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Updated North Berkshire Guide (Williamstown, North Adams...)


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Updated North Berkshire Guide (Williamstown, North Adams...)

professor chow | | Jul 18, 2007 11:00 AM

One year ago, I posted some suggestions for the the Northern Berkshires, where I live. Enough has changes since then, that it seems helpful to update it. My wager is that a fresh posting of the revised text is more helpful than adding a comment to the original ( My revisions reflect both openings and closings of restaurants and my responses to comments on last year's version. I've decided only to comment on places for which I have some enthusiasm. The list is pretty comprehensive in this regard for Williamstown and North Adams.

Recent, unfortunate closings: Gideons and Hickory Bills in North Adams.


"Fine Dining"

The best serious restaurants in the area are Mezze in Williamstown and the Grammercy Bistro in North Adams. (The also very fine Gideons has, alas, closed.)

Mezze has varied somewhat over the years depending on who is the chef, but the food has been constently excellent over the past two years--and I've had many dinners here during that time. Menu rotates so it is hard to recommend anything in particular, though this is a better place for meat (including poultry and fish) eaters than pure vegetarians--but in general, they do pork especially well. It's not really a place for mezze--there are assorted small portions and side dishes, but this is really a traditional main dish place and not a small plate restaurant--but it *is* a place for imaginative and well-prepared food. I guess you'd have to call it eclectic New American, since I'm finding I can't really comfortably place the food in a particular regional or ethnic tradition.

Grammercy Bistro
This has always been one of my favortite places around. Intimate, comfortable, unpretentious setting, though with recent expansion not as small as it was Good service. Another eclectic menu that is hard to classify (a French-style dish here, mussels in coconut milk there, vaguely Asian scallops, etc.). A year ago, I said the food was not quite as interesting as at Mezze or Gideon's, and this prompted some objections; in several visits over the past year, I agreed that I undersold the menu a bit. I might Jaestill give a slight edge to Mezze on the food, but Grammercy is probably an even more pleasant place to have a meal.

Other Good Bets
The pan-Asian JAE's (owned by the North Adams native who runs several similarly named places in Boston) HAS MOVED from North Adams to Williamstown, taking the place of the now defunct Le Jardin. The food is of consistently good quality. Best Sushi in the area, excellent appetizers; I also like the Korean dishes a lot. If you're looking for the kind of hardcour authentic food for which you'd scour Koreatown in Manhattan or the places in Queens (or fill in the blank for your favorite enclave for Chinese or Japanese food), you'll be disappointed. But if you take Jae's for what it is, you can have an excellent dinner.

Cafe Latino is at MASS MoCA in the former site of Eleven. Both menu and decor are different, and both are notable improvements. Cafe Latino is owned by the same people who own Mezze, and the chef, Omar, is that restaurant's original chef from its early glory days. The restaurant is well-named: this is culinary latinidad, not the food of one ethnicity or nation or province. I complained in the past about the Guacamole (about which, having lived in Latin America, I'm finicky); I swear it's improved since. If you're a beer Geek, you'll be disappointed in the very limited beer list, but the wine list and mixed drinks are much better. By far the best food, I think (at least for carnivores), is to be had in the various "family style" dishes that serve 2-4 people. Go with a decent sized group, order several of these dishes, and you'll have a great meal. Excellent patacones and the pulled pork sandwich are also highlights.

The oddly, but accurately, named Sushi Thai Garden, on Spring St. in Williamstown, serves respectable Thai food and pretty good Sushi. Very nice people, efficient service, reasonable prices. If you're from a big city with good food this won't blow you away, but it's way better than Asian food used to be in rural New England and its a mainstay for those of us who live here. Everything's a bit sweet, and the spicy dishes could be a bit spicier, but there also isn't a bad dish on the menu. I like the Gai grapaw (minced chicken with basil and chilis), and, on the lunch menu, the Pa; and if you like Pad Thai, it's actually unusually good here.

Spice Root, an Indian place next door to Thai Garden on Spring St., is also a solid, professional restaurant that is friendly, reasonable, and well-run and that is both better nothing to blow away someone from a city with a large Indian population and better than you might expect in rural New England. Great, fast, inexpensive lunch buffet, too.

Coyote Flaco opened recently. It's run by an Ecuadorian couple who (I believe) also own the several places of the same name in Connecticut. It opened this spring (06), and after a slightly rocky beginning with horrifically slow service, has hit a groove. The owners are personable and attentive. The permanent dishes are not surprising but all that we've had are good (Oaxacan style enchilladas are very popular with my family), and the specials, particulary the meat specials, are often very good, too. Tasty, and immense, Margaritas on offer as well.


I've not atttempted to review the--growing and increasingly interesting--restaurant scene in Pittsfield, mainly because there are a lot of places I've not visited, so this list is not systematic, but I wanted to note three places I'd highly recommmend:

La Fogata
A simple, unpretentious, delicious Columbian place (restaurant, store, and hub of the local Latino community) on the list. The aesthetics are basically those of a good diner; the food a lot beter than that. The owner is also a butcher and the meats are especially good.

Kim's Dragon
This place out on Route 20 several miles west of downtown Pittsfield, was always pretty good. Now it's a lot better. In 2005, the original owner's son took over. The new version is really terrific. Menu is small and not hugely diverse (no pho, e.g.), but everything I've had has been excellent. I recommend especially the vegetarian spring rolls (and this from one elsewhere always prefers the rolls for carnivores), the seafood and vegetable pancake, and the duck.

Opened in the past year, this very large but aesthetically pleasing restaurant on North St. offers New American food of a quality to rival Mezze and Grammercy. The menu emphasizes locally grown produce and meat. Only been once but everything we had was really first-rate. We'll be back. Others seem to agree. When we arrived to a near empty room for our early dinner, I couldn't imagine the place filled up very often; it was completely packed by the time we left. I hear that's typical.

Good lunch bets:

Helen's on Spring St. in Williamstown: excellent (but not inexpensive) sandwiches and a wide and shifting array of salads (tofu ginger, bean, Asian chicken, etc., etc., ) available to go or at a limited number of tables.

Both Thai Garden and Spice Root are quick and inexpensive for lunch.

Jack's is a famous hot dog stand in North Adams.


Weakest meal in the area. There simply is not a GREAT breakfast spot in the North Berkshires.

The Chef's Hat is probably the best bet in WIlliamstown. Typical breakfast diner. I like the place but it's not memorable. (If you want real maple syrup, remember to ask for it.


Miss Adams Diner in Adams has a bit more kitschy diner character, though the food is also not really special.

For an awesome diner breakfast, head up to the Blue Benn in Bennington, where you can have everything from the traditional stuff to assorted vegetarian and Mexican-inflected items. Real character, excellent food, and long waits for a table are all part of the experience.