Wife and husband open Filipino-inspired restaurant in Randolph

  • Bailey Masi-Wood, right, serves Robert Howard, left, and his wife Linda, middle, of Nobleboro, Maine, at Kuya’s at One Main, on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2022. The restaurant has been open in its current form in the former One Main space for about six weeks. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Chef Travis Burns, left, and his wife, bartender Patty Burns, right, of Randolph, go over reservations as they open their restaurant Kuya’s at One Main in Randolph, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. Patty Burns grew up in the Philippines and kuya is a Filipino term of endearment meaning older brother. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Patty Burns, of Randolph, pours a pomegranate sparkling cosmopolitan for a customer at Kuya’s at One Main in Randolph, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2022. Burns brought her bartending skills from San Francisco to her husband’s home town and is expanding the offerings at the former One Main bar. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Travis Burns, chef of Kuya’s at One Main, middle, goes over the specials for the evening of Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, with server Lisa Murawski, left, with sous chef Jack Woolfrey, right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/14/2022 1:24:39 PM
Modified: 11/14/2022 1:25:19 PM

In the Filipino language Tagalog, the word “kuya,” or “brother,” is a sign of respect, a mark of amiable connection that precedes a person’s name. Kuya is also the name of a recently opened Filipino-American restaurant in Randolph that is bringing the bright flavors of Asian fusion cooking, along with some favorite American standards, to Main Street.

Patty Burns, who runs Kuya at One Main with her chef husband Travis Burns, emigrated from the Philippines to the U.S. in 2006. She calls Filipino cooking a “melting pot of food cultures” that melds traditional Filipino fare with the cuisine of successive colonizers and other Asian cultures: Spanish, American, Japanese and Chinese.

In the winter of 2021, the couple opened Kuya’s Sandwiches & Kitchen on Main Street, a few doors down from their present location. But they had always wanted to run a restaurant where they could serve both lunch and sit-down dinner.

When the previous restaurant in that location, One Main Tap & Grill, closed in early September, its owners, Shane Neil and Josh Niebling, made an offer to the Burnses: Bring your business to the space, and expand on it.

Travis Burns, who grew up in Randolph and graduated from Randolph Union High School in 2008, knew from a fairly young age that cooking at a professional level was “what I was going to do.”

His first jobs working in restaurants were at Three Mountain Cafe in Waitsfield, which was owned by his father and stepmother; and at the Three Bean Cafe in Randolph. Patty Burns’s first restaurant job in the U.S. was working with a friend at a Filipino-American restaurant in San Francisco.

The couple met at an Italian restaurant in Alameda, California, where they worked side-by-side as bartenders. They stayed at the restaurant for about two years before leaving the Bay Area because they were sick of “the hustle and the overcrowding,” said Travis Burns. “We were looking for a different pace of life.”

Their next stop was Nashville, where they moved in January 2020, finding work as bar managers. Then, of course, COVID hit.

They moved to Vermont in the fall of 2020 with an eye to finding the right kind of situation for a restaurant. They looked at Montpelier before deciding to set down roots in Travis Burns’s hometown.

“I knew we needed only a small space,” said Patty Burns.

When the couple mentioned to friends, family and local businesspeople that they wanted to open a restaurant on Main Street, a frequent question was, “How are you going to survive in a town of 3,000?”

So far, though, the couple have found that if you build it, they will come.

The deal is straightforward, said Patty Burns. Their customers “exchange their hard-earned money for good food,” with a generous helping of genuine welcome.

Kuya now anchors the corner of Main Street and Merchant’s Row. In the last two years, Randolph has attracted attention as a place to find high-quality Asian food, including Thai restaurant Saap, which won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast, and a couple of Chinese restaurants, in addition to Kuya.

Diners are driving from as far as Burlington, Warren and Middlebury to eat such Asian specialties as Korean beef bulgogi, a rich assemblage of thin-sliced beef marinated in soy sauce, sesame, garlic, onion and ginger that is served with jasmine rice, sesame roasted broccoli and house-pickled ginger. Signature dishes also include lumpia, or Filipino fried pork or vegetable spring rolls; and liempo, pineapple BBQ marinated pork belly served with tomato and cucumber salad, steamed jasmine rice and crispy garlic.

Other dishes on the menu include an Asian noodle salad, made with Filipino canton noodles and a peanut dressing, and a Filipino banh mi, a spin on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Chicken wings are given a twist of Filipino pineapple BBQ flavor.

But, Kuya also dishes up burgers, fish tacos and crispy chicken parmesan for diners in the mood for well-prepared pub fare.

It’s not always easy to source Filipino ingredients, said Travis Burns. And stretched supply chains and slower deliveries because of COVID haven’t helped. But the kitchen has a stockpile of such Filipino staples as Datu Puti gluten-free soy sauce and vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha hot sauce, raisins, ground cashews and peanuts. They also use juice from the calamansi, a cross between a lime and an orange found throughout Southeast Asia.

The bar features cocktails that use such Vermont small-batch liquors as Barr Hill gin and Mad River rum and whiskey.

Customers so far have embraced the atmosphere and ethos that Kuya offers. They are curious about Filipino food and the Burnses are happy to share the story with them. “There’s a craving for something different,” said Patty Burns.

Her husband echoed her observation. “There’s a whole big world of food cultures that Americans have yet to taste.”

Kuya’s at One Main is also featuring jazz and blues performances by local and area musicians. Upcoming performances include the Clyde Stats Trio on Nov. 22. For further information and reservations, call 802-565-8037. You can also look at the restaurant’s Facebook page at facebook.com/kuyasvt., or follow them on Instagram.

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