Eat It Up
New restaurants are popping up everywhere in The Berkshires
Aura Whitman is partners with Richard Bourdon at the expanded Berkshire Mountain Bakery on Elm Street in Pittsfield, with new seating.
Photo by Megan Haley
Sit back with a local brew and fresh sausage on a warm baguette. As sauce drips through your fingers, you can watch the trees sway above you—upside-down. Food is deepening its roots in the Berkshires, and as ArtCountry invites visitors to get to know the northern half of the county, more restaurants are opening up.
As new chefs arrive, other familiar faces are returning in new locations.In Pittsfield, Aura Whitman expands Berkshire Mountain Bakery’s pizzeria and café.
“People have been asking for the last couple of years if I would do this again,” says Whitman, who ran a longtime Pittsfield gathering place, Café Reva, and then became chef of her own nAtURAlly catering at Berkshire Organics. This spring, she became partners at the Elm Street café with Richard Bourdon, baker and owner of Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic. She has known him for 20 years and used his sourdough breads in all her ventures.
Along with the menu, they are adding a new seating area with tables Bourdon made with wood from his own property, and comfortable chairs. But chiefly they focus on quality ingredients: serious bacon and organic ketchup, local produce, meats, dairy, and eggs.
Up at BrewHaha, owner Barry Garton smiles when he hears about the farm-to-table movement as a new phenomenon. He has been cooking that way since the 1970s—local and homestyle. “My focus in cooking has always been natural foods,” he says.
After almost 20 years on Marshall Street, across from MASS MoCA, he will re-open his well-known café in the West End Market on Route 2 in North Adams, bringing his signature muffins, fair-trade coffee and loose-leaf teas, old-fashioned diner meals and fresh vegetables, frittatas, omelettes, and salads to a larger historic space.
Garton bought the building in 2006 and has been rebuilding it over the years, just as he restored the silver train-car of the Miss Adams Diner in the 1980s. He and his family have a passion for older buildings and keeping history alive. The West End building is circa early-1900s, well-known for its art deco façade; his renovations give him twice the space he had, and the new kitchen is four times as large.
MASS MoCA is also giving new ways to refresh visitors and encourage them to slow down and spend a day in the sprawling galleries along the river and throughout its campus. Here’s a sampling:
AOK Barbecue comes to the museum’s courtyard with a new takeout restaurant created by Aaron and Alexandra Oster, who have designed AOK in collaboration with the Bright Ideas brewery. They will serve takeout in a family place with a menu that changes seasonally. Aaron is looking forward to house-made sausage, and Alexandra to baguettes and bagels, rye for Ruebens, and piecrust.
Bright Ideas also now serves pizzas, salads, and bar snacks by Crisp, an offshoot of Williamstown’s Hot Tomatoes, a local standby since the last century. The brewery has recently brought in Danny Sump, former brewer at Wicked Weed and Green Flash, as new head brewer.
In the inner courtyard, the Chalet will serve lunch along the Hoosic River, Friday to Sunday, and present live music on Thursday nights. A new food truck will serve comfort food as an offshoot of Bowlin’, a casual restaurant David York, owner of the new Museum of Dog, is planning to open in BrewHaHa’s former space on Marshall Street. And Tunnel City will serve coffee on the prow of Building 6, looking out over the fork in the river.
Beyond MASS MoCA, restaurants are debuting elsewhere in the county.
In Lenox, Wheatleigh has opened a new bistro/gastro pub. S/T—for Simple and Tasty—now serves a seasonal menu in a more informal (and less expensive) style than their main restaurant. S/T offers a menu built around flexible options, making it easy to assemble a meal of starters or order family style and share. Their three- and four-course dinners remain in the glassed-in Portico, and their Forbes five-star and AAA five-diamond chef, Jeffrey Thompson, runs both places. The lounge also opens for drinks, snacks, and light meals.
In Great Barrington, Chef Luis Zambrano leads a classic Steakhouse at No10 on Castle Street beside the Mahaiwe. Dolla Pizzereia Neapolitana offers thin-crust pies in a brick oven around the corner from the 20 Railroad Public House. Dolla belongs to 20 Railroad Public House’s co-owners: Benjamin Downing and Laura Shack, who is also behind Firefly in Lenox.
Chef James “Jim” Massey, formerly executive chef of Canyon Ranch, recently opened Field and Cellar at Thornewood Inn. The restaurant concept is contemporary American meets local and Native, a tribute to his farming and Native American heritage.
In North Adams, the Trail House has opened near the Appalachian Trail, on Route 2 across from the incoming Tourists luxury motel (with and plans for its own new restaurant to open in 2019 with James Beard Award–winning Chef Cortney Burns).
In Williamstown, Downtown Casa Lina has just opened on Water Street. On Spring Street, Lickety Split now scoops Herrell’s ice cream in their new shop beside the Spring Street Market, set to expand by late June with seating and a second kitchen space that will allow more baking, including homemade bread for sandwiches, says owner Karen Gosselin. The Log, the Williams College pub, has also re-opened under the care of Ramunto’s Brick Oven Pizza.
Across the street, in the new parking lot, the farmers market is bringing Mike Kelly and Shane Doolan’s new Cornucopia Food Truck and drawing in chefs Robin Lenz, from the long-lamented Robin’s Restaurant, and Cindy Nikitas, well-known from her years at Michaels Restaurant. Lenz turns local cheese into melting sandwiches, and Nikitas brings Greek pastries and hot dishes as Cindy’s Cookin’ Greek.