by Nancy Macy
The sign in front of Firefly Gastropub & Catering in Lenox says it best: “eat, drink, laugh…lounge.” Inside the newly renovated Firefly, cozy couch-style seating and a glowing fireplace offer a warm, welcoming vibe. The long mahogany bar curving through the center of the space offers the perfect setting for conviviality and casual conversation. Bartender Billy Jack Paul, who Firefly owner Laura Shack refers to as ‘one of the best mixologists in the Berkshires,’ serves up craft cocktails, craft beers and an extensive selection of wines.
In this location since 1993, Shack has reinvented the restaurant and its menu a few times to serve the needs of her customers, who are a mix of visitors and locals. The new gastropub fare includes noshes, small bites and enticing entrees made with farm-fresh Berkshire produce, house-smoked meats, and zesty house sauces. You’ll find familiar favorites here, with a flavorful twist. The signature Shack Caesar Off the Grill, for example, features lettuce and fresh croutons grilled right alongside the chicken. With its hugely popular half-price burger night, the kitchen now serving until 11 pm, and a growing calendar of live entertainment, Firefly continues to be a regular stop for good fun and great food.
Laura Shack is also co-owner of 20 Railroad Public House in Great Barrington with business partner Ben Downing. Formerly known as 20 Railroad, or ‘20’, the restaurant’s recently renovated interior retains the iconic open-brick décor and a sturdy 28-foot mahogany bar of its predecessor. With the change in ownership comes a turn of focus toward eating local, responsible and sustainable. Ingredients spotlight Berkshire farms, artisanal foods and locally roasted coffee, craft beers, and distilled spirits. With details such as house-ground and cured meats, hand-cut fries and house-made sodas, 20 Railroad Public House is quickly gaining a following and creating a history of its own.
When it comes to history, the Widow Bingham Tavern at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and the ‘6 House Pub & Tavern at the 1896 House Country Inn and Motel in Williamstown are two of the Berkshire’s most notable landmark eateries offering that cozy feel you might be looking for as cooler weather settles into the Berkshires. While each is unique, both offer the tastes of the Berkshires and the comfort and hospitality you’d expect from their place in a classic New England inn.
At Widow Bingham’s, Chef Brian Alberg brings his strong support of Berkshire farmers to the table with delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and grass-fed burgers served alongside local craft brews and spirits. The atmosphere is rustic, with dark woods, exposed beams, creaky floors and walls covered with historic images and signs from the area’s history.
The ‘6 House Pub offers homemade comfort foods and traditional pub fare in a scenic, relaxed setting. Co-owner and innkeeper Michael Oring, who bought the property in 2014 with his wife Carrie, says karaoke and open mic nights at ‘6 House are popular with locals as well as guests of the hotel. The feeling in the air is fun, and even a little quirky, he says, overseen by Harold, a bulls’ head mounted on the pub’s wall that has a bell around his neck. “Ring that bell”, says Oring, “and you’ve just bought everyone a round of drinks!”
Speaking of popular local watering holes, the Freight Yard Pub in North Adams has also long been a “go to spot” for locals and visitors alike. Whether you enjoy sipping a pint al fresco on their patio or saddling up to their cozy bar you will feel right at home. Here you will feel like everyone knows your name. Just down the road in Lanesborough, you don’t want to miss out on the hot wings or the amazing beer selection that Ye Olde Forge Restaurant has to offer. For beer aficionados, this is a location in the Berkshires you do not want to miss!
At the heart of the Berkshires in Pittsfield, you’ll find a small, but upscale place to grab a drink and some great food at Eat on North. Hotel on North’s resident bar has many local brews, delicious mixed drinks, and even an oyster bar that is often manned by local chef friends from around The Berkshires.
Some other tasty spots you will want to make sure you make time for are Brava, The Brickhouse Pub, and this list goes on…Whether your idea of cozy is intimate and romantic or filled with beers and spirits from around the world the Berkshires has a number of spots to warmly welcome you! Come and #TasteBerkshires.
Nancy Macy is a freelance writer and editor based in the Berkshires.