After Moonlight, in Vermont Comes Breakfast

Papa Pete's in Bennington, Vermont

November 2, 2022 (updated 6/25/23)

If the beginning of your day finds you in Bennington (or if you’re within driving distance), you should certainly not skip breakfast. You’ll enjoy good food at a reasonable price.

Of course, if you’ve put up an inn or B&B the night before, a hearty breakfast is part of the experience.

The South Shire Inn, for example, serves a full table d’hôte breakfast sourced from local farms from its scratch kitchen. The Four Chimneys lays on a full country breakfast in their sunlit dining room. Expect pure Vermont maple syrup on your pancakes. (Reservations required.)

You don’t have to stay at an inn, though, to get a good breakfast in Bennington. You could go straight to the Blue Benn, for instance. It’s an authentic Silk City, railway-car-style diner, and it’s been a presence on Route 7A half a mile north of the town center since the 1940s.

Blue Benn in Bennington Vermont.
The Blue Benn

The Monroe family took over in 1974 and made it famous for creative recipes, like the Garden Scramble and the Nutburger. An eclectic clientele, from Bennington College students to the local highway crew, mingles there in an egalitarian atmosphere.

The Benn had vegetarian options from its earliest days under chef Sonny Monroe. It’s the kind of place where you might see Gwyneth Paltrow dropping in for a morning bite during the Williamstown Theater Festival.

The word is that her favorite dish (who knew?) is the fried turkey sausage. Did she have to wait in the vestibule for a booth like anybody else? Of course!

Inside the Blue Benn in Bennington, Vermont.
Inside the Blue Benn

The six booths at the Benn do fill up, especially on weekends (patrons can proceed to the counter at any time if there are stools available) but it’s worth the wait if there is one.

No need to hurry: breakfast is served all day. Try the large and tasty breakfast burrito with a slice of coconut custard pie on the side and you won’t need lunch; in any case, doggie boxes are always available.

The town trembled when it seemed that the Benn might not reopen when Covid shut it down for an extended period and it became known that it was for sale. Fortunately, John Getchell, a Bennington College grad with experience in the food business and memories of the 80s stepped up to buy it, with the announced intention of keeping the menu and the atmosphere the same. Even the playlist on the table-top-two-plays-for-a-quarter jukeboxes hasn’t changed, and regular visitors to town will recognize familiar faces among the wait staff, too.

New book about the Blue Benn: Feeding the Soul of a Vermont Town.
Read the book: Sonny’s Blue Benn: Feeding the Soul of a Vermont town

One small improvement: the Benn now accepts credit cards. The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert bestowed a “small biz bump” on the diner last year on national TV (there’s a plaque in the corner), and a longtime patron subsidized a superb hardbound book on the Benn that appeared last month, loaded with interviews, photographs, and stories from the past 50 years. The transition of a town institution to a new owner is going well. See for yourself, and don’t forget to bring a couple of quarters.

The Benn is by no means the only breakfast in town. Each establishment has its own regulars, and they all welcome visitors.

Sunnyside Diner in Bennington, Vermont
Sunnyside Diner

Or, you could have eggs any way you like them, toast, sausage or bacon, and home fries at the Sunnyside Diner a block west of the Four Corners downtown. A wall with a lot of glass faces north, but the vibe inside is sunny, and the food is dependably good. There are comfortable booths as well as tables nearer the windows.

Next door, to the west, the Bennington Community Market offers breakfast all day, featuring popular items such as breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwices, and more.

Go east from the Four Corners and two breakfast (and all-day) spots lie on your left and right. There’s a small café at the back of Bringing You Vermont at 434 Main. The store itself stocks a range of Vermont-made products. The breakfast sandwich, with a baked egg, bacon, and Cabot cheddar on a Portuguese roll is especially good.

Across the street is The Angry Egg at 467 Main. Why is the egg angry? I didn’t ask. The waitresses seemed friendly. The quarters are spacious, the food fresh and hearty.

Love a Bagel in Bennington, Vermont
Love a Bagel

Like a bagel? How about Acai Bowls? Try The Local (which replaced Love A Bagel at 704 Main), with plenty of morning light to start your day. They also serve delicious baked goods and more.

Further east on Main/Route 9 (1104 Woodford Rd., past the junction with 279) you’ll find Papa Pete’s Café. “Last diner for 20 miles!” proclaims the sign outside. Inside, Cathy has been serving classic diner fare for 14 years. The giant pancake feeds a family. The “Vermosa” (cider and champagne) is popular in all seasons.

Inside of Papa Pete's in Bennington, Vermont
Papa Pete’s

Just looking for good coffee and something quick to take away? Try the Elm Street Market at 251 Elm or The Coffee Bar at 109 South St., right in the heart of town.

Moonlight is overrated. A fresh breakfast, a friendly server, and steam rising from your cup on a chilly Vermont morning, what could be better than that?

Pownal resident Phil Holland writes a monthly post for Vermont Begins Here.