Penny Cluse Cafe, Burlington’s breakfast and lunch restaurant, will close
A renowned breakfast and lunch spot in Burlington — which has hosted hungry locals, curious visitors and U.S. heads of state — will close this fall after being open for nearly a quarter of a century.
The Penny Cluse Cafe hands out pancakes, huevos rancheros, omelettes and tacos from its intimate location at the corner of Cherry Street and South Winooski Avenue. Charles Reeves and Holly Cluse, husband and wife, opened the restaurant in the spring of 1998, when they were 31 years old.
The restaurant will close “sometime after Thanksgiving this year,” Reeves wrote to the Burlington Free Press in an email Tuesday. The closure of Penny Cluse has been first reported by Seven Days.
“We have been working on it for 25 years. We had an amazing trip,” Reeves wrote to the Free Press. “We are so grateful and feel such gratitude to the people of Burlington. At 56, I’m ready for a final chapter in my career and while I don’t know what it is yet, it’s time for us to move on from Penny Cluse.
He expressed his thanks to his ‘amazing and supportive team’, in particular longtime managers Maura O’Sullivan and Anastasia Evans. “We hope people will come and see us before they leave,” Reeves wrote.
In its heyday, Penny Cluse was the kind of place Yogi Berra must have been thinking of when he allegedly said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
Locals filled the place and often recommended Penny Cluse to their out-of-town friends. Touring musicians playing in and around Burlington often tell the public that they started their day in town with breakfast at a restaurant. Penny Cluse is famous as a must stop for any politician running for office or espousing a cause, the most famous being hosting then Vice President Joe Biden inside to enjoy blueberry pancakes in 2016.
Penny Cluse is the second restaurant in downtown Burlington that opened in the 20th century to announce its closure in late 2022. Fresh waterswhich anchored the corner of Church and College streets for 41 years, close after Labor Day weekend with the retirement of owner David Melincoff. Pascolo Ristorante will move from its location further north on Church Street into the Sweetwaters space.
Reeves said the adjacent Penny Cluse-affiliated restaurant, Lucky Next Door, “is leased to another business.” He did not provide additional details.
The past few years have been difficult for Penny Cluse Café and all restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeves wrote in an email to the Free Press last fall on the challenges he and other Burlington restaurant owners have faced since the pandemic upended life, including a lack of people seeking restaurant jobs and growing concerns about downtown safety and cleanliness.
“The thing I mostly talk to other owners and managers about is burnout,” Reeves wrote last year. “We tried to stay afloat through it all, keeping our staff employed, providing an outlet for good food. It was really difficult.