Op/Ed

Faith Gong: Beautiful Things: Haymaker Bun Co.

SOME OF THE Gong kids enjoying a recent breakfast at Haymaker Buns in Middlebury.
Photo by Faith Gong

The other day, an online newsletter to which I subscribe included a link to a blog post titled, “Eleven Adventures with my Teenage Girl.” Because I have more than one teenage girl, I clicked the link with interest — and immediately regretted it. This amazing mother wasn’t kidding when she called them “adventures:” She went hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking with her daughter. They took classes in leather bookbinding and aerial gymnastics, and went on a ghost walk. 

In contrast, I consider it an “adventure” when I leave the house to do anything with my kids other than driving them to and from their various activities. And my adventure of choice has nothing to do with hiking trails, rock faces, or trapezes, although those things sound like fun and active things a mom should do with her child — a better, braver, more energetic mom than I. My favorite adventure with my children is to take them to breakfast at Haymaker Bun Co. 

So, for the second installment of my series on the beautiful little things of Addison County, I am submitting an ode to Haymaker. 

Haymaker Bun Company was founded in 2017 by Caroline Corrente, and opened in its physical space, 7 Bakery Lane in Middlebury, in 2018. At first, the restaurant had two identities: It functioned as Haymaker Bun Company in the mornings, and as The Arcadian, an Italian restaurant run by Corrente’s husband, Matt, in the evenings. What the Correntes didn’t anticipate was that a global pandemic was looming. While I have fond memories of dining on delicious take-out pasta from The Arcadian during COVID-19 — part of our family’s attempt to support local businesses — The Arcadian ceased operating as a regular restaurant after the pandemic. (Although we’re still holding out hope, as Matt Corrente is now hosting wildly popular “pasta pop-ups” in the space.) 

Haymaker Bun Company seemed to come back stronger than ever post-pandemic. It’s become one of the few things that all five of my children can agree upon. So, although I have occasionally taken just one child to Haymaker for a “date,” more frequently I’m accompanied by a handful of Gonglings.

After entering Haymaker by ascending the flights of stairs from the street to the front door, you’re met by a long, L-shaped counter that includes the day’s baked offerings and the massive silver espresso machine. Often you’ll be greeted by Tim Franklin behind the counter; our family knew Tim before he started working at Haymaker, and it’s always nice to see his friendly face. 

The headline items at Haymaker are, of course, the buns. They’re about four inches in diameter, and a meal unto themselves (unless you’re one of my older kids, in which case two buns make a meal.) The OG Bun is a sticky cinnamon classic, and the other buns change regularly. It’s always a treat to see what’s on offer: There are always a couple of savory buns (ham & cheese, broccoli cheddar, and bacon, roasted squash, and gruyere were recent fillings) and sweet buns (often both a chocolate and fruity variety.) In addition to the buns, there’s a variety of other baked goods: muffins, coffee cakes, doughnuts, and cookies. When I’m at Haymaker with multiple children, it’s fun to order a selection and share. (Pro tip: Haymaker’s chocolate chip cookie, with enormous chips and just the right dusting of coarse sea salt, is the best around. They sell out quickly, so it always feels like a little victory when I can nab a few for our family.)

Over the past year, Haymaker expanded its food offerings to include a changing menu of lunch and brunch entrees. Since I’m generally happy with the bun selection, and since my company is often not inclined to wait patiently for plated meals, I’ve rarely tried the “real” food at Haymaker, but the few times I have it has been delicious. 

Now to the most important matter: coffee. Haymaker serves up strong, dark Brio Coffee, and a single mug is enough to get me through the day. Certain Gong children have taken an increasing interest in “fancy” coffee drinks, and Haymaker offers a seasonal selection of flavored lattes, mochas, and matcha that make us feel very fancy indeed. (The maple latte is a favorite.)

While I’m ordering and paying, my younger children like to run ahead to pick out our table. Haymaker has booths and small tables downstairs, seating upstairs in a loft that includes the coveted wrap-around banquette, and an outside deck for nice weather. Most of the tables have a view of my 4-year-old son’s favorite feature: the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out across Otter Creek to the train tracks and buildings on the opposite bank. Sometimes the creek is rushing past, full of the snowmelt flowing down the mountains. During hot spells the creek recedes to reveal table-like rocks. Occasionally a train passes, or there are cranes working on a building on Merchants Row. It’s enough to keep a preschooler content throughout a leisurely breakfast. 

Finding seating, even for a large family, is usually not a problem. There’s a steady trickle of customers most mornings, and some regular Middlebury College professors who use Haymaker as a satellite office in which to work and meet with students, but on weekdays it’s rarely packed. That all changes on Saturdays, when Middlebury College students and their visiting parents flock to Haymaker in droves, creating long lines and 45-minute waits for food. (Pro tip: Stick to the buns!) 

But on Saturdays, I’m almost never at Haymaker with my children; on Saturdays I’m usually there alone, on my lunch hour from working in the youth room at Ilsley Library. Haymaker is my go-to lunch hour haunt, except on the occasional weekend when the crowds have scooped up all the buns before noon. And that hour — a whole hour! — to sit quietly, drink coffee, eat a bun, and read or write (often this column) feels like an outrageous luxury. 

When we have out-of-town visitors, one of our favorite things to do is to use the online ordering on the Haymaker Bun website and treat our guests to a box full of local treats. You can place an order the day before, and your box will be waiting to be picked up when Haymaker opens. 

Still, my favorite moments at Haymaker are those shared with my children, when we adventure out of our regular routine and treat ourselves to delicious buns, fortifying coffee, a breathtaking view, and time together. Unlike last week’s topic, Tri-Valley Transit, Haymaker Bun is not free (baked goods run from $2.50-$5.75), but it seems a small price to pay for the beauty it brings to our community.

Haymaker Bun Company is open Monday — Friday from 7:30 am – 2:00 pm, and Saturday from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit director. She lives in Middlebury with her husband, five children, assorted chickens and ducks, one feisty cat, and two quirky dogs. In her “free time,” she writes for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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