There’s not a lot you can do in a day and a half, but here are some observations:
Amanouz Café has wonderful, authentic food. It’s low key, offbeat with great music. Had a great falafel pita and lamb kebab pita. Service is order at the counter and the prices are good for what you get.
Yellow Sofa Café has great selection of loose tea, fresh pastries and free wifi. This place is right next door to the Amanouz Café. Place wasn’t busy which doesn’t surprise me as there are many other similar cafes in downtown Northampton.
Esselon Café in Hadley (heading towards Amherst from NoHo) has friendly, excellent service. See the menu on the way in at the hostess stand then pay and order at the counter. I had loose tea served in a Chinese metal pot. The place looks wonderful inside (love the tin ceiling), though the atmosphere seems out of place due to it’s location. The place was packed. I must say the side salad was fresh and good, but the falafel tasted awful and the pita bordered on stale. The only good thing about it was the greens.
Baku's African Restaurant in Amherst was dead (dinnertime) when many of the other places in town seemed busy. The owner is a delightful woman whose specialty is a red-tomato-curry sauce (she sells by the jar), which is very good. The food here is good, though obviously precooked, then re-heated and a bit pricy (probably due to high rent). I liked this place.
Lhasa Café in Noho serves “authentic” Tibetan food. I tried the potato dumplings and chicken curry. The food wasn’t bad per-se, but I’ve had better and wouldn’t bother going back. They had a pretty good lunch deal at $6.50, but the rest of the menu was expensive.
We walked past the India House Restaurant on State Street and there was a terrible smell emanating from (what I assume) was the restaurant’s dumpster. You couldn’t pay me to eat in a place that smelled like an open grease trap outside. The only places that were busy for lunch were the Marketplace Café in Thornes Marketplace, the Green Bean across the street and the Haymarket Café. All the rest of the town eateries were slow as molasses.
Overall, I think Northampton and local area has suffered from over-gentrification. It’s a small ecosytem of liberal, like-minded hipsters (due to the universities) surrounded by rural New England rednecks and transplant yuppies. Northampton’s oversaturation of cafes reminds me of the t-shirt shops in Key West, (read: there’s too many of them). Haymarket is an excellent café that could be straight out of the East Village, but come on, this place is absurd with all the cafes. As for the “Dirty Truth” beer bar--give me a break--you’re just not that hip to not have signage outside: this is not NYC, Portland, or Seattle it’s Northampton, Mass.