By Stephen Seitz and
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC
The Country Girl Diner in Chester may have changed hands, but the new owners are assuring their customers that further changes will be incremental and, then, only for the better.
Jess Holmes and Paul Frasca, who have been managing and cooking at the diner for several years, recently bought the restaurant from Thom and Kate Huntington, who in 2011 bought and refurbished the “Silk City” diner, which had been built in New Jersey around 1951 and moved from Jaffrey, N.H., in 1966.
On March 6, Kate Huntington posted on Facebook, “It is with great joy we announce that this afternoon, we officially handed the keys to The Country Girl over to our chef Paul Frasca, and his partner Jessica Holmes!” Huntington posted that she and her husband were moving back to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
In a recent interview, Frasca touted his house-made meat hashes such as corned beef and pulled pork, and added happily, “I make my own barbecue sauce.” Frasca also said that his specialty French toasts have really taken off with customers. Some are stuffed with pastry cream — “not too sweet,” he promises, and one includes a fresh banana cream. And then there is the coconut-crusted French toast, which is also an obvious point of pride for Frasca.
– Businesses for sale in Chester. See below –
Frasca said owning the diner had been a lifelong dream. “We talked about it for years,” he said. “Thom and Kate didn’t even advertise it. They came directly to us.”
Frasca and Holmes have well-established cooking chops. Frasca graduated from New Hampshire College Culinary Institute more than 30 years ago before heading out to work for “a lot of really talented people,” from the sun-baked climes of St. Thomas to shores of Lake George and the slopes of Okemo. Holmes is a self-taught baker who “created a good following at the GreenLeaf Cafe,” just down the street at 103 Artisans Gallery, Frasca said.
On a recent visit to the diner, retired photographer and Country Girl regular Rich Frutchey said he loves the apple pie. “I had five slices a couple of weeks back,” he said. “Jess makes a very special pie.”
“Rich is having me enter it in contests,” Holmes smiled.
“They have the best waitresses,” added Frutchey.
Frasca agrees. “We have the best staff. The girls are wonderful,” he said referring to his 12 employees. Frasca adds that one of the best things about his new venture is “I get to work with my family. My son (22-year-old Zachary) has been here for four years — as long as I have. He can run the place now. He cooks. He is my second-in-command. Zachary, Jess and me. We do it all.”
“One of the best things about the diner is I get to work with my family. My son (22-year-old Zachary) has been here for four years — as long as I have. He can run the place now. He cooks. He is my second-in-command. Zachary, Jess and me. We do it all.”
Country Girl Diner
When not at work, the couple, who live within walking distance of the diner, still love being in the kitchen. “Jess makes all kinds of great things,” Frasca said, recalling fondly a curried chicken with rice. He added, “And last night I grilled steaks and made salad. The one who doesn’t cook does the dishes. I don’t mind going home and cooking for everybody. I never get sick of it.”
Frasca said that even though he has never owned a business, “I don’t really see that it will be hard. It’s a turnkey operation. We don’t have to do anything different. We already have a local following. We just have to make it better, tweak it a bit here and there.”
Holmes said they have some ideas for down the road, but “there won’t be many changes. … Most of our customers are regulars. We see some people once or twice a day.” Frasca said he expects to get into some off-premises catering, with Holmes creating wedding and other specialty cakes. They also plan to open for Friday night dinners (5 to 8 p.m. starting on Memorial Day weekend) with dishes such as prime rib, pot roast, fish and chips and clam rolls. Frasca emphasizes that he makes his own bread, salad dressings and desserts. And they hope to add an ice cream window and a snack bar.
The Country Girl Diner, 46 VT Route 103, is opened seven days a week. Diner hours are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, which features an all-day breakfast, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving day. “Always here, with a smile,” says Frasca.
A sampling of commercial real estate for sale in Chester:
- The Free Range Restaurant, opened by Rick and Anne Paterno in August of 2014. They are asking $625,000 for the restaurant and its building, which includes a third floor apartment. The restaurant is located at 90 The Common.
- 103 Artisans Marketplace, built by artist-owners and Chester residents Elise and Payne Junker in 2007. The iconic barn-style building is on the market for $425,000. It’s located at 7 Pine View Drive at Route 103 South.
- The former VTica building, 15 Depot St., has a gallery with two bathrooms downstairs and two apartments upstairs. The price has just been dropped by $30,000 to $395,000.
- The former Chester Pharmacy building at 26 The Common is available for $299,900. It has retail on the first floor, apartments above and a two car garage.
- The building that houses Mountain Leather Design and a two bedroom apartment with an enclosed porch on the second floor at 94 The Common is for sale for $220,000.
- The building at the corner of School St. and the Common, that houses Vintage Vermont, eClipz Salon and Made to Move Pilates and two one bedroom apartments is on the market for $289,500.
About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.