers. They’re all guests.”
In the bar, general manager Chris Wirt has created special recipes for the craft cocktails. A guest favorite includes the Sunday’s Best Old Fashioned, made with house barrel-aged bourbon, caramelized demerara syrup and bitters.
A spicy margarita and a pineapple margarita, made with blended, house barrel aged tequila, also top the list.
Beer taps are rotating but the variety remains the same — lagers, pilsners, ales, IPAs and seasonals — supplied from smaller Vermont breweries.
“Wherever we can make a local connection,” said Steve.
Keeping in line with a local mentality, inside the restaurant, the Bryants have opened a gourmet market. The market sells Vermont products like Dorset Daughters soaps and lotions, goat milk caramels, maple syrups and small batch granola.
Eventually, the Bryants will sell their own house-made sauces in the market.
Pearl’s Place & Pantry’s is open Thursday through Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. To look at their menu, go to pearlsplacevt.com. To make reservations, call 802-367-3098.