8 Reasons to Drive to the Berkshires

By Sara Ventiera  |  December 21, 2015

Set in the mountains of western Massachusetts, the Berkshires have long been an escape for city-dwellers from both NYC and Boston seeking respite from the grind of urban life. The region was hailed as an “Inland Newport” toward the end of the Gilded Age. The socialites may have moved on to warmer pastures this December (like Amalfi and St. Bart's) but there’s still fantastic skiing (once the snow starts falling), plenty of culture to see and numerous great restaurants to visit. Here are eight edible reasons to drive there this weekend.

  • Methuselah Bar and Lounge 

    When Yuki Cohen opened Methuselah in early 2015, her goal was to create “a parallel universe where all of the world's problems are solved by belly laughs, Walt Whitman, love, edible and quaffable works of art.” She accomplished most of that – guests are on their own for the laughs. The sophisticated, rustic interior is always packed with locals and visitors sipping on great cocktails as well as wide-ranging wines and beers. The menu is punctuated by a short list of eclectic small plates, salads, sandwiches and charcuterie. Expect to see selections like Korean kalbi ribs, tempeh tacos and harvest Cobb salad.

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

  • District Kitchen & Bar

    Opened by the folks who own Public Eat + Drink, about a year ago, this Pittsfield gastro pub serves a legit array of contemporary American fare. Highlighting local agriculture, the menu offers a selection of "smalls," "mids" and "bigs" like Scotch duck egg, risotto (the accoutrements change with the season) and a $25.95 grilled flat iron steak with turnip, mushroom and Brussels sprout hash along with guajillo demi-glace. Wash it down with a craft brew; the list is littered with rare local and far-flung bottles and drafts.

    40 West St., Pittsfield; 413-442-0303

  • Credit: Greg Nesbit

    Chez Nous Bistro 

    What happens when a French chef and American pastry chef get married, then open a rural restaurant? Fascinating farm-to-table fare. Offering a French menu prepared with mostly local ingredients, husband-and-wife team Franck Tessier and Rachel Portnoy have turned Chez Nous Bistro into a perennial favorite. The eatery offers a gratifying seasonal menu including housemade ballotine of foie gras, pan-seared MA scallops (with fingerling potatoes, white asparagus, spinach and black truffle dressing) and Northeast Family Farms organic pasture-raised beef served with Gruyère, homemade fries, garlic aïoli and Berkshire Mt. Bakery bun. Save room for dessert — the options here are certainly worth the calories.

    150 Main St., Lee; 413-243-6397

  • The Old Inn on the Green

    Once a stagecoach relay, The Old Inn on the Green now offers restored guest rooms that are reminiscent of another century (don't worry: there is indoor plumbing). Same goes for the cozy candlelit dining room complete with roaring fireplace. The food, however, is anything but antiquated. Executive chef Peter Platt’s nouvelle New England cuisine features personal takes on classic dishes, highlighting many locally sourced items in à la carte and prix fixe options. Look for satisfying selections including pan-seared brook trout, slow-braised lamb shank and herb-crusted rack of Colorado lamb.

    134 Hartsville-New Marlborough Rd., New Marlborough; 413-229-7924

  • No. Six Depot Roastery & Cafe 

    Set inside a former train station, this tea shop, art house and coffee roastery takes its product as seriously as the top shops in NYC. The folks here use the best gadgets in the business including a restored Probat hand roaster and a Victoria Arduino espresso machine. Owner Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal are so passionate, they use their vacations as sourcing trips, traveling to farms across the globe. Their approach to coffee and tea may be scholarly, but the place itself is relaxed with a short cafe menu offering simple breakfast and lunch dishes such as housemade granola parfait, Belgian waffles with Nutella and fruit as well as a porchetta panini.

    6 Depot St., West Stockbridge; 413-232-0205

  • Alta Restaurant + Wine Bar 

    Since opening in summer 2008, this Lenox village eatery has become a Berkshires mainstay. High-quality ingredients are sourced from more than 20 local farms and businesses. On the Mediterranean-inspired menu, expect to see straightforward options like PEI Mussels in basil pesto cream and venison osso buco with butternut squash purée and seasonal vegetables topped with cranberry Merlot sauce. Each one is listed with an appropriate wine pairing from the list of 24 by-the-glass selections that hail from across the planet.

    34 Church St., Lenox; 413-637-0003

  • Café 7

    After decades of collecting, Sterling and Francine Clark opened the doors to their Berkshire museum in 1955. It’s one of a handful of institutions that serves as an art museum and research center, definitely worth a visit on any Berkshires excursion. Grab a bite at Café 7 while you’re there. The health-conscious cafe, run by Stephen Starr, is set in the Visitor Center, which was designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando. The ambiance is bright and modern. The locally sourced food prepared by executive chef Dan Hardy is worthy of the digs. Look for lunch items like turkey melt and butternut squash and cider soup with roast pork, kale and heirloom beans.

    225 South St., Williamstown; 413 458 2303

  • Pleasant & Main 

    A visit to the country is not complete without a trip to a general store. This Housatonic shop and restaurant offers homestyle fare in bucolic surrounds. For breakfast, dig into classic like eggs Benedict, farmer’s market omelet and buttermilk pancakes. Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 8:30 PM, grab a seat at the table for community supper, a $15 dinner with soup or salad and choice of main.

    1063 Main St., Housatonic; 413-274-6303