Muy bueno: Bernie Adams brings his kitchen to North Main Street

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 1/20/10]

When deciding on where to get lunch in Rutland, one can often be paralyzed by the wealth of options. Seemingly, every flavor, style and cuisine is represented in some way.

While some people are diehard regulars, loyal to one or two places, others like to play the field, looking for variety and new tastes.

I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I have my staples, but I’m always looking for a new experience.

Enter Bueno’s: the newest lunchtime stop, located on North Main Street.

Opened in early November by Rutland native Bernie Adams, the restaurant features a menu that is a moveable feast of hearty, homemade comfort food that reflects Adams’ tastes.

Tucked in the back of North Main’s Southfork Plaza, just past Godnick’s, Bueno’s has an off the beaten path feel — if you blink, you’ve passed it, but if you find it, you feel like you’ve been let in on a local secret.

Indeed, Adams is relying heavily on word-of-mouth, which he acknowledges is often the most effective way to advertise in Rutland. As a onetime, longtime bartender at Muckenschnabel’s, Adams has built a large network of friends eager to spread the word.

The decision to open a restaurant came from his desire to work days and spend his evenings with his wife and two young daughters instead of being behind a bar.

While Mexican cuisine is represented on Bueno’s small but diverse menu, the name was actually one of Adams’ high school nicknames. (He attended Mount St. Joseph Academy.)

Beuno’s has the feel of stopping over to your friend’s house for a quick bite. Adams’ relaxed, inviting demeanor makes you feel at home almost immediately — as though you could help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge.

“It’s like my kitchen at home, but bigger,” Adams said.

Adams has always been at home in the kitchen preparing meals for family and friends. The menu reflects recipes he has learned from his mother — whom he cites as having a big influence on his cooking — as well as dishes he has adapted from television cooking shows and experimentation.

“I cook what I like,” he says of the menu, which varies from Texas-style chili and burritos to pot roast and shepherd’s pie.

Adam’s approach is simple, what he calls “one-pot, long-cooking meals” like pulled pork sandwiches and New England baked beans.

On a recent visit, I took Adams’ advice and went for the Texas chili and a pulled pork sandwich. Like Adams himself, the presentation is modest; Adams lets the food speak for itself.

The chili, spicy but not too hot, has a pleasantly acidic tinge from the tomatoes, and finishes sweetly with spoon-tender chunks of beef.

The pulled pork, served with crunchy-fresh coleslaw, is tangy and sweet — the meat practically melts into the Kaiser roll. I chose to heap the slaw, which pops with celery salt and slivers of red onion, right on top. The result was sloppy yet satisfying combination of flavors.

Now that Adams has settled in, he is working on getting his routine down, and tweaking his menu to reflect his and his customers’ varied tastes.

“I’m still learning my way around,” he said, adding that adapting his recipes for larger numbers has been a learning process. “The recipes are in my head so it’s a lot of improvisation, a handful of this, a pinch of that.”

Adams hopes to grow the business slowly, stay busy and keep people coming back. He plans on adding burgers soon, and expects to the menu to change and grow with the seasons. He’s also considering adding delivery to his current sit-down and takeout options.

As business steadily increases, Adams maintains his typical modesty saying, “I want people to find me, and hopefully they’ll like it.”

Bueno’s is located at 269 N. Main St. Hours are Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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