The river burbling from Lake Rescue runs south toward Okemo Mountain Resort, then arcs behind Ludlow’s Main Street. On the edge of that river stands a hostel, though you might not be able to tell from the outside. The pale yellow Victorian with deep-green shutters looks more like someone’s family home or a classic Vermont bed-and-breakfast than it does like a budget sleeping stop.
While hostels vary across the world, all build on the same basic model: travelers sharing low-cost housing. “Housing” typically means a bunk with clean sheets in a dormitory-style room plus free breakfast — which could be a full spread and coffee or a package of Weetabix and warm orange juice. Always integral to the hostel format, however, is the sense that you could not be anywhere but here — whether “here” is the side of a mountain in South America, the backstreet dregs of Prague or the banks of a shallow river in Ludlow.
Here in Southern Vermont, we have Stick Season, the season where the autumn leaves have fallen off all of the trees, leaving behind tons of sticks. Stick Season is considered to last until snow falls, and is a time when tourism doesn’t really exist here. We take this time to renovate, clean, and go on vacation before the winter season hits.
We will be closed from SUNDAY, OCTOBER 30 – WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 16.
WE WILL re-open with regular dinner/bar hours (Thurs.-Sun. 5-9pm) on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17.
Thanks for all of your support! We had a really fun Summer/Fall with everyone. See you November 17th!
Justin Hyjek and Eliza Greene are the young entrepreneurs (and bartenders) behind Homestyle Hostel – Ludlow’s downtown home-away-from-home for all types of travelers. Homestyle Hostel isn’t your average backpacking stayover – they offer a delicious locally sourced menu, inventive cocktail list, impressive beer selection and accommodations to meet any expectations. Nestled between Killington and Okemo, Ludlow offers both outdoor adventure for every season and a vibrant downtown – including one of Vermont’s most exciting restaurant scenes. We asked Justin and Eliza about their hometown, and what ‘homestyle’ means to them.
What makes Ludlow a special place to live and work?
Ludlow is a special place for Eliza and I because we grew up here. We returned to Ludlow after nearly ten years away in Colorado, Utah, New York, Oregon and South America to find that our hometown area had gone through significant positive changes. We were pleasantly surprised by the number of great spots to eat and, as we have become a part of the food scene by opening a bar and restaurant in the hostel, we have realized how cool it is to be part of a specific community in such a small town. We see the same lodging and restaurant guests frequently enough that we have been able to develop relationships with them, and we attribute this to the fact that Ludlow is a small enough town that people can be regulars everywhere. What we find most special about having opened a hostel in Ludlow is that this town seems to lure the same travelers back every weekend — it’s great to never have to really say goodbye to people.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Homestyle Hostel…
Our dream of Homestyle Hostel was born through our travels across South America, where we experienced every accommodation there was. It wasn’t long before we fell in love with the concept of the hostel – a basic yet intimate home away from home, with affordable food and lodging for all types of travelers. Inspired, we opened HH to offer this unique experience to people visiting our hometown. We did not open the hostel with the idea of having a restaurant that was open to the public. We built and designed our kitchen so that we could cook family style meals each night to bring our lodging guests together (max of 30 people eating each night). That quickly changed when our cocktail bar caught on with the public and people started requesting food. We’d had very little restaurant experience, but inevitably learned through tons of trial and error. Now, our badass chef turns out dinner for up to 90 people a night in our little kitchen.
I’m staying at Homestyle Hostel – what am I eating?
Hopefully, you’re eating one of everything. We keep a small, diverse menu that changes every season, and we serve all of our plates family-style, in the way that we send out one or two plates at a time, place them in the center of the table and let everyone get in on each dish. If you order the way we encourage,there’s constantly a new plate arriving at your table. An item that never leaves our menu: a heaping bowl of homemade pasta with different fixings, perfect for sharing with the table. Right now, the setup is homemade linguini with Black Watch Farms brisket, shiitake mushrooms, English peas, kale and squash ribbons in a rosemary cream.
Our chef, Alyssa Prouty, is a proud Weston, Vermont native. She has brought some serious culinary skills to the hostel, along with a laid back attitude and positive energy that makes this place go round.Before she came to the hostel, she worked for nearly a decade with her longtime friend Rogan Lecthaler of the Downtown Grocery. She joined us in January of 2016, and has turned this place into a foodie destination—lucky us!
What am I drinking?
What are you not drinking? We have a cocktail list that fully changes every season, with options for every spirit. We’re suckers for bourbon and gin. Aside from the booze and bitters, every ingredient in our cocktails is made in house. We geek out over syrups, puree’s, and egg drinks. My favorite new cocktail on the menu is the Do Wrong Right: Barr Hill Gin, Byrhh, cantaloupe puree, spiced burnt orange syrup, lemon, and sea salt. I’m a beer nerd and put lots of love into our beer list, too. We have four taps, 15+ canned craft beers, and a “Table Beer” menu of unique beers (like Backacre) in 720ml bottles. We encourage people to share these beers among their table. We also have wine. Red, white, rosé and bubbly.
Justin is the creator behind the menu and is usually the one behind the stick. Eliza is known to make an appearance on Justin’s nights off, and when the bar gets crazy, she jumps in and splits the tickets. We are consistently working on new recipes and ideas, so it’s a pretty collaborative thing.
What’s the vibe?
Our vibe is homestyle: such as would be made at home; simple and unpretentious. The feeling and look is clear that this was once a large home, and people seem to feel pretty at home when they’re here. We have a super eclectic clientele. From single young adults, to young families, couples, business travelers, and old grumpy men (kidding). The driveway is full of the newest Mercedes to the beater car that might die tomorrow. We have the best guests. They make this place what it is, and we can’t believe that we honestly haven’t gotten one turd in the punch bowl yet. Our luck has been plentiful, that’s for sure!
What’s your bar/kitchen philosophy? How do you choose your farm/food producer partners?
Our philosophy is that fresh is best. For a while, I wouldn’t even pre-squeeze my citrus for the bar, because I wanted everything to be that fresh. We believe in what we eat. We also like to support people with the same outlook. We generally choose our farm partners by the social connections we have with them. When we enjoy interactions with certain farm stands at the Farmer’s Market, we generally stick to using their product. We love Evening Song Farms and Black Watch Farms.
Describe a perfect day (off) for you in/around Ludlow?
The perfect day off right now: riding my motorcycle, skateboarding with friends at the Dorsey Skate Park in Ludlow, drinking good beers, and eating dinner at either Mojo’s, Stemwinder or the Downtown Grocery. In the winter, the perfect day off is always snowboarding and then hot-tubbing at The Castle in their amazing outdoor salt water hot tub.
What else would you like folks to know about your corner of Vermont?
Southern Vermont is amazing and so super genuine. For people looking for an authentic Vermont experience, Southern Vermont is the way to go.
We are so flattered to be featured on this week’s Cheddar and Gin blog! A huge thank you to Kelby, Rick and Kathy of Jackson House Inn – Woodstock, Vermont for including us on their list of people, businesses, and experiences that they consider the best in Vermont. Check it out, and subscribe to keep up with what Vermont is known for, and what it is becoming known for.
HOMESTYLE HOSTEL: A SERIES OF HAPPY ACCIDENTS
A hostel is something you’re not likely to expect in the depths of New England, and one popping up in the middle of Vermont undoubtedly comes about with strong intention. Such is the case with Justin Hyjek and Eliza Greene’s Homestyle Hostel on Ludlow’s Main Street, at the base of Okemo Mountain. What began as a communal lodging initiative naturally grew into a place to gather in various other ways – not only sleep, but to relish in the bounty of some really great food and killer libations. Knowing the quality of dining experience at Homestyle, the development of the hostel’s restaurant and bar piques our interest. According to Eliza, the evolution of this cool, multi-faceted vibe is attributable to a series of happy accidents.
As a guest, you walk into a place of affordable, cozy rooms. The renovated farmhouse consists of classic rooms,suites, and contemporary hostel bunks. Having now seen their business through four consecutive seasons, the couple noticed the bunks being especially popular with through-bikers, skiers, and even families. The option for guests to use the hostel’s spacious kitchen to cook their favorite meals or experiment with local ingredients makes this kind of lodging all the more homey. However, the opportunity for guests to meet new friends and share in new experiences embodies this hostel’s mission. Eliza and Justin do their due diligence as innkeepers in answering all the weary questions that foreseeably come their way. What is a hostel?“Our hostel is essentially an inn with two hostel-style dormitories, three inn-style private rooms, and one 6-person suite. What creates the hostel feel at HH is the abundance of shared spaces: our kitchen, dining room, lounges, and bathrooms … Our building is large enough for a great group setting or finding some quiet time for yourself.” Are hostels just for young people? “No. When hostels are located on backpacking travel routes in other countries, they tend to attract a young traveling crowd, because of their affordability, but there is always a vast mix of ages. At HH, we have the perfect setup for families and guests of all ages. We strive to keep a balance between fun and relaxation ….” Even as locals, we’re tempted to spend a night away in one of their crisp white bunks. After a deliciously filling meal and a couple cocktails, who wouldn’t contemplate this?
As a diner, the wraparound porch and minimalist modern atmosphere lend to a dining scene fit for a special occasion or casual night out. What we find most impressive is the crowd the restaurant attracts on a nightly basis. Sitting at a corner table next to the bar, we observe Eliza and Justin enthusiastically making their rounds in greeting each and every guest. The room is buzzing with children, grandparents, friends, and couples of all ages. A suit-clad businessman could easily be seen next to a leather jacket biker at the bar, along with two children drawing in their coloring books immediately behind them. The pull of this ultra-cool space is undoubtedly and impressively expansive**. So what makes this hostel so successful in its wide draw? Eliza and Justin, first and foremost.
This couple’s positive energy drives a palatable vibe of happiness and ease each time we walk into the hostel. They don warm smiles, even in the midst of a bustling dining room or full bar. This couple truly loves and believes in what they’ve built here. Predicated on their travels throughout South America, Eliza and Justin opened Homestyle in the very town where they were raised. Eliza recalls her father coming to visit as she was cooking (also earning her keep) at a treehouse hostel in Nicaragua. She worked exclusively with local ingredients she hiked up to the kitchen’s mountainside location – all to create these funky dishes to cultivate a beautifully harmonious atmosphere amongst the hostel’s guests. Taken with this communal scene, Eliza’s father urged her to establish a hostel at home. “Vermont needs something like this,” he said.
Eliza and Justin defined their business plan by its communal quality. The heart of their venture came first – the lodging. Together, they created a place in which guests could gather to share their experience of Vermont and beyond, all while hanging in the bunk room, shared kitchen, or outdoor space. Based on their South American hostel journeys and Justin’s innate knack for mixology, a bar seemed like a no-brainer for good hostel atmosphere. And as they say: “If you build it, they will come.” Guests and locals began congregating at the hostel’s bar. We say time and time again that it is difficult to find a quality cocktail joint in Central Vermont – and boy, have we found one. People are noticing, visitors and locals alike – most certainly for well executed cocktails, as well as the hostel’s laid-back ambiance. One exceptionally busy night embodied Justin’s “aha” moment. As the bar’s uber mixologist, he took a moment to reflect on the number of cocktails he cranked out that evening. Justin recalled putting his blood, sweat, and tears into at least 100 handcrafted drinks that night – the successful sign of hard effort, good fun, and a happening crowd in the hostel.
And when you drink, you most likely want to nosh. This is where the next happy accident, the restaurant, came into play. Eliza and Justin followed what organically developed from both their passions and visitors’ desires in deciding to add food to the hostel’s repertoire. The couple now have chef extraordinaire, Alyssa Prouty, manning the kitchen and dishing out some stellar food that we find incredibly impressive. In true HH fashion, plates are served family style and meant to be shared. From lodging, to cooking, to drinking, to eating, many facets of Homestyle Hostel are meant for communal gathering – a recurring theme that we find goes to the heart of our love of food and drinks.
Thus, a series of happy accidents have made the hostel what it is today…a place where you see a friendly face sitting on the porch with her pup, sipping on one of Justin’s nightly libations. We are greeted like old friends as soon as we enter the hostel and escorted to a table with a view of the entire place. An ornate fireplace (once hidden behind plaster) and warm wooden hues accompany red metal barstools and colorful local art on the dining room’s walls. Eliza and Justin’s refurbished horse trough bar pays homage to the home’s once farmhouse utility. Families with young children, a husband-son duo, and even babymooners join us in the dining room.
Cocktails are always our first choice, and we’re served a Dark & Smokey and Naked & Famous – both incredibly executed and delicious. We become accustomed to the happy sound of crushed ice and giddy chatter as we sip and take in the eclectic atmosphere. The night’s specials have us craving the farmer’s market toast with Earth and Sky peasant bread, house-made ricotta, golden beets, radish, English peas, and basil pesto – the assemblage of which is incredibly gorgeous, as well as light and fresh. The creamy and textural house ricotta made for the perfect base to highlight fresh and colorful produce. An order of deep fried calamari with Chinese five spice, cilantro, fine pepper slices, and lime was so pleasantly different with the side of Thai peanut dipping sauce Alyssa whipped up. A heartier dish of whole roasted trout, perfectly coupled with a carrot-ginger puree and sautéed chard, made for a ridiculously delectable combination. Layers of flavor and texture throughout Alyssa’s plates serve as a testament to her true talents, as well as a tell-tale sign that she is having a lot of fun back in the hostel kitchen.Another round of Justin’s labor of love bring about two more concoctions that, as we’ve come to expect, blow our minds.
It’s hard not to leave satisfied from Homestyle Hostel, with respect to both the food and company. Eliza and Justin dove into uncharted territory and have come out with an incredible place to revel in community and sharing. We can’t emphasize enough the value in driving from Woodstock to Ludlow to experience HH’s food, drinks, and atmosphere. Do yourself a favor … and visit before the word really gets out! Come gather for drinks Wednesday through Sunday and dinner Thursday through Sunday. HH also hosts BBQ & game night every Wednesday! Be sure to keep track of the hostel’s happenings through their Facebook and Instagram accounts as well!
Every Wednesday throughout the summer we host an outdoor Game Night that begins at 7pm and lasts until people want to go home. We have started a summer-long Jenga tournament sponsored by Harpoon, and each week we offer a variety of $3 Harpoon beers alongside our regular beer, wine and cocktail list. $10 BBQ plates are available from 7-8:30pm and the BBQ menu will change each week. Check our Facebook for updated menus! Our lovely and handsome host, Steve Kelley, will be here each and every Wednesday to referee games and ensure good times. This event is family friendly, so come on over! If you plan to come and eat with large parties, let us know ahead of time so that we don’t run out of BBQ! Don’t like what’s on our BBQ menu? Feel free to bring your own takeout or snacks.
Hello, gossip hounds. Justin and I have HAD IT, and we will be taking a Mud Season break from April 10th-May 25th. We couldn’t have had a better season with you all, and we are totally joking that we’ve had it. We actually can’t get enough of our guests — from the boozehounds to the curmudgeons — we genuinely have love for you all. Our last dinner service will be Saturday, April 9th (5:30-9pm) and we will re-open Thursday, May 26th with our regular bar and restaurant hours, Thursday through Sunday. We are Europe-bound and will hopefully bring back many good food/drink/hospitality ideas…. unless we indulge too much, then we’ll just hope to make it home with all of our belongings. Thank you all for keeping us here and for making our jobs the best. Keep in touch for details on our Hostelavista closing party after the 9th, and come visit us before we take off!