The Avocado Pit opens in Bennington

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BENNINGTON — For those needing to satisfy a taco or burrito craving, The Avocado Pit is open for business.

The fast-casual restaurant opened on South Street Monday morning, filling the space vacated by popular eatery Cilantro over the summer.

Reminiscent of Cilantro, the menu includes burritos, tacos and salads, with add-ons of avocado or extra meat for $2 each. The house-made Pit Sauce is advertised with "little kick" or "big kick," and the menu board also includes a daily taco deal, with two tacos and a soda or tea for $5.

Matt Willey, who owns Ramunto's Pizza, is partnering in the venture with Corey Mears, of Manchester; Carson Thurber, of Bennington; and Richard Craft, who manages Ramunto's and is serving as The Avocado Pit's owner-operator. Willey and Mears several years ago partnered to purchase Ramunto's, the Banner reported at the time.

Cilantro abruptly closed in August. Its owner, Cassidy Warren, told the Banner that he's "just not a two-restaurant owner" and wanted to focus on the restaurant's Manchester location, which remains open.

Half an hour before opening on Monday, several workers at The Avocado Pit prepared for an anticipated lunch rush, pouring sweet tea, making fresh chips and cutting limes.

It's been busy, but it's been going smoothly, Willey said.

"It's a little crazy today," he said. "We're anticipating it to be very busy today. Word-of-mouth, just seeing responses on Facebook."

The establishment's artwork — large paintings by Kim Wassick of things like a tomato, an ear of corn and, of course, an avocado — is new, but the white-painted brick walls and long benches remain familiar.

While stirring a vat of shredded pork, Craft said he thinks the spicy chicken will be very popular.

"Everything you see here was made fresh this morning," he said.

The anticipated crowd started lining up about 10 minutes before opening, and staff began taking orders just before the official opening time of 11:30 a.m. First in line was Valerie Sawin, who works nearby and came to pick up lunch for her office.

"I'm really passionate about my tacos, and my Mexican [food]," Sawin said. She was saddened to see Cilantro leave back in August, but she said, she's excited to have fresh, good food at this place.

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Several places behind Sawin in line stood Shannon Barsotti, community development director for the town, who said she is "very happy" to see similar food offerings come back in a different iteration.

"We're excited to see it brought back to life," she said. "You can tell it was a very popular spot. They just have the right recipes. It's fresh and fast, and it's very close."

Barsotti said she was a frequent patron of Cilantro as well.

Over 10 people waited in line just after 11:30 a.m.

Doug Ferrara works across the street from the establishment and, he said, he's been waiting for it to open.

"I like this type of food," he said. It can be quick, inexpensive and somewhat healthy, too, he said.

He said he anticipates being a frequent patron — "at least a few times a week."

The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., every day except Sunday.

Craft is optimistic that the establishment will be a success.

"I live right here in town," he said. "It's kind of my community, I think that helps a lot."

"It's just as fresh," Willey said of The Avocado Pit compared to Cilantro. "It's just as local."

The Avocado Pit doesn't have anything special planned for restaurant week, Craft said.

It's hard to come up with special items when you're building a menu, he said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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