Pretty much, the most famous instance of Berkshires al fresco dining was the mountaintop luncheon of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. Today, the contemporary version is a dining experience on a terrace or patio, or at a charming sidewalk café, with the beautiful Berkshire hills and bucolic farms as the backdrop. As the season warms up and the Berkshires come alive with activity, there are a great number of outdoor dining options across the region.
In North County, the Freight Yard Pub in North Adams has a large 2,000-square-foot patio that highlights beautiful cherry trees and a fire pit. Seating about 85 people outside, there are umbrellas and an awning that cover a third of the patio to enjoy the great outdoors at the sunniest hours and in inclement weather.
From Memorial Day through Columbus Day, Gramercy Bistro at MASS MoCA in North Adams adds 25 seats on their patio, which overlooks the historic, art-filled MASS MoCA courtyard. Guests can people watch as MoCA visitors come and go at the main entrance to the museum. The seats are situated under a tent, with open sides and views of Natalie Jeremijenko’s renowned upside-down Tree Logic installation.
Mezze Bistro + Bar in Williamstown offers a selection of tables on their outdoor deck overlooking a picturesque pond and the lovely landscape of Sheep Hill next door, open for cocktails starting at 5 p.m. The coveted deck is in high demand in summer months especially during the Williamstown Theatre Festival season.
The Church Street Café in Lenox is an ideal spot for al fresco dining in summer. Their outdoor patio is one of the most popular, with 40 seats and wood tables on a beautiful wooden deck entirely surrounded by flower baskets and trees right in the center of town. The best seat in the house is “the Nook,” a table with bench seating around it that can accommodate up to five people under the shade of a tree decorated with lights. The outdoor dining area is completely covered by an awning so guests can enjoy the al fresco experience in rain or shine.
In Stockbridge, The Red Lion Inn’s scenic open-air eatery, situated in a peaceful, traditional English garden-style space offers guests an idyllic place to enjoy a meal. The festive, sunny Courtyard is the Inn’s fourth distinct dining location, seats more than 80 people and is open daily for lunch and dinner from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. In addition to The Red Lion Inn’s serene Courtyard, their legendary Front Porch is the perfect place to sip a drink.
For those who enjoy the casual ambiance of open-air summer dining, The Meat Market in Great Barrington has opened its outdoor café for the season hosting Fried Chicken Night on Thursdays and grilled fare Friday through Sunday. Located adjacent to the Housatonic River, guests can stroll around the property and enjoy the backyard view.
The Prairie Whale in Great Barrington offers dining on the patio in their front garden with about 20 seats, a huge yard for children to run around and the added excitement of an outdoor ping pong table that is very popular with guests of all ages. The restaurant presents special events including regular appearances by the hot swing and gypsy ‘Lucky Jazz’ band.
The Castle Street Cafe in Great Barrington offers a sidewalk cafe experience just next to the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. The outdoor area seats 18 people, unscreened, alongside beautiful and fragrant herb boxes on a quiet street downtown.
On the southern end of Great Barrington just before the Sheffield border, is the Route 7 Grill with 30 seats available for patio dining. They offer a pavilion with an additional 40 seats and a bar where guests can relax with drinks and snacks while taking in the views of beautiful June Mountain. In both outdoor locations, guests can enjoy Route 7’s new raw bar options, charcuterie and a five-course tasting menu the chef will be changing regularly.
Tucked away on Elm Court, just off Route 7 in downtown Sheffield, the Marketplace Café & Kitchen offers a lovely outdoor patio with several tables for dining or to enjoy a cup of coffee.
The Old Inn on the Green in New Marlborough has opened its outdoor dining terrace overlooking acres of open land and trees. The seasonal al fresco dining experience is cool and bug-free because it’s tented and screened, and can be requested when reserving a table for dinner.
Not too far down the road from The Old Inn on the Green is The Southfield Store (operated by the same owners.) Comfortable wooden chairs and tables — new for 2014 — have appeared on the front patio, making al fresco breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner a possibility. Outdoor seating for 16 is available, and seating for many more inside the store can accommodate those who crave air-conditioned comfort.
With a backyard that cozies up to nature, The Monterey General Store in Monterey offers charming New England-ness and a beautiful outdoor patio adjacent to a flowing brook. Several tables are available for dining and lingering.
In summer, al fresco dining is available on the terrace at John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant in Egremont. Guests can enjoy a full cocktail bar and the chef’s seasonal menu while overlooking meticulously kept perennial gardens and beautifully landscaped grounds.
Summer is the time to get outside and sip a cocktail or share a meal while taking in the gorgeous landscape of the Berkshires. There are several outdoor dining options available with plenty of seats to go around. Be sure to add this activity to your vacation to-do list and don’t miss dining al fresco n the Berkshires!