Fairlee native returns to open a burger joint in his hometown

  • From left, Arthur Potry, of Orford, N.H., gives owner Matt Walker a thumbs up after finishing his meal while waitress Hayley Taylor, of Orford, talks to Ann Walker through the window at Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. The restaurant, which opened in May, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 4-8:30 p.m. or until they run out of food. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

  • Waitress Jessica Lund, of Bradford, Vt., picks up an order from the window at Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jessica Lund, center, of Bradford, Vt., carries a tray of food to customers seated outside at Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, and tables fill up quickly. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Ann Walker, right, works in the kitchen with her son Matt Walker, owner of Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Michelle Kubiec, left, and Tom Williams, both of Bradford, Vt., play pinball at Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. The pair were excited to see the retro machine and took turns playing while they waited for their food. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Ryan Hollister, right, of Bradford, Vt., hands a soft serve ice cream cone out the window at Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, Vt., on Friday, June 17, 2022. The restaurant rotates their available ice cream flavors, some of which have included strawberry, black sesame, matcha and Thai tea. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

For the Valley News
Published: 6/28/2022 8:43:29 PM
Modified: 6/29/2022 9:42:50 AM

It’s a simple formula for a restaurant: Offer a limited menu that consists of a few, well-crafted and expertly executed choices.

Matt Walker, owner of Broken Hearts Burger in Fairlee, has made this ethos the cornerstone of his business. The restaurant’s simplicity hasn’t slowed business at all. In fact, judging by the nightly crowds, it seems this pared-down concept has won Broken Hearts an adoring, and expanding, fan base.

Walker, 43, is a Fairlee native, and growing up around farms and vintage roadside spots helped shape his vision for his own restaurant.

“I’ve always been an avid home cook and food science reader,” he said. “At first, I didn’t think I would run the kitchen at Broken Hearts, but after developing the recipes, it felt impossible to let go. So here I am living out my restaurant fantasies.”

Walker began his career as a bartender and bar manager in venues such as Nitehawk Cinema and The Richardson in Brooklyn, N.Y., as well as Misery Loves Co., in Winooski, Vt. Working side-by-side with the kitchen staff in these venues sparked Walker’s curiosity.

“The chefs and cooks were the co-workers I admired most, and I always kind of dreamed of working in the kitchen,” he said. So he traded in his muddler for a spatula and embarked on his new venture.

When the pandemic thwarted his plans to open a restaurant in Burlington, Walker saw an opportunity to set up shop in his hometown. For decades, downtown Fairlee has had two main dining options: The Whippi Dip and the Fairlee Diner. Both spots are currently closed, though there’s an effort to reopen the diner. The void has begun to be filled by entrepreneurial foodies like Walker. Next door to Broken Hearts is Samurai Soul Food, which offers Asian-inspired comfort food.

Broken Hearts Burger is located at 192 Main St., just a stone’s throw from Interstate 91 exit 15. There are a handful of parking spots directly in front of the restaurant, as well as additional parking in the back of the building.

The pebble path that leads to the entrance and whitewashed building exterior impart a beachy, almost surf-shack atmosphere. Upon entering, the beer and food menus are displayed on classic black felt letter boards with curvy script. There’s also a stack of paper menus to peruse at the counter.

The interior space is clean and bright, with minimal decoration. A jukebox and a pinball machine offer entertainment and vintage charm. A rockabilly tune played in the background as I scanned the menu.

All of the details speak to classic Americana down to the white lattice that surrounds the outdoor dining area. Flower boxes brimming with abundant plantings line the outdoor space, as do benches that cater to the ice cream crowd.

On the subject of dessert, Broken Hearts has a seasonal selection of house-made soft serve and donuts.

“Everything is constantly changing with the ice cream and donuts, new flavors almost every day,” Walker added. Recent ice cream flavors have included strawberry, with berries from Four Corners Farm; Thai iced tea, which has made a reappearance due to its popularity last season; and a sweet and savory black sesame. Lychee, hibiscus, lemon and cherry are among some of this season’s featured donut flavors.

The Heartbreaker, Walker’s take on In-n-Out Burger’s Double Double, has been a menu favorite, he said.

“We grind our beef every day from a blend of chuck, brisket and short rib, and we just can’t keep up, selling out of burgers almost every night.”

Burgers and chicken are menu staples, but Broken Hearts continues to evolve. Within the confined framework is room for experimentation.

“We’re working on a wedge salad that we’ll put on the menu soon. Just classic-style with a big hunk of fresh iceberg, Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue cheese and North Country Smokehouse bacon; in-season tomatoes will make it perfect!”

For Walker, who constantly has his eye on the best local ingredients, the Upper Valley has been particularly fruitful.

“The proximity to great farms, produce and meat at reasonable prices is the obvious advantage,” he said. “We’re spoiled here. We can drive to pick up berries and stop by one of the farms we get our meat from if we want. Also the community here is just ready to embrace good, new businesses, which is very cool.”

Innovative restaurants aren’t only the province of metropolitan areas. In some ways, the demand for new food options has made off-the-beaten-path locales more hospitable to new restaurants than more populous areas.

“There are small places all over the country making some of the best food … maybe you’ve never heard about them, but if you know, you know.” Walker said.

The full menu and additional information can be found at www.brokenheartsburger.com

Eric Sutphin is a freelance writer. He lives in Plainfield.




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