Ken's Pizza and Pub: A Slice of Burlington's History

We sat down with the owners of Ken’s Pizza and Pub to explore the rich history and vibrant atmosphere of the oldest restaurant on the Church Street Marketplace. Ken’s Pizza and Pub has been a cherished local spot for decades, blending the warmth of a family-run business (for over 50 years!) with the inviting charm of a classic pub and pizzeria. Deb and Tom Miller, who have been at the helm since 1983, and their passion for food, community, and creating memorable experiences shines through in every slice and sip. Let's dive into their journey and discover what makes Ken’s Pizza and Pub a must-visit destination.

71 Church Street
Burlington, VT 05401

Store Hours:
Monday - Thursday: 11:30am - 10pm
Friday and Saturday: 11:30am - 11pm
Sunday: 12 - 10pm

Website: Ken's Pizza and Pub

Can you tell us a little bit about both yourselves and the story behind Ken’s Pizza and Pub?

(Tom) My parents first started it as a Pub in 1973. In 1980, Ken’s Pizza was added in the space next door, which has been in the Miller family since the 1950s. We went along with that for quite a few years. When Deb and I bought it in 2008 from my parents, we combined the two corporations, making it Ken’s Pizza and Pub. I have been here for 49 years. I started when I was 16, and that was in 1974.

) I came into the picture when we met in 1980 and got married in 1983. I came in and started working along with Tom. Tom’s mother, father, sister, and brother were all ready to leave or retire. I took over most of their jobs. So, we've been here running it pretty much ourselves since 1983 and purchased it in 2008. Our three children have been a major part of our continued success, along with our valued staff.

What about the Tiki Bar?!

(Tom) The Tiki Bar was developed in 2012 after McDonald’s left, and the back area was cleaned up. We decided it was a good idea to put a Tiki Bar out back. (Deb) We had three parking spaces out there, and we thought about putting tables out and said, “We've got to have a theme or something!” And Tom’s kind of a Tiki Bar freak.

(Tom) We are tropical kind of people! We go on cruises, we go to the islands, we go to Florida - so it just seemed like the right thing to do. (Deb) A good fit. Our friends thought we were nuts. It is fun to travel and find new decor for the Tiki Bar, and we plant all the flowers ourselves. (Tom) It's been a very successful 12 years for an alley in Burlington! Weather permitting, of course.

Have you made any major changes to the business since you took over?

(Deb) Until 2019, the kitchen was on the front left side of the restaurant. There used to be a jewelry store on Bank Street, then a record store, which we took over in 2019. We then moved our kitchen and Take-out to the Bank Street storefront. We opened up the other side of the bar, renovated the interior, and added 12 TV’s. That made it look a lot nicer!

Which side is better?

(Tom) You know, people are funny. Some people love the Ken's side, some the Pub side. It goes back to 1973 with me, the Pub side was first. I mean, that was their first. (Deb) We have customers who'll pick the exact same seat if they can. We do have a lot of regulars. (Tom) A lot of regular customers. Like Deb said, some prefer this side, especially since we did the renovation. It's more family-friendly on this side. That's more of the bar. But the same menu is everywhere.

What is your most popular dish ordered?

(Deb) It’s got to be pizza. (Tom) We sell a lot of pizza. Our Beef Taco Grande has been around since the 1970s, and when out-of-staters come to town, their first stop is for a Taco at Ken’s Pizza and Pub. Our homemade Caesar dressing is also very popular! We get many compliments on Tom’s homemade soups.

What's your favorite type of pizza?

(Deb) For me, pepperoni, green pepper, and onion. (Tom) I like it all. One of my favorite slices is the taco slice, which is taco beef, scallions, black olives, tomatoes, and melted Monterey Jack on top of the slice. It's awesome.

What do you think is the most popular pizza order here?

(Tom) Probably pepperoni. People like doing basic.

Any upcoming or new seasonal dishes or specials that you're excited to put out in the summertime?

(Deb) We have many Specials and come up with new ones all the time. Our Special Sheet changes weekly. Our Tropical Drink list changes every summer. We keep a lot of the old favorites, and we try to come up with a few new ones every year. People are always anxious to get into the Tiki Bar and try the new tropical drinks. (Tom) The Painkiller is the most popular tropical drink we have. People love it, but we also do frozen drinks—all kinds of fun drinks!

Can you get those at the Tiki Bar or inside Ken’s?

(Deb) Yes! Our menu is the same everywhere and the same with the drink list. Our menu is very large, and I think that's why people really love coming here because it pleases everybody. There’s something for everyone. (Tom) We have a sandwich called the Vermonter, which is probably our most popular sandwich. People also love the homemade Stromboli appetizer!

What do you both love about running your own small business?

(Deb) I think the regular customers. Our office is upstairs, and when I come down, I usually see many friends and regular customers to chat with. Everybody you know waves to you and knows your name. It's that kind of a place. With 28 bar Stools, it is easy to make new friends! (Tom) But we've also met a lot of people who are just tourists here and keep coming back, and we get to know them because they come back every year or every couple of years. So that's fun. (Deb) We have employees who met here, married, and now have children. When they come in, it's so fun to see. A lot of matches were made. Including our son and his wife.

I absolutely love it when former staff come back in to visit. Many now live out of state but will come in when visiting.

What is your favorite place to eat in Burlington?

(Deb) When we can escape work, we head to Trattoria Delia, EB Strong’s, or The Shanty. Those are our go-to places.

What's your favorite place to shop?

(Deb) Golden Hour is a great store - I love it there! And all the little boutiques. Harbour Thread, Whim, and Hatley. Actually, my favorite is Dear Lucy because of the shoes – I love shoes!

What do you love most about the Church Street Marketplace?

(Deb) I love that it is an attraction for tourists and locals alike. It is beautifully lit up throughout the year, bringing a warming ambiance. Pedestrians can casually walk up and down freely without worrying about cars. It is the best for people-watching while you enjoy lunch or dinner at our outdoor cafe!

Ken’s Pizza and Pub is more than just a place to grab a meal;
it's a slice of Burlington's history and a community hub where everyone knows your name. Whether you're a local regular or a visiting tourist, the welcoming atmosphere, delicious food, and unique Tiki Bar experience make it a standout destination. So next time you're on the Marketplace, make sure to stop by Ken’s Pizza and Pub. Enjoy a slice of their famous pizza, relax with a tropical drink, and become part of Ken’s family. You won't be disappointed!

Store Hours:
Thursday - Tuesday: 11:30am - 10pm
Closed Wednesdays

Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with our amazing Church Street Marketplace business owners. They are the heart of the Marketplace, and we're looking forward to sharing more of their stories. To read through previous blog posts, please click below.

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