Ludlow restaurant scene: a sale, a return, and some new faces

Mark Williams remembers working at Sam’s Steakhouse when he was 16 years old.

Williams, the owner of Mr. Darcy’s Bar & Grill next door, began his career at Sam’s. He worked there as a waiter and busboy. He continued working at Sam’s while he attended Castleton University. 

“I always thought it was a fascinating restaurant,” he said. “I just loved the quality of where Sam’s was going.” 

After college, Williams managed the former Panarello’s until he had the opportunity to purchase the building and open Mr. Darcy’s there in 2012, focusing on comfort food. Three years later, he opened the Chophouse on Pond Street in Ludlow, selling steaks and seafood.  

“I always wanted a steakhouse, but I couldn’t afford Sam’s at the time,” he said. 

Now, Williams is making Sam’s his own.

After being closed for a year, Sam’s Steakhouse is reopening at the end of this month. Williams purchased Sam’s on June 1 after he sold the Chophouse. 

“I want to bring something good back to the town,” he said. “There was a huge void here and nobody else would jump to the challenge.”
Williams is bringing back head chef Pat Norton, who had worked at Sam’s 13 years until it closed. Norton will serve the same menu he created when he started working at the restaurant. The popular salad bar will be back along with dry-aged steaks and seafood. Locally sourced meats will be available for specials.

“The beauty of Sam’s is that [the menu] is not that complicated,” Norton said. “It’s top quality ingredients cooked to perfection.” 

Norton and Williams have a history that stretches back to when Williams was 13 years old. They worked together at a restaurant in Rutland before they both started working at Sam’s.

Norton said they have a mutual respect.

“He just really gets the business out front and even in the kitchen,” said Norton. “He’s a good character. He’s always upbeat, he’s always in a good mood.”

While Mr. Darcy’s focuses on comfort food, such as hamburgers, Sam’s Steakhouse will focus on high-end food.

“Our menu at Darcy’s is really set up for the locals, whereas Sam’s is a little bit higher priced,” Williams said. “We’re both family-oriented.”

The Chophouse is also reopening under new owners as Du Jour VT.

Du Jour VT owners Desiree Guica and Peter Dickinson said they’ll serve an all American menu with pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches and entrees with a twist, Dickinson said.
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“We aspire to do between seven to 10 specials a week,” he said.

Dickinson has been in the restaurant business for 35 years. He formerly managed Lui Lui in West Lebanon, New Hampshire. He also ran Murdock’s on the Green in Cavendish.

This will be his first time owning his own restaurant. It’s also a first for Guica, who has 29 years of experience in the restaurant business. Her mother owns Cafe Delight in Ludlow.

“It’s fun and new and scary all at the same time,” Guica said.

Guica got her start at Cafe Delight and went on to run and design bars along the East Coast.

“It’s all about the people,” said Guica. “It’s making those connections.”

Guica was waiting for a liquor license to announce the opening date of Du Jour VT. 

Mr. Darcy’s is open 4 to 9 p.m. weeknights and 4 to 9:30 p.m. on weekends. Sam’s will be open 5 to 9 p.m. midweek and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


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