Restaurants

It Pays to Visit Ransom Tavern, Now Serving Some of Vermont’s Best Pizza Inside an Artsy Inn

A young gallerist has opened a Brooklyn-cool restaurant to help reinvent her rural hometown.


A Neopolitan-style pizza at Ransom Tavern. / Courtesy photo

Filled with common-sense crunchy types who embrace progress—not to mention Bernie Sanders—I’ve occasionally referred to Vermont as “New England’s Brooklyn.” Now it has the pizza to prove it.

In this case, it’s the fantastic artisanal pies at the wood-swathed Ransom Tavern inside the historical Kedron Valley Inn, recently renovated for $2.5 million. The rumors that these Neapolitan-style slices now rank among the region’s best are true, I think, as I scarf down a sliver loaded with prosciutto, fennel sausage, capicola, and arugula (from the inn’s small but growing nearby farm, available for guest tours). In my other hand is an exceptional Cynar cocktail. In the corner, an indie-folk music trio, led by a strapping gent with a man bun, serenades a cool-looking crowd.

Heaven! And it’s the vision of 29-year-old co-proprietor Simran Johnston, who was born in South Woodstock (population: 456) and spent three years running a New York Times–noted art gallery in—where else?—Brooklyn (population: 2.6 million). Hungry for the simple life again, she recently returned home to dramatically transform not only the inn’s restaurant but also the neighboring South Woodstock Country Store, where lunch now includes avocado toast and shelves have sprouted CBD products. Johnston’s father, a successful real estate developer, purchased these and other struggling properties in recent years to reenergize the hamlet where his family has lived for decades. The goal? Bring younger, hipper crowds to the state with America’s third-highest median age.

Enter pizza, the ultimate people-pleaser. Johnston imported the oven from Italy and had the staff trained by nationally renowned Roberto Caporuscio, of New York City’s Kesté; he’s also U.S. president of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which sets international standards for the treasured style. The resulting crust, perfectly tender-cooked, bears toppings like ale-infused cheddar, grilled local apples, and drizzles of Vermont maple syrup. And those cocktails, which use beet greens and other farm finds for funky infusions? Stellar.

I could be in Brooklyn. I’m in Vermont. Even better.

The accommodations at Twin Farms. / Courtesy photo

Ransom Tavern
South Woodstock, Vermont
Miles from Boston: 145
802-457-1473, kedronvalleyinn.com.

STAY

For quaintness, the Federal-style, 1828-built Kedron Valley Inn (starting at $169 per night) can’t be beat. But for all-inclusive luxury, discover Twin Farms (starting at $1,500 per night). Half an hour north of Woodstock, the 300-acre estate includes freestanding cottages, fine dining, and activities such as croquet arranged by a dedicated concierge at your beck and call.

802-234-9999, twinfarms.com.

PLAY

Ransom Tavern names its spiciest pizza after Suicide Six, a nearby ski resort that just added a 6-mile mountain-biking park for the summer season to keep up with its famous trail network for downhill slope hounds.

802-457-6661, suicidesix.com.

The new Suicide Six bike park. / Photo by The Woodstock Inn & Resort

Read more about the Ultimate Five-Star Foodie Road Trip