Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Flannels Bar & Grill’s new owners navigate hard times with great food

Avery Chipka and Hunter Pike

By Brooke Geery

Shortly after the permanent sign for Flannels Bar & Grill went up at 74 US-Route 4 in Mendon, the people who’d named the restaurant sold it to Avery Chipka and Hunter Pike. This wasn’t all that surprising — the location has changed hands several times over the years.

In the 60s it was a popular spot called The Christmas Turkey, before becoming Churchill’s for 22 years. After that a number of short-lived businesses including Huck Finn’s, Sharky’s, The Catamount Grill, Noel’s and The Tap House, tried and failed, before leaving the building to sit vacant for years. Then the previous owners bought the property and turned it into Flannels in September 2019.

This brings us to the current incarnation, which Chipka and Pike took over in Oct. 2020.

“We elected to keep the name Flannels because the location has been through so many names in the last 10 years,” Chipka said. “With all the businesses closing down due to Covid, we didn’t want the community seeing yet another location shut down. We have all seen enough locations close, it is time for us to start rebuilding from the struggles that the last year brought us.”

Chipka, who grew up in Wallingford, moved away from the Green Mountains and worked as a private chef for several years, before coming back home to  set up shop. He said buying the location came with a bit of nostalgia.

“As a kid my mother would take me to Churchills, so I have fond memories of the location,” he said. “Buying a restaurant was the next logical step in my culinary adventures.”

Chipka comes by his culinary roots honestly. His mother owns Sandy’s Books and Bakery in Rochester, and provides all the bread and baked goods for Flannels. They try to keep everything they serve as local as possible, and get together weekly to develop and taste potential specials. The regular menu includes a selection of customizable apps, sandwiches and burgers, as well as a great steak selection. Chipka said that’s getting beefed up, too.

“We are expanding our steak selection, which will now include bone-in ribeyes, NY strip, and filet mignon, all of which we cut in house, allowing us to sell larger cuts of steak at lower prices.”

Another change is earlier opening hours. Starting Thursday, Feb. 4, Flannels will begin serving at 11:30 a.m. largely to take advantage of snowmobile traffic from the adjacent VAST trails. Overall, things are going well for them.

“Covid and the restrictions associated with it has certainly made it a challenging time to get a restaurant off the ground, but our neighbors who have become regulars definitely make it worth it,” Chipka said. “ Our direct connection to the VAST Trail System makes it a perfect spot for snowmobilers to enjoy a meal and now that the trails have snow it’s great to see our parking lot full of sleds.”

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