ST. ALBANS CITY — Downtown St. Albans is getting another restaurant. 

Shawn Careau is looking to open up Off the Rails at One Federal, at – you guessed it – the corner of Lake and Federal streets, 1 Federal St.

Featuring wood-fired American fusion food that incorporates Careau’s extensive experience preparing both domestic as well as international dishes, he’s scheduled to open his new restaurant in August after the space was closed for more than two years.

“It’s such a great spot,” he said. “The courtyard sold me.”

Some work still needs to be done at One Federal – most noticeably on the kitchen – to be able to get it up to par, but once it’s up-and-running, Careau said he’s hoping his menu will be able to bring something a little different to the culinary scene in St. Albans. 

Wood-fired foods are one such difference. He’s seen plenty of wood-fired pizza places, but the technique can also be used to add a little of that smoky taste to meats and flatbreads to elevate a dish.

As for the “fusion” part of his menu, it comes from mixing European heritages and international flavors into his dishes.

“I’m trying to take a lot of European influences – like Italian and French foods – and mixing them with more American foods. We’re a melting pot in this country,” he said.

Such items include Porcini Poutine, Baba Ganoush Flatbread, Pork Belly Pappardelle and an American Wagyu Burger, which will be offered alongside the more typical burgers and entrees.

He’s also looking to add a little more oomph to his plating techniques to show off the more artistic side of cooking. 

“Plating food is an art,” he said. “I’m excited to bring a different kind of plating to St. Albans, although I’m using a lot of the same foods that everybody else is using.”

The goal is to create a destination experience that can draw eaters from across the state and give visitors more reason to experience what St. Albans can offer, he said.

Looking to St. Albans

Careau had options to keep working in Burlington, but he wanted to open up something of his own closer to home. 

He and his family moved to St. Albans right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, and he said he’s since appreciated the small town feel of the place. He’ll now also have a quicker commute. 

Careau currently works as the general manager of the Vermont Taphouse and is the executive chef of Wow, That’s Good Food, LLC – a position he gained after spending his earlier career running kitchens for multiple Burlington-based eateries.

What he appreciates most about working in the kitchen is “the craziness.”

“Being able to be the guy to bail everything out and make it happen,” he explained. “You think: this wouldn’t have happened without me. Everybody looks like they’re going to cry, but we got through it.”

And he said he likes to provide a good dining experience that brings people together. In One Federal’s case, it’ll be the first time he’ll be able to craft that experience from the ground up.

He expects to tailor each of the space’s three rooms to provide something a little different for each. A bar/lounge area will be the least formal. The barrel room will be a more of a comfortable hangout area, and the grand room, he said, will be the most intimate of the three. To put it all together, he’s looking for wall hangings and art to create the right experience for each space. 

He’d also like to use the outdoor courtyard and stage space to eventually host local bands and musicians. 

“The place is set up as a historic space, and I want to pay homage to that. I hope to add some of that industrial vibe, but I want the place to feel comfortable, where people can hang out,” he said. 

City support

The move to open a new restaurant at One Federal has also received backing from the City of St. Albans, who offered Careau a private/public partnership as part of him signing a five-year lease for the space and providing monthly reports to the city.

He’s the fourth business owner opening up a business in the St. Albans downtown to sign such an agreement, which offers start-up capital via grants and loans paid from the city’s roughly $1.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The largest cost – moving the kitchen area – is expected to cost $180,000. Half of that amount is to be provided by the city with a grant. The rest is a loan provided by the city at 2% interest. Additional startup costs to be covered by the city include a $40,000 loan at 3%, a $75,000 line of credit and $5,000 for a new sign. 

(Editor's Note: This article was initially published in the May 11 edition of the St. Albans Messenger. It is going online now because of an earlier oversight.)

(1) comment

Jacqui C Hood

Welcome to St. Albans, Shawn. It is always nice to see new people invest their time and energy in our community and we wish you much success!

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