Notable locals reveal their go-to eatieries
Dining out is a special occasion for many of us—and a culinary adventure worth exploring in the Berkshires. For those who return again and again to a particular restaurant, the draw may be the relaxed and intimate flavor, the warmth of the restaurateur, the exquisitely prepared dishes, or even the kid-friendly setting. We’ve asked some well-known faces for their favorite spots, and here’s what they have to say.
Comedian and author Alison Larkin
My favorite restaurant is the Riverbend Cafe [403 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington]. When I’m on the run, I’ll drink one of their Health Nut smoothies which stops me going without lunch on a busy day. It’s also a great place to write while you eat one of their amazing Reuben sandwiches because the chairs are comfy and the atmosphere is very relaxed. Plus, their Cold Buster stopped me getting a cold this winter while I was narrating Pride and Prejudice—the 200th anniversary audiobook edition. Just before recording week, I sensed a cold coming on. I drank a Cold Buster on my way to the studio each morning—it’s a delicious mix of hot oranges, beet, honey, and echinacea—and lo and behold, the hovering cold was busted before it had a chance to interrupt the recording schedule.
Actors Jayne Atkinson and Michael Gill
We love the Old Mill [53 Main St., Egremont] as our romantic night out—either to sit with bartender Adrienne in the bar by the fire or at “our” table that owner Terry Moore knows we love—always a hit. We also love Allium [44 Railroad St., Great Barrington]. Their kale salad is a main staple of our week. And the pork tacos, yummy hamburger—we sit in the bar area and it is intimate and yet we always see someone we know to have a hello. We also love Aroma [485 Main St., Great Barrington]. We have it every week. They know our voices, and we love them and their kids!
Theater director Tony Simotes
Shortly after I took over as artistic director for Shakespeare & Company, I was diagnosed with stage-three throat cancer. After six different surgical procedures and weeks of chemo and radiation, I couldn’t swallow anything, not even water. I had a feeding tube for ten months. My body literally forgot how to swallow. Then after months of rehabilitation and countless tests, I was ”cancer free,” as the medical community calls it, but I still couldn’t eat. Finally a spoonful of liquid. Then I conquered a soft-boiled egg, and that took almost an hour to eat. So you have no idea how difficult your simple questions are for me. Through all this, co-owner Aurelien Telle at Alta [34 Church St., Lenox] always kept up on my condition. He was the first restaurateur who said, “When you have that first meal, I want you to come here. Also I want you as my guest.” After more than a year, I finally was able to sit down in a public place to have my “first” meal. I still couldn’t eat well that night, but at least I could be in public and enjoy the simple pleasure of sharing a dinner with my lovely wife, Lucy. Aurelien and his staff prepared my dinner in a way I could finally enjoy. I still couldn’t drink thin liquids so no water, wine or coffee—that was still another year and another operation away—but it was Alta and Aurelien that promised me my first meal. I don’t think I could ever repay him for that generosity of spirit. He knew Lucy needed a night to enjoy being out with her husband. He made us the perfect meal with care and love.
Actor Karen Allen
The Old Inn on the Green [134 Hartsville-New Marlborough Rd., New Marlborough]. The atmosphere is so charming and romantic, and the food and wine are delicious. My son, Nick Browne, cooked under the wing of the wonderful Peter Platt for many years as a young chef and had an excellent start to his training and experience there. I used to meet two of my favorite people there, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who were old friends from film and theater projects we’d done together. They’d call me to come meet them when they were arriving at the inn, and we would have a fantastic meal and much laughter. They loved the restaurant and would even sneak away from Connecticut for a weekend and stay at the inn and eat in the restaurant. I have also often spent evenings there with Monterey and New Marlborough pals, and I continually work on getting other friends from Lenox and Stockbridge and Great Barrington to join us. I like sitting in the bar. I like James Stahl, the sommelier, to choose the wines. I love the duck, Peter’s fantastic chicken, the beet tarts as an appetizer, the lobster risotto, the wonderful relaxed quality of the place. I can’t wait to get back there.
Berkshire Museum director Van Shields
Peggy [wife, artist Peggy Rivers] and I used to own a restaurant so we are intrinsic critics, and I don’t use that term as a pejorative. There are several restaurants I appreciate, but there is one that stands out as neverdisappointing and that is Haven [8 Franklin St., Lenox]. Excellent-quality ingredients, consistently prepared to taste fantastic, and friendly ease of service coupled with the unreconstructed New Age vibe is hard to beat. The value is there, again and again.
Artist Tom Patti
Because we live a good driving distance from south county, we stay in the Pittsfield/Lenox area. In Pittsfield, Trattoria Rustica [27 McKay St.] for its romantic ambiance and Chef Davide’s authentic Italian food; La Fogata [770 Tyler St.] for Miguel’s Colombian specialties; Country Club of Pittsfield [639 South St.] for its friendliness, consistency of quality, and its beautiful setting overlooking the Berkshire Hills. In Lenox, Alta and Church Street Café [65 Church St.] for the wonderful hospitality and service, excellent fish dishes, and locally prepared foods. The Lenox Club [111 Yokun Ave.] for private parties—good food, the wonderful staff, and Chef Michael Roller’s great attention to details. Wheatleigh [11 Hawthorne Rd.] is where we take my dealer every year when he visits from France. There we can enjoy a leisurely, quiet dinner in beautiful surroundings.
Red Lion Inn Chef Brian Alberg
Allium. Chef Daire Rooney and owner Nancy Thomas are great friends and soulful. I feel that the staff, surroundings, and food project can’t be duplicated! Plus, my five-year-old daughter, Grace, loves the steamed buns with pork belly!
Author Simon Winchester
I have two: Bizalion’s—the perfect, unpretentious, no-nonsense, no-frills, French café, set down in a Great Barrington strip mall [684 Main St. #3] I have been going there since they first opened, and still they never fail me. I am an unashamed flaneur by nature, and for me, the perfect Saturday morning, before entering the scrum at Guido’s, is an hour spent at Bizalion’s, reading the paper over a double espresso, a croissant, and a glass of rough, red vin de pays. Only the Gitanes is missing. And in the evening, especially when there is a chill in the air—dinner beside the fire at Gedney Farm in New Marlborough [34 Hartsville-New Marlborough Rd.] It is the closest place to the gastronomic Sahara that is Sandisfield—and the food is always good, the staff wonderfully friendly, the atmosphere warm and cozy.
Folk singer Arlo Guthrie
The Dream Away [1342 County Rd., Becket] and little places we have gone forever when the kids were growing. Elizabeth’s in Pittsfield [1264 East St.]. I love Tom and Elizabeth. When Jackie and I had young kids, we went to Dream Away when Mama Frasca was there. We went there for decades. The wonderful thing about owner Daniel Osman and the others is that they have kept it the same. I like nook and cranny places, like the tavern at the Red Lion Inn [The Lion’s Den, 30 Main St., Stockbridge]. It’s always been there, and I feel connected to there. I always used to meet with Jack Fitzpatrick, former owner of the inn. It’s not just about the food in any of these places, although the food in all these places is great.