This has been…a year. For everyone everywhere who is scraping their way through, we applaud you and we’re here with you. From navigating a pandemic that shook the foundations of the industry, to rising to the task of creating a more racially and socially equitable community, however small our imprint in that endeavor may be, we and the Bennington community and the world have had to pivot. And pivot again, and again. We are still on our heels and no one is really sure where they will land or quite what solid ground feels like anymore.
In July, we suffered a devastating loss. Our founder, stalwart leader and community advocate Bill Scully, died after a valiant struggle with cancer. This loss has ripple effects in our small hamlet that can’t be adequately processed in a time where our collectivity has been disrupted by disease. A grieving process stunted by the inability to gather, without opportunity to properly say goodbye. His gifts to our community, his wisdom, wit, and conviction echo in our hearts and have provided confidence in such shaken circumstance. With his voice in our ears, we continue to make the best decisions we can make, that we hope will make him proud and do right by the beloved institution he created.
PIVOTING IN THE TIME OF COVID
As March arrived, we grappled with the task of how to run a restaurant, to provide a service to the community without being a vector, keeping our staff and our customers as safe as possible. We closed for a full month to establish new protocols, ideal take-away menus, the right methods and manner of keeping everyone safe, happy, and fed. When we re-opened mid-April for curbside pickup we were blown away by the response. We felt missed and supported and it gave us such strength to continue on a path of doing the absolute best by the community come what may.
And “what may” did come. Our catering season usually runs from mid-May until late October. No one could have predicted nor planned for what this wedding season was going to look like. Many of us had fingers crossed that things might be looking back to normal when the sun returned after an unprecedented start to the year. But as May came closer, it became clearer that nothing was going to be quite the same. There was not going to be any such thing as “normal.” What did that mean for the hopeful lovebirds looking to start their new lives together in 2020? Many couples decided to postpone their weddings, opting to be together again with everyone they loved at a more predictable time. However, a few stayed the course, adapting their weddings to Vermont COVID-19 guidelines, embracing the strange yet memorable occasion. Brides in masks, socially distant wedding guest pods, hand sanitizer fountains (almost). With lean guest counts and an even leaner staff, we made the sweetest lemonade out of some pretty sour lemons. With a bare bones event calendar, our catering department found ways to make these COVID-19 weddings something truly special and the lovely couples and their guests stepped up to the plate with aplomb, humor, and grace.
With the warmer weather came the opportunity for outdoor seating on the patio behind The Lounge and we began to dip our foot back in to the idea of dine-in service. Hand sanitizers strategically placed in every corner, hands red from repeated washing and glove use, masks and 10 feet between tables, disposable everything, full and constant sanitizing, contact information for every diner. Everything takes just a little bit longer during COVID-19 table service and our guests were always gracious and patient. Happy to get a meal, happy to feel safe, and happy in a hidden gem of a location, this summer’s service, though odd and difficult at times, felt like a brief respite from the troubles of the outside world. We were able to host three different patio parties with live music and take-away picnics on the lawn, to let people enjoy each other’s company, to take a brief mental break from the absurdity and chaos of this year. We have the state of Vermont and their exemplary preventative action towards COVID-19 to thank for the little haven we were able to create here.
A PLAN FOR FALL/WINTER
Now as the Green Mountains turn bright yellow, auburn, deep red, and orange and the leaves begin to fall away, as flocks of Canada Geese squawk overhead and the morning frost blankets the still summer-green fields, we are faced with another opportunity to pivot, to do something we have not done before, to provide a service to the community and be a place of safe, heart-warming, and belly-filling gathering. Without the patio available, we are shifting all of our services into the larger yet cozy space of Pangaea Fine Dining. With more tables yet enough space to social distance, we can offer more indoor reservations throughout the winter, as well as our ever-popular curbside pickup. We are also expanding our hours and services. Pangaea and The Lounge have always been primarily dinner restaurants (with an occasional brunch here and there). But this fall/winter we are now offering a little bit of everything.
Starting October 20th, our hours shift. Tuesday through Saturday we begin offering a counter service style lunch, with items like paninis, build-your-own bowls, soups and salads, from 11am to 3pm. Then we return to our traditional dinner hours with table service from 4pm-9pm, offering The Lounge favorites as well as some Fine Dining specials. Curbside will be available for both services and we will be offering beer, wine, and cocktail specials. Many people seem intimidated by the physical space of Fine Dining. “Oh, it’s too fancy, too stuffy, I’m not dressed well enough, it’s too expensive…” but these statements couldn’t be further from the truth. The space itself is large, but somehow cozy, enveloping you with it’s warm red walls and quaint tin ceiling. Beyond that, we are making 1 Prospect Street a mash-up of both The Lounge and Fine Dining. We have set up curtains to divide the space in half, to provide privacy for our tastings with our Catering clients or anyone who would like to book a semi-private party, but also to make the space feel not quite as large (while still providing the space necessary for social-distanced dining). We will be filling the dining room with our Lounge tables as well as the couches, cozy chairs and chess table to create a more café-like vibe in preparation for our next big pivot on November 2nd.
Come November, we welcome Angelica and The Roasted Bean Espresso Bar to share our space and provide the delicious coffee we know every needs in the morning, along with the grand opening of Pangaea Patisserie, offering sweets, treats, baked goods, and just the right amount of positivity to send you on your way in the morning. The Roasted Bean + Patisserie will open at 8am and be available through the lunch hours until 3pm. Stay tuned here for an introductory interview with Angelica. If you’ve never had a coffee from her, you can find her at Nite Jars, next to Marigold’s until the switch. We recommend a Filthy Spiced Chai Latte (it’s the best we’ve ever had…anywhere).
NEW SERVICES AND HOURS
That is a lot of information, but here’s a recap for you: this week, The Lounge will be running its summer hours (2pm-7pm) for dine-in and curbside pickup from the dining room. Then starting October 20th, we begin our Lunch + Dinner hours: Tuesday-Saturday, Lunch from 11am-3pm and Dinner from 4pm-9pm. Then, starting November 2nd, you can also get all your coffee and pastry needs from 8am to 3pm. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Pangaea+The Lounge- a dream come true.
You can call (802) 442-7098 for a reservation or place an order for Curbside Pickup online (special tip, all online orders can receive an automatic 10% off with the discount code fleener1).
Again, we are so grateful to the community for supporting and sticking with us and for giving us the opportunity to pivot and to grow, to our staff for rolling with the punches and helping us maintain a safe and fulfilling experience, and to Bill, for everything.