Brewster River in it for the long haul

The Brewski on the Mountain Road in Jeffersonville has been a Smuggs staple for years. Under new ownership as The Brewster River Pub & Grill, they have plans to stick around for many more years.

Chef/Owner Billy Mossinghoff is no stranger to good food. He has worked at the Hearth and Candle, One Federal in St. Albans, and more. He and his wife Heather have teamed up with their friends Chris Ferguson and Allison Tafuri to revitalize the restaurant and do something they love; offering good food at a reasonable price, booking good music, and creating a great destination for good drinks and good times.

All four of them are equal partners, with 25 percent ownership in the company, and they each bring strengths to the table. Ferguson does the ordering and oversees the bar, with Heather’s help. She also does the advertising and books bands.

Billy Mossinghoff runs the kitchen and Tafuri does the books. Even though they all play individual roles, they all still have each others’ backs, ready to jump in with a hand whenever needed. Everyone helps each other out and they discuss any issues that arise and deal with them together.

Traditional pub fare entreés are offered, but with some fabulous additions. A mushroom and snow pea risotto with grilled chicken or shrimp is next to fish and chips with house cut fries and tasty house slaw on the menu.

If you want a burger, there are five different kinds, including the Black and Blue, the Vermonter, and the intriguing Godzilla, which has pastrami, house-smoked pulled pork, smoked bacon, pork roll, and a fried egg, piled atop a burger with pepper jack and cheddar melted on top.

Their menu also pays homage to their Pennsylvania and Jersey roots. An Ode to Pittsburgh is a sandwich piled high with hot pastrami, melted provolone and served on Italian bread. The Jersey Turnpike is a sandwich loaded with grilled pork roll, American cheese, a fried egg, and a hash brown, served on a local hard roll.

The specials board beckons with a soup du jour, like a southwestern chicken and black bean, appetizers, maybe mini beef tacos or fried pickles. Fried pickles?? You heard right, fried pickles. As an avid pickle lover, I was at first skeptical, then intrigued, and finally in love.

The Porky Pig is what I chose to satiate my appetite. Dry rubbed pork, smoked in-house and then braised, was dripping off a locally made roll and served with slaw and hand-cut fries. My dinner companion gorged himself on a Reuben stuffed with hot tender pastrami, sauerkraut, melted Swiss and Thousand Island dressing and served on marble rye. Deliciousness.

Also on the specials board are a flatbread of the day and a few entrees. Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, wild ramps, and red wine gravy for under $13 next to a quarter BBQ Chicken with fries and slaw for $8.95. If there’s one thing that keeps customers coming back, it’s usually good, inexpensive food.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment idea to open a place together, these two couples had talked about going into business together and opening a brewpub years ago, when the building next to Hanley’s in town was for sale. They had talked about it, but it required too much work and too much money out of pocket. So the idea was tabled for a while.

Then this opportunity arose. Heather Mossinghoff was working at the Brewski and had talked to then-owners Dale Cahill and Darcy Purinton about leasing the space. A few weeks later in late April, ironically, the day after shaking hands on the deal, the building caught fire. Luckily, the fire wasn’t that bad, and instead of a planned June reopening, renovations continued throughout the summer and they were able to open in early October 2011.

“This [opportunity] was a no-brainer. There wasn’t much overhead to get into it,” said Tafuri.

Many years of experience comprise this competent team. In addition to Billy Mossinghoff’s chef experience, Heather had managed Smuggs’ Mountain Grill for years, and she also had worked at the Inn at Essex. Tafuri began working at restaurants at 15 years old and has been involved in hospitality most of her life. Ferguson had been tending and managing bars both in New Jersey and here in Vermont for many years.

They have already started on the license to get a brewery started. Once they get it going, they plan to begin brewing craft beers in a 10-20 gallon system to start and hoping it will take off from there.

Heather Mossinghoff got a list of previous bands who had played from Dale and Darcy, also well-known local musicians, and when local bands heard the pub was reopening, they began calling up to get gigs. She and her husband also have connections to some bands from One Federal.

The food is not the only draw at Brewster River Pub & Grill, they have live music usually two or three days a week. Friday and Saturday entertainment can include local bands like The Aerolites, Red Hot Juba, and Conscious Roots. On April 7, their end-of season party was hosted by Johnson’s outlaw bluegrass band, Mud City Ramblers. They will reopen Thursday, May 3 after a well-deserved vacation. They are open seven days a week.

By making foods from scratch, using fresh and local ingredients, making prices affordable, and infusing it all with a love of what they are doing, people can taste the difference and will return over and over again.