9 Reasons to Drive to the Berkshires

By Scott Kearnan  |  October 24, 2016
Credit: Courtesy of Eat on North

Whether looking to take in the final weeks of leaf peeping or planning a wintry getaway of fireside snuggling, the Berkshires of Western Mass are a perfect weekend getaway for both Bostonians and New Yorkers. The region also attracts an artsy community that takes food and drink seriously, with exceptional focus on fresh, local farm-raised ingredients. Here are some of the still-newish spots that should demand your attention on a trip west — plus some activity suggestions for your itinerary.

  • Credit: Camp Fire/Facebook

    Camp Fire
    The Meat Market, an artisanal nose-to-tail butcher with a cult burger following, has spawned this just-opened sibling and neighbor that focuses on straightforward farm-to-table eats: Imagine a Williamsburg diner in the heart of Western Mass mountains. Local sourcing guides a breakfast-through-dinner menu that includes sumac roast chicken, cider brined pork shop and a "vegan plate" of farm-fresh grains and veggies. Plus: more burgers.

    What to do: New England's northern states have the region's best-known ski resorts, but Ski Butternut is a solid pick in Great Barrington for intermediate skiers who want to stretch their quads on the slopes. 

    389 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington; 413-644-5559

  • Credit: Courtesy of Coco and the Cellar

    Coco and the Cellar Bar
    Earlier this year, this intimate, family-owned outfit (named for its owners' daughter) scored a big honor. Chef-owner Unmi Abkin received a James Beard nomination for Best Chef Northeast for a locally minded menu that is small but always-changing. It yields elegant, seasonal surprises like mushroom bourguignon and honey miso noodles with roasted chicken. Refined but unpretentious, Coco also concocts creative cocktails like the Bee's Elbows, a honey-splashed combo of bourbon and pink grapefruit. 

    What to do: Pass by Easthampton's New City Brewery for small batch suds, like signature old-school ginger beer, in a funky mill-turned-taproom.

    95 Main St., Easthampton; 413-203-5321

  • Credit: Courtesy of Hotel on North

    Eat on North
    When it opened last year, Hotel on North was billed as a revitalizing game-changer: a hip and high-end boutique hotel in an 1880s building in downtown Pittsfield, Berkshire County's largest city. Naturally, it boasts an on-brand eatery with this American restaurant boasting lots of exposed brick and an ample raw bar. When you need more than oysters, dive into flatbread pizzas topped with roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and olive tapenade, pierogis with kielbasa in a mustard cream sauce and brunch bites like an open-faced egg sandwich with cheddar, bacon and maple vinaigrette on ciabatta.

    What to do: See what's playing at Pittsfield's Barrington State Company, an award-winning Western Mass theater company with a 2016 season that included "The Wiz," "Tribes" and "The Pirates of Penzance."

    273 North St., Pittsfield; 413-553-4210

  • Credit: Courtesy of Ibiza Tapas

    Ibiza Tapas — Sevenstrong
    In August, this small plates–serving eatery in Northampton, an artsy community at the foothills of the Berkshires, reopened following a major renovation and overhaul to approach. All the ingredients here are sourced from local farms or gathered by an in-house forager, yielding weekly changing dinner menus that feature fermented strawberry dolmas and pork, apple and green onion terrines. During the day, join laptop warriors tapping along in its cafe. 

    What to do: After perusing the charming shops of downtown Northampton, wander the galleries at Smith College Museum of Art, considered one of the country's best university-set art museums. 

    7 Strong Ave., Northampton; 413-303-0808

  • Credit: Methusaleh/Facebook

    Methuselah Bar and Lounge
    This snazzy cocktail lounge in Pittsfield has the cozy, slatted-wood style of a yoga studio — plus plenty of elixirs that will have you feeling Zen. Creative tinctures include the "FireCide Chat" of Milagro Reposado, spicy cider, dry curacao and smoked sea salt, and there's a nice whiskey selection too. Artisan cheese and pig parts are assembled on tasty charcuterie boards or you can opt for other small noshes like tempeh tacos and blue corn nachos with rotating dips.

    What to do: Pop some corks at Pittsfield's Balderdash Cellars, a local winery with a tasting room for trying varieties like the Tollbooth, a bright but not-too-sweet Riesling. 

    391 North St., Pittsfield; 413-344-4991

  • Credit: Prairie Whale/Facebook

    Prairie Whale
    Owner Mark Firth made a name in Brooklyn with joints like Marlow & Sons before opening this Berkshires hit where hyper-local menus change daily. (The name is antiquated American slang for a pig.) Much of the produce is supplied by Firth's own farm, and there's a rustic-hipster sensibility to the spot, which has a modern farmhouse style. Pork chop with polenta, white fish crostini and Napa cabbage with kohlrabi and jalapeño dressing are among the plates you might find on any given night. 

    What to do: Great Barrington neighbors Stockbridge is home to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the world's largest collection by the iconic American artist.  

    178 Main St., Great Barrington; 413-528-5050

  • Credit: Courtesy of Small Oven

    Small Oven
    Don't miss the sweets and treats at this locally beloved bakery in Easthampton, where duo Amanda Milazzo and Julie Copoulos​ create amazing house-baked breads (from rosemary Parmesan sourdough to raisin walnut wheat) and inventive pastries like tahini chocolate cream pie with halva crumble. Only local eggs, dairy and other ingredients are used, and there's a selection of savory eats, like potato leek soup and brisket sandwiches, for lunchtime crowds.

    What to do: Once you've fueled up, go for a hike at Mount Tom State Reservation, where you'll find awesome views of Berkshires peaks and valleys. 

    36 Union St., Easthampton; 413-527-1785

  • Credit: Tunnel Bar/Facebook

    Tunnel Bar
    This eye-popping martini bar is set inside a long, stone tunnel that used to be part of a train station. The exceptionally cool loungelike environs deserves some top shelf tinctures, and you'll find them in oversized cocktails both creative (the coconut-basil gimlet) and classic, like gimlets and Negronis that can be garnished with blue cheese–stuffed olives and brandied cherries.

    What to do: More into beers than martinis? Northampton Brewery offers flights of the suds made on-site, plus a good gastropub menu of burgers, pizzas and more. 

    125 Pleasant St., Northampton; 413-341-3161

  • Credit: 20 Railroad/Instagram

    20 Railroad Public House
    Renovated and reopened over the summer by new ownership, this updated icon offers Berkshires crowds a gastropub that pays attention to the details: from hand-pottered plates to locally sourced ingredients used for charcuterie spreads, shared plates like Guinness gravy-covered poutine, and mains like farro pasta with baby eggplant and feta. 

    What to do: The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is a historic theater that is home to ballet, opera, orchestral music and more.

    20 Railroad St., Great Barrington; 413-528-9345