The quaint, countercultural college town has a world-class dining scene.
Believe it or not, paradise is only two hours from Boston. You’ll find it in Northampton, nicknamed “Paradise City,” a liberal arts utopia in the heart of Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley. Located on the idyllic banks of the Connecticut River, this academic-hippie oasis is home to Smith College, one of the famous Seven Sisters schools. It’s also home to eclectic boutiques and bookstores, artisan cafes, the popular Bay State Scoop Shop Herrell’s Ice Cream, and some of western Massachusetts’ most imaginative and delicious restaurants. Here are some of our favorite places in Northampton to sit back, relax and enjoy the vibrant scene.
Northampton is a college town, so of course there’s no shortage of cafes serving coffee, simple sandwiches and other lunch fare suitable for the Smith College crowd. With Moroccan dishes served from morning to night, this laid-back Main Street spot is in a class at any time of the day. In the morning, stop for egg lavash or pita stuffed with feta; After lunch, it’s all about chicken tagines and homemade, spice-soaked Mediterranean kabobs. Amanouz also makes A-Plus baklava: thick, flaky, and perfect for pairing with a tall glass of green tea with fresh mint leaves, or a nous nous Café (half milk, half espresso) with fluffy foam.
main street 44, Northampton, 413-585-9128, amanouzcafe.com.
After spending the morning strolling through Smith College’s botanical gardens and the 19th-century Edenic greenhouse, chances are you’ll want something green. Luckily, this vegetarian and vegan friendly cafe is only a 10 minute walk away. On any given day, the frequently changing menu may include soy glazed stir-fries with locally sourced vegetables or homemade lentil burgers with rosemary roast potatoes on the side. If you like it a little sweeter, grab a slice of fresh ginger molasses cake with berry sauce; It’s so moist you won’t believe there’s no butter.
68 Masonic Street, Northampton, 413-586-8011, belaveg.com.
Modern Northampton is known as a counterculture hub, but this family-run restaurant has stuck to the old school since the 1950s. In fact, the quaint and humble diner, a local landmark, transports diners right back to the Truman era with its train carriage. Stylish architecture and vintage signs promoting Bluebonnet’s famously crispy, pressure-fried “fried” chicken. Slip into a big blue booth to dig into the bird, or grab a stool at the counter to enjoy hot apple-stuffed pancakes, an endless supply of hot coffee poured by friendly staff, and a good old-fashioned Chatter with the locals.
324 King Street, Northampton, 413-584-3333, bluebonnetdiner.net.
At Bombay Royale, Indian cuisine is served in royal portions and, mercifully, at prices that don’t demand a king’s ransom. Start with a few royal spread-size chunks chat (Indian street snacks) like that bhel Pouri and the tamarind eggplant; Then continue with a full rack of lamb cooked in a tandoor oven. The curries and masalas here, on the other hand, are superbly flavored – if you are too Yes, really If you want to test the limits of your heat tolerance, opt for Mysore Masala Dosa. Don’t worry, the waiters have a mango lassi ready if you feel your taste buds are on fire.
1 Roundhouse Plaza, Suite 4, Northampton, 413-341-3537, bombayroyale.com.
Whiskey flights, perfectly marbled prime rib and heated outdoor igloos – what more could you want from a steakhouse? How about a warm and cozy dining room, the perfect setting to enjoy an 18 oz. Rib eye with garlic confit mashed potatoes (or a sparkling bowl of spicy chorizo bolognese). Refresh with one of Caminito’s innovative and flavorful cocktails, like the Pink Slip with rosehip and hibiscus-infused gin, or the Apple Old Fashioned with black walnut bitters and bourbon cask-aged maple syrup.
Old South Street 7, Northampton, 413-387-6387, caminitosteakhouse.com.
Much like the dot at the end of his restaurant’s name, Chef Jeremy Werther’s cuisine makes a bold statement. Fusing New England cuisine with Italian coastal cuisine, he uses local, seasonal ingredients in dishes that are clearly meant to evoke nostalgia—you know, as does the dining room’s rustic and inviting decor that takes you back to Sunday lunch at Nonna’s home. The big difference, however, is that when you gather around the table here, you’ll taste reinvented versions of classic pasta dishes: cacio e pepe with caramelized onions and lasagna layered with spicy braised kale and parsnips bechamel
7 Strong Avenue, Northampton, 413-586-0502, eathomestead.com.
Northampton’s popular brunch spot was started by two best friends with a shared passion for the art of cooking. Adorable origin story aside, Jake’s all-day breakfast menu is packed with unexpected twists on classic dishes like Korean BBQ pork belly breakfast burritos or guac and lox toast with pickled red onions and lime crema. How about Jake’s special “Eggs in Purgatory Bowl” with pulled pork, tomato sauce and queso fresco? It’s actually heavenly. And heck, while you’re at it, grab a pancake mix from Jake’s in-house marketplace to bring a little bit of Pioneer Valley back to the big city.
Koenigstr. 17, Northampton, 413-584-9613, jakesnorthampton.com.
Paul and Elizabeth
Since 1978, the eponymous owners of this flagship store at Thornes Marketplace, a downtown landmark teeming with indie shops, have turned to locally sourced, seasonal produce (and a macrobiotic approach to nutrition) to bring a sense of breezy harmony to the Northampton dining scene. Given the Japanese underpinnings of Paul and Elizabeth’s internationally inspired menu, these locally sourced ingredients eventually make their way into delectable dishes like crispy shrimp tempura and sautéed udon noodles with homemade seitan and healthy. So why not treat yourself to an extra order of Cream Pie du Jour? After all, it’s all about balance.
main street 150, Northampton, 413-584-4832, paulandelizabeths.com.
In typically whimsical Northampton fashion, Peter St Martin and Maureen McGuinness decided to honor Sylvester Graham – the eccentric minister and vegetarian activist whose whole grain evangelism inspired the creation of the Graham cracker – by opening a restaurant in his former home in 1983 . Today, in keeping with Graham’s famous health-consciousness, every dish at Sylvester’s, from omelettes to pancakes, is prepared from scratch using as much locally sourced ingredients as possible. However, the place clearly deviates from Graham’s belief that eating bland foods enhances moral virtue. Just look at the pastry shop, which can always be filled with sweet strawberry scones or extraordinarily moist banana bread. If that’s wrong, we don’t want to be right.
111 Pleasant Street, Northampton, 413-586-5343, sylvesterrestaurant.com.
The tunnel bar
So-called speakeasys with barely-secret doors pale in comparison to this truly unusual cocktail lounge, tucked away in a pedestrian tunnel built in 1897 under what was once a train station. Admire the original stone and masonry from a comfortable leather wing chair while sipping a glass of Scotch, an excellent classic martini or an innovative house blend from the extensive craft cocktail list. To avoid getting bitten by El Chupacabra, a dangerously delicious concoction of tequila and orange liquor, be sure to order some tasty flatbreads and truffle fries as a preventive hangover cure.
125 A Pleasant Street, Northampton, 413-326-4151, thetunnelbar.com.