The Best Al Fresco Dining in Western Massachusetts
April 7, 2017
Lots of fun indoor activities can be found in the Berkshires, but the allure of the beautiful landscape of Western Massachusetts can make it difficult for visitors to move away from hiking areas and bike trails long enough to grab a bite. Now you can sate your appetite without abandoning the fresh air thanks to this list of the best al fresco dining spots in the Berkshires.
Mission Bar & Tapas brings the small plates tradition common in Spain to the town of Pittsfield, MA. The bar’s menu changes with the seasons, but offerings are always big on flavor and perfectly sized for sharing. Choose from offerings such as tangy, fried shishito peppers with chorizo, the manchego and mushroom quiche, warm herb-and-citrus olives, slow-roasted pork belly with cucumber and mint-spiked yogurt sauce, and roasted carrots with honey and thyme. Mission is also known for its commitment to live music, with bands scheduled to perform regularly throughout the week and the occasional open-mic night as well. The al fresco aspect comes courtesy of a comfy sidewalk space that has been cordoned off and filled with umbrellas and tables, so you can snack and relax while enjoying your evening.
Outdoor dining meets a beer lover’s delight at the Olde Forge, which boasts the “largest selection of imported and domestic beers in the county.” That the beer list is presented in a weighty binder speaks to the sheer volume of choices, and you can choose from both bottled and draft options. The menu is designed with all that beer quaffing in mind. Dishes range from hearty homemade chili to Olde Forge’s award-winning wings (try them “Buff Orpington” style) to entrees like grilled garlic rosemary steak and wild mushroom ravioli. You will also find a fresh salad bar, pizza, Tex-Mex enchiladas, and plenty of sandwiches and burgers, but the real draw (aside from the beer, of course) is the view. Old Forge’s back porch doubles as a beer garden and is the perfect spot for viewing the stunning Berkshire Mountains.
If the diners in your party are torn between indoor and outdoor dining, Alta Restaurant & Wine Bar can serve as a happy medium. The interior of this Lenox-based spot is all warm wood, rustic details and cozy atmosphere, but two huge picture windows flanking the front entryway are completely open, leading into the surprisingly spacious patio area that adds significant square footage to the restaurant’s indoor area. It’s perfect for grabbing a bite while enjoying the breeze or watching life go by in this bucolic village. The food is phenomenal, too. The lunch menu is full of diverse offerings like a salmon quesadilla and a Provencal panini, while dinner amps up the French-fusion flavors with creamy curried mussels, a homemade fois gras terrine, and gemelli alla carbonara with pancetta and duck egg yolk. The wine and cocktail list is similarly inspired (plenty of pairings are available), and gluten-free and vegetarian options are on offer as well.
Table Six is housed in Kemble Inn, a renovated Gilded Age mansion that is somehow both stately and welcoming. The restaurant itself is definitely on the fine dining side of things, with white linen topping the tables and plenty of suave touches like candlelight and crystal champagne flutes. The menu is similarly high-end. Lobster bisque is prepared with the traditional splash of brandy and dollop of crème fraiche while truffle butter and foie gras are infused into risotto and a pastry-wrapped beef Wellington. We highly recommend asking for a table on the restaurant’s covered veranda. The view of the surrounding lawn and forest is beautiful as-is, but the backdrop of the Berkshire Mountains really takes the experience to a breathtaking new level.
Things take a slightly more casual turn with Tavern at the A, a self-described “bar and grille/banquet hall” that faces a sprawling golf course. The patio runs the length of the eatery, and it’s filled with tables just waiting for happy hour guests and hungry diners eager for a bit of relaxation that doesn’t require black tie attire. The grub is unfussy, but that doesn’t mean uninspired. Bacon-wrapped jalapenos combine sweet and heat, while the bacon and blue cheese PEI mussels practically scream for a beer and a spot overlooking the green. The tavern’s signature calamari comes in your choice of five different styles (the peppadew dry rub is pretty unforgettable), and lots of sliders, salads and burgers are on the menu, too.
Great Italian food is often seasonal in nature – you cook with whatever is freshest and most full of flavor. That’s exactly what they do at Café Lucia, the stellar Italian eatery in Lenox. The restaurant has been serving up their farm-to-table cuisine since 1983, but the farmhouse they call home dates all the way back to 1830. The menu is stocked with delicious dishes such as a poached farm eggs and frisée salad, house-roasted peppers and anchovies, linguini with littleneck clams, ragout of rabbit, and a very popular veal piccata. There is a solid wine by the glass selection, ideal for sipping with a plate of pasta or slice of pizza while seated in the flower-filled al fresco garden dining area – a reminder of Café Lucia’s dedication to local purveyors and farm-fresh ingredients.
Dining out is practically a requirement when you’re on vacation, but sometimes all you want to do is stay close to your home away from home and enjoy a quiet (but still culinarily satisfying) night in. When you book into The Lake House, you get your choice of luxury cottages with fully equipped kitchens. A quick run to the local market, and you’re stocked up for the week. Even better, you can use one of the outdoor grills to cook up your purchases and then dig into your delectable spread while lounging mere yards away from the glittering Pontoosuc Lake.