Hugo’s Bar & Grill will open at 118, rue Main in Montpellier in early 2022, Thomas Christophe Greene announced on social media on November 16. Author of six novels, Greene was founding president of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, an office from which he resigned after 13 years in July 2020.
In a phone interview, Greene described Hugo’s as “an affordable and accessible farm-to-table restaurant – think Closed [Tap & Grill] crossed with Leunig [Bistro & Café]. “It will occupy the basement and first floor of the 15,000 square foot three-story building, which is currently undergoing major renovations, he said. The top floor will open after the main restaurant as Upstairs at Hugo’s, a piano and a cocktail bar with a late night menu.
With 200 seats, Greene said Hugo’s would be the largest restaurant in the capital of Vermont. The building was previously occupied by NECI on Main, an educational restaurant for the now closed New England Culinary Institute. Before the pandemic, it also briefly housed NECI’s bakery-café, La Brioche.
Greene worked in many restaurants in his youth and has a serious interest in food and cooking, he said, but this is his first major foray into the hospitality industry.. After leaving his position at VCFA, he was looking for a new project.
“I knew writing wouldn’t be enough for me. I love the idea of building things,” said Greene, whose 2005 novel I’ll never be gone for a long time speaks of a restaurateur from a small town.
“It’s more of a vision of what Montpellier needs,” he continued, “to bring back a historic building that has been a restaurant since 1880, and [about making] a bet both on Montpellier and on what a post-pandemic world looks like. ”
The restaurant’s executive chef will be from Vermont Keith walker, who spent four years as a sous chef at Hen of the woods in Waterbury and most recently worked at the now closed Smith & Wollensky and Benedetto in the Boston area. Jana Markow, previously of Julio’s canteen and that of Sarducci in Montpellier, will be managing director.
The restaurant is named after Greene’s 100-pound red lab, Hugo. “Nobody loves food more than him,” Greene joked.