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Good Local Grub

Where to go for burgers, tacos, and other “fan foods”

Editor’s note: This article is also featured in our print magazine “Out & About with The Berkshire Edge”. This magazine is a seasonal guide, available for free at high traffic locations throughout Berkshire County and in contiguous counties of New York, Connecticut and Vermont. To see a digital flip book version of the current issue, click here. To see all past issues, still full of valuable information, click here.

Certain places are synonymous with food—Philly calls to mind cheesesteak, and Buffalo has spicy wings. Closer to home, Maine is known for lobster rolls, Vermont its maple creemees, and Rhode Island the milkshake known as coffee cabinet. The Berkshires may not have its own eponymous dish, but the food-centric region is routinely prized for proffering real-deal renditions of universal favorites as well as taking a few creative (but referential) tweaks on tradition.

These fan foods, so-named for their staunch cult following, can be found throughout the 413 and neighboring counties—as evidenced by the dozen-customers-deep lines at roadside shacks, neighborhood eateries, and otherwise off-the-beaten path destinations dotting the landscape. 

When the craving strikes, let your GPS lead you to one of the following impromptu pit stops to slow down and fuel up, whether your plans include basking in the late–summer sun or leaf-peeping come October. (Note: Most places here are open year-round while others close for winter, as noted. Also, the categories aren’t exclusive; many restaurants serve multiple fan foods, so you can satisfy everyone’s fancy in one fell swoop.) 

Think of this as your go-to guide to eating like a local whenever the hankering for something familiar hits, morning, noon, and night—and wherever your wanderings may lead you.

 

Miss Adams Diner. Photo courtesy Miss Adams Diner

Diner Breakfast

The promise of an old-fashioned breakfast is a surefire way to coax the consummate sleepyhead out of bed. For others, the real egg-in-the-hole is being able to eat everything from flapjacks to omelets and all the rest all day long. Crack of dawn? Yes, please.

Miss Adam’s Diner | 53 Park Street, Adams

This iconic eatery has been slinging hash and frying bacon since 1949, when the Worcester Lunch Car No. 821 arrived in its current location. Replete with vintage vinyl and hearty servings that are easy on the wallet, fan favorites like sausage gravy and biscuits (featuring links from the Berkshires’ own Brazeau’s Butcher Shop) top the menu—plus there are daily specials.

Mom’s Country Cafe | 65 Main Street, South Egremont

If a taste of home is what you’re after, look no further than this village staple on the main drag, just a handful of miles from Hillsdale. Denizens of the region flock here for served-all-day breakfast standbys like eggs, bacon, home fries, and pancakes (psst: ask for the Mickey Mouse version!). In keeping with tradition, lines are known to stretch out the door, as they have for more than three decades. 

Joe’s Diner| 85 Center Street, Lee

The epitome of local, this historic downtown hub is indeed reminiscent of a bygone era. A distinct ʼ50’s vibe exists, especially at the infamous counter captured by Norman Rockwell in his 1958 painting The Runaway. Joe’s features friendly service and traditional diner fare—plus hash-browned potatoes, which are distinctly different from home fries. Try the breakfast sandwich (available to go) or opt for the corned beef hash. Neither will disappoint.

 

Food offerings at Barrington Brewery with owner Gary Happ. Photo Evelyn Battaglia

Hot Dogs 

While residents of Frankfurt and Vienna might quibble over minute differences in their respective national sausages, one thing remains true: fans of the humble American-style hot dog—no matter how it’s topped off—run rampant. Those with more discerning tastes swear by the hot-off-the-grill, farm-fresh sausage sandwiches at the North Plain Farm/Blue Hill Farm stand at the Great Barrington Farmers Market on Saturday mornings with chimichurri sauce, beet ketchup, and beet sauerkraut as DIY toppings. New this season: crimson “beetfurters” (made with pork and beets). 

Jack’s Hot Dog Stand | 12 Eagle Street, North Adams

This iconic, third-generation joint has been doling out grilled hot dogs, burgers, and hand-cut fries since 1917. Eat at the counter (it’s a tight squeeze) or take your lunch to go. Either way, a little know-how goes a long way: Although some aficionados concede ketchup for kids, Jack’s dogs are meant to be eaten “with everything” (meaning mustard, relish, and onions). Period.

Hot Dog Ranch | 114 W. Housatonic Street, Pittsfield

Stop by for yourself and see why this family-owned and -operated spot has been appeasing appetites for nine decades. Their house-specialty Famous Baby Hot Dogs with “everything” (see above, subbing sauce for relish) are worth the trip from (almost!) anywhere. Or dive into other diminutives: mini sausage dogs with peppers and onions or mini kielbasa dogs with brown mustard and ʼkraut. Both are beyond big on flavor.

Roe Jan Brewing Company | 32 Anthony Street, Hillsdale

Besides its extensive on-tap beer selection, this rustic-meets-modern place is lauded for food served between the buns—notably the wood-fired beer brat and smoky dog—and in the dog-friendly (ahem) beer garden. Top things off with grainy mustard and your choice of caramelized beer onions, RJBC beer cheese, sauerkraut, or fried dill pickles. Cheers to some famous combos.

Barrington Brewery | 420 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington

Familiar pub food and solar-powered craft beer are what’s on tap at this genial, low-key eatery. Top your grilled hot dogs with chili or sauerkraut or go for a grilled brat from the Family Alpine Pork Store in Cairo, N.Y., served in a bun with spicy mustard. Burgers are also here, and even non-carnivores can get in on the game thanks to the house-made tofu-tamari veggie burger. Beer-battered onion rings? You bet.

 

Chickpea veggie burger and fries at Flat Burger Society. Photo Zack Morris

Burgers

When it comes to a prototypical comfort food, the hamburger—in all its incarnations always rises to the occasion. Choose from low-down and stepped-up versions alike.

Flat Burger Society | 75 North Street, Pittsfield

Fear not: This burger joint is anything but one dimensional. The name is a nod to smash burgers, flattened on the griddle and boasting charred bits, which are a niche fan food all on their own. Highlights include the Society Burger (greens, pickled onion, cheddar, Society Sauce), Banh Mi-ish Burger (many pickled veggies, herb salad, and mayo), and Breakfast Burger (sunny-side-up egg, bacon, greens, and yum yum sauce). A chickpea veggie burger and fried chicken sammie round out the menu. 

Bistro Box | 937 S. Main Street, Great Barrington

Sure, you may have to wait in (very) long lines, but the grilled burgers—and Farm Franks from nearby Whippoorwill Farm—are well worth the wait. Try the Roadside Burger (sirloin with optional cheese and bacon) or the elevated—and top-selling by far—BOX Burger (grass-fed beef topped with tomato-bacon jam, roasted garlic aioli, and cheddar). Outside-the-box specials, from fish tacos to lobster rolls, are other consistent hits. Whatever else you order (or not), the parmesan-dusted truffle fries are a must.

Prairie Whale | 178 Main Street, Great Barrington

The seasonal fare changes daily at this fabled and frequented locale, but you can count on some version of the grass-fed cheeseburger (courtesy of Holiday Brook Farm, direct from Dalton) to be on the menu. Currently served with French fries, pickled onions, and house-made aioli, this burger experience provides a real taste of the Berkshires—especially when washed down with one of several draft New England craft brews. 

Caddie Shack | 316 Ashley Falls Road, Canaan, Conn.

This roadside landmark has been drawing families (and fun-loving grown-ups) to its food stand for decades. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers (doubled upon request!) can be had for under six bucks; leave room for crispy onion rings, spicy fried green beans, or chili-cheese fries—plus milkshakes and ice cream. Work up an appetite playing mini-golf or hitting the batting cages—or stop
by just because. 

Public Eat+Drink | 34 Holden Street, North Adams

A stone’s throw from MASS MoCA, Public is an urbane North County outpost—and worth the drive for the convivial atmosphere and innovative menu. (District is the sibling restaurant in Pittsfield.) Options include the namesake burger—topped with bacon, caramelized onion, and roasted jalapeño mayo—or Guacamole Bacon Burger (guacamole, crispy onion, bacon, chipotle aioli, tomato, pickled jalapenos), which can be made with pasture-raised grass-fed beef or the plant-based Beyond Burger and served with fries or Peace Valley Farm mixed greens. (Craving noodles (covered below)? Order the Tanuki Udon—ginger-soy broth, crispy garlic, soft-boiled egg, gochujang tofu, and more.)

 

Chicken tacos from the Chingòn Taco Truck. Photo courtesy Chingòn Taco Truck

Tacos

Why wait for Taco Tuesday? These endlessly adaptable, handheld creations are worth eating any (some would say every!) day of the week. Fortunately for us, the quintessential Mexican street food can be found up and down the region, with too many to include in these pages. (Others to try: Agaves in GB, Pancho’s in Pittsfield, and Coyote Flaco in Williamstown.)

Taqueria Azteca | 284 Main Street, Great Barrington

A venerable one-woman take-out operation, this hole-in-the wall (in the passage of the Barrington Building across from Fiesta Grill, a full-scale Mexican eatery) may specialize in burritos but also does a mean job of constructing double-corn-tortilla tacos with your choice of shredded beef, chicken, pork, mushroom, or avocado fillings along with the usual fixings. Pick up some Jarritos sodas while you are at it.

Chingòn Taco Truck | on-the-go from North Adams to New Marlborough.

According to Urban Dictionary, chingòn is an “addictive Mexican phrase used to describe something that is awesome or cool”—an apt name for (per its Facebook page) the “18 foot, taco slingin’, music bumpin’ bad a$$ MACHINE”. Followers of the thoughtfully sourced, made-from-scratch (by founders Justin and Mariah Forstmann) Mexican-inspired food with a twist rate the tacos—and gorditas, tostadas, and hamburguesas—as top notch. Catch them when you can! (As of this publication, Chingòn is at TOURISTS Hotel on Sundays, Cantina 229 on Mondays and Tuesdays, and MASS MoCA Wednesdays through Fridays—and only until they sell out.)

Antojitos Oaxaca | 109 Railroad Street, Lee

Downtown Lee welcomed this new arrival to its bustling Mexican-cuisine scene earlier this year. (Baja Charlie’s and Avocados both have tacos, too!) Here, a trio of authentic options (hard or soft shell), can be customized with chicken, beef, or pork. Tacos de Rajas, filled with potatoes and jalapeños, pack a punch, as do Tacos de Birria—an exquisite savory Mexican meat dish, full of flavor and tradition.

Methuselah Bar & Lounge | 391 North Street, Pittsfield

Those looking for creative interpretations will want to pull up a stool (or a communal bench!) and dig into tacos stuffed with New Orleans-style shrimp, avocado creme, and red cabbage slaw, or sesame shoyu-roasted portobello mushrooms with sticky rice, ginger-garlic aioli arugula, and scallions. For purists, braised pork shoulder and local chicken also spill forth.

Xicohtencatl | 50 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington

Residing in a bright yellow house with patio seating—and with chef Angel Espinoza Jimenez heading the kitchen—Xicoh’s (its local nickname) is known for its mole and margaritas along with its taco platters, with fillings that range from al pastor and carnitas to bistek and pollo and even shiitake. But the Tacos Pescado—lightly fried tilapia with guacamole, cabbage, and chipotle sauce—are what those in the know come (back) for. Be sure to request corn tortillas if that’s your druthers. 

 

Tempura at Steam Noodle Cafe. Photo courtesy Steam Noodle Cafe

Noodles 

No wonder noodles in all their guises have been a street-cart staple in Asian cultures for millennia: Slurping the silken strands is a full-on sensory adventure—hence their countless iterations and widespread appeal. 

Thistle & Mirth | 44-46 West Street, Pittsfield

The menu at this popular watering hole evolves at a quick and constant pace. Build a (custom) bowl by choosing a base of chilled noodles (or rice or greens); gain height with marinated yellowfin tuna, chashu pork belly, or ponzu tofu; and get saucy—think spicy mayo or green goddess dressing—before topping things off with seaweed salad, sprouts, or tajin. (The bahn mi is also worth sidling up for.) 

Steam Noodle Cafe | 286 Main Street, Great Barrington

This downtown GB spot proves, once and for all, that slurp-worthy noodles do exist in the 413. Choose from shoyu, kimchi, or miso ramen with accoutrements like sliced pork shoulder, seasoned egg, scallions, and nori. Or try Tonkotsu, a lighter take on the classic deep flavors of traditional ramen. (Accommodations can be made for vegans). Other reasons to dine here: fluffy Chinese wheat buns, curry puffs, classic gyoza, and bahn mi. Talk about gaining steam . . .

Blue Mango | 27 Spring Street, Williamstown

Head to the North County to sample Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cooking in a single in-town location that gets high marks for both the food and the friendly service. Choose from favorites like peanut-infused pad Thai; udon bowls featuring Japanese wheat noodles and seafood or tempura; or pho—the much-loved Vietnamese–style noodle soup that’s available here with either beef, chicken, tofu, shrimp, or pork (or ask for a combo!). 

 

Brisket at Momma Lo’s BBQ. Photo E. M. Marcus

Barbecue

For many folks, BBQ is as American as apple pie—and serious connoisseurs will passionately debate the merits of the different  permutations, from Memphis-style pulled pork to Texas low-and-slow brisket, among other regional specialties. Whichever camp you fall into, follow your nose to these smokin’ hot spots around the county. Honorable mention: At this time, Smokey Sweet BBQ is only operating as a pop-up at Roe Jan Brewery on Mondays and Tuesdays; check its website for updates (smokeysweetbbq.com).

Momma Lo’s BBQ | 284 Main Street, Great Barrington

The mother-son team behind Momma Lo’s has been dishing up Southern-style barbecue to curious South County crowds since landing here (from Claverack) in late spring. A full menu of mains—the aforementioned pulled pork and brisket as well as jerk chicken and ribs—keeps company with cole slaw, baked beans, collards, and other classic sides. There’s no seating inside but plenty of tables in Barrington Courtyard, offering seasonal outdoor dining.

Smokey Diva’s | 239 Onota Street, Pittsfield

This unassuming spot (blink and you’ll miss it!) dishes up big flavor despite the small space. The menu, rife with Southern barbecue and soul food, hinges on the owner’s line of world-famous smokey, smooth, and savory 92nd Sauce™ (evolved from her grandmother’s recipe)—which gets slathered on all kinds of slow-smoked meats, from brisket to pork ribs. The potato salad, cornbread, and other go-withs are all made in-house. 

Jackson’s BBQ | 14 Route 9H, Claverack, N.Y. | jacksonscue.com

Play yard games while awaiting down-home comfort food crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Customers rave about the generous servings and gobsmacking flavor of the pulled pork and brisket “as good as anywhere in Texas”—plus ribs, sausage, and wings doused in smoke and sauce. (It’s also worth the trip for its fish fry—the last-but-not-least fan food of the bunch.) 

 

The Fish Cake on Greens Basket (top) and Fish & Chips basket (with tasty slaw) at Zinnia’s Dinette. Photo Evelyn Battaglia

Fish Fry

New Englanders love a good fish fry, and for good reason: the crunchy crust enveloping tender, flaky fish is a consummate match. Even in land-locked parts of the region, a handful exist.

Pedrin’s Dairy Bar | 1360 Curran Highway, North Adams

Despite its moniker, this old-school shack—on a desolate stretch of Route 8—is beloved for its fish fry (and, yes, the soft-serve cones). A loyal following eagerly awaits its opening each spring, lining up for clam rolls (another regional pick) and legendary sidekicks such as cheese fries and onion rings. Order at the window, then take your pick from the slew of (pink!) picnic tables. Like the foliage, Pedrin’s season winds down come mid-October (longer if weather permits)—so hit the road stat.  

The K Shack | 9 Tilden Road, New Lebanon, N.Y.

Owner Kelly Hagan opened the funky (and seasonal) K Shack in a former BBQ stand and quickly earned a reputation for serving creatively inspired food with a commitment to supporting nearby farms. Go for the beer-battered fish sandwich and stay for the K-Shake and daily scratch desserts. A gem of a find for sure; cash only (two ATMS are nearby). 

Zinnia’s Dinette | 1843 Route 23, Craryville, N.Y.

Another visionary gave the former Dutch Treat, itself a long-running institution, a retro update that nods to the building’s mid-century roots. The result is a sunny spot boasting a New England fish fry with Hudson Valley style—and a sweet hummingbird theme. Try the traditional baskets, including the top-selling (by leaps and bounds) fish and chips, made by dipping hake from Montauk in a beer-and-Old Bay batter and coating it with crushed Kettle chips. The fried smelt, whose charcoal-black garlic aioli is a revelation, and calamari (spiked with hot cherry peppery heat) are other musts, as are the colossal cornbread hush puppies doused in hot honey. Nosh inside or on the sprawling lawn out back. Bring a hefty appetite: “I’m not a stranger to large portions,” says owner Amy Lawton. “I want to be approachable and serve a lot of food to a lot of people while using high-end ingredients, including what I grow myself.” (Mission accomplished.) And that comfort-meets-quality quotient is what makes all these fan foods so enduring—and endearing.

 

Yeast doughnut with crushed peanut butter cups at Shire Donuts. Photo courtesy Shire Donuts

Destination Doughnuts

While America has been said to run on a certain brand of doughnuts (born in the Bay State, btw, in 1950), few in the region have devoted themselves to perfecting the popular treats. Enter Shire Donuts (52 Summer Street, Adams | 813 Dalton Division Road, Dalton), where Jeff and Heather King’s made-to-order halos—boasting more than a baker’s dozen of build-your-own topping combinations—elevate the doughnut-eating experience. Options run the gamut from caramel-iced with sea salt and maple with chopped bacon to creative takes on blueberry buckle, s’mores, and French toast—all built upon a traditional cake-doughnut base. The two locations offer online ordering (a great way to avoid the endless weekend queue!). 

And come apple season, cinnamon-sugar–dusted cider doughnuts are a perennial favorite at the area’s many you-pick orchards.

Let the good eats roll!

 

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Editor's Note: This Resource Guide is a companion to our article "The Thrill of the HUNT", from the August-October, 2022, issue of Out & About with The Berkshire Edge magazine. Hard copies of the magazine are available for free...

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.