We never would have found the place had it not been for the music. The three of us were on the last leg of a long drive, a little bit lost, and the dog needed a pit stop. It was the tail end of a travel day leading into a long weekend; the worries of real life had not yet sloughed off the back tires onto the backroads of Vermont. We stopped in an anonymous small town square for a quick walk.
There is a deepness of night in rural towns that us city-dwellers often forget about. Even with the paint-splattered stars above us, the darkness felt thick. It seemed to carry the cold over our skin, seeping through to our joints. There was a faint guitar rhythm wafting through the autumn air. Feeling punch-drunk and ready for our vacation to begin, we decided to find wherever it was coming from.
Just looking at the restaurant chased the chill off my body. It appeared almost out of nowhere across the train tracks, golden light oozing out like a warm grilled cheese. We found the band jamming under twinkle lights for Patagonia-clad Vermonters sipping beer on picnic table benches, their cloudy breath visible in the air. I’m sure we made a scene, whooping and laughing at our sudden discovery. It was just a burger joint, after all.
Inside, the chalkboard menu over the long wooden bar was full of local beers on tap. The dining room smelled of buttered brioche and beef tallow fries. We ordered at the counter, all grinning teeth and wide eyes. I think we even stopped to hug each other right there in the restaurant, triumphant.
The screened-in porch was heated with a woodstove. We sipped our beers and settled in for the last few songs from the concert outside. The shiny caramel coating of the brioche cracked to reveal a buttery cloud of bun, which melted into the burger itself, generously slathered with chipotle aioli and dressed with sweet-savory caramelized onions. With each bite we felt revived from the long day of travel, and one step further into this wonderland.
Despite being a few hours away from home, with its everyday obligations and routine, we had entered a new world altogether. Here, we were not just twenty-somethings struggling to negotiate flailing love lives, underpaying jobs, and our unknown futures. We were simply adventurers among friendly strangers, cozying up to the comfort of an unknown hearth. We had shed the chill from the night, warmed our fingers and toes, but there was another kind of warmth building between us. As the band broke down and the crowd dispersed, we eventually pried ourselves from our table, untied the dog, and re-entered the darkness to continue our journey, equally confused and euphoric that in getting lost, we had found a little bit of home.