The 30 Essential Restaurants in the Pioneer Valley, Home of the Five College Consortium

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Nat Belkov

Where to find peak-season veggie melts, hand-pulled biang biang noodles, Moroccan beef hash, Cap’n Crunch-battered chicken tenders, miso apple cake, and more

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There’s an urban legend surrounding the Five College Consortium that each school — Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts at Amherst — inspired one of the five characters in Scooby-Doo. And though the myth has been debunked, there’s some truth behind it: Each institution is unique, but in many ways, they’re better together. That’s also true of the Pioneer Valley, the bucolic corridor of Western Massachusetts in which the schools reside. Each sleepy hamlet, secluded watering hole, and buzzy small town is wonderful alone in its own right, but better as a part of the bunch. And just as students have the ability to crisscross the five campuses, taking classes at each, residents and visitors can spend the day hopping between the valley’s art collectives, breweries, music venues, and natural landmarks, eating well all the time.

Throughout autumn, woodsmoke and the scent of hot cider doughnuts draw passersby to the numerous pumpkin patches and apple orchards lining backroads. The Connecticut River snaking through the valley’s center is a fisherman’s paradise during the summer months, as are the rail trails and bike paths that follow its curves. Come spring, hikers and picnicking families flock to Mount Tom with provisions from local markets. And throughout New England’s cold winters, skiers hit the Berkshires’ slopes, before huddling over hot toddies and bowls of chowder.

This map highlights the mainstay restaurants, farm stores, and local haunts that make up the Pioneer Valley’s strong culinary scene, from Springfield to Shelburne Falls. The community is tight-knit, with reliable standby restaurants and creative newcomers all supporting local dairies, cattle ranches, and produce farms. Like the Consortium, these businesses are stronger together — and best experienced en masse. Take a tip from the students: Come with a healthy appetite and take advantage of all that the valley has to offer.

Nat Belkov, Eater’s design director, oversees visual creative for our national and local coverage. Also a proud Smithie, Nat will always have a soft spot for Northampton, the banks of the Connecticut River, and every one of the spots named in this guide.

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With an extensive selection of baked goods — milk bread slathered in tahini and torched house-made marshmallow fluff, griddled cornbread with pineapple jam and koji, miso apple cake — this cozy Turners Falls cafe is enlivening the Pioneer Valley with unique flavor combinations alongside classic brunch staples. Be sure not to miss the sodas incorporating shrubs in flavors like preserved lemon, tulsi, and thyme.

The Upper Bend’s iconic tomato toast on housemade milk bread with peak-season tomatoes, aioli, and fresh herbs
Alistair Shurman/The Upper Bend

Founded in 2019 with a mission to serve handmade baked goods in a homey, comforting space, this Greenfield shop has become a favorite among locals, who start their mornings with fresh tarts, sourdough loaves, and other pastries. Sourcing local is a priority for owner and head baker Brian Meunier, who relies on Holyoke’s Ground Up Grain, Deerfield’s Clarkdale Fruit Farms, and other neighboring producers.

Rise Above’s baguettes stuffed with local asparagus and red onions, as well as mozzarella and housemade pesto 
Brian Meunier/Rise Above Bakery

Despite the tagline “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find,” locals and visitors still find their way to this converted 1842 gristmill to take advantage of its numerous study spaces, reading nooks, and outdoor picnic areas. Overlooking the Sawmill River, the property also houses a used-record store and small cafe serving pressed panini, veggie salads, and cold noodles.

A corner seat at the Lady Killigrew Cafe inside the Montague Bookmill
The Lady Killigrew Cafe at The Montague Bookmill

With an unfussy menu of creative snacks and bountiful, family-style plates built around the natural wine, beer, and cocktail program, this lakeside slice of paradise is quickly becoming a pillar in the Pioneer Valley community. The team supports a number of local farmers and relies on their own kitchen garden for much of the menu’s building blocks. Expect a rotation of dishes that make the most of peak-season ingredients, like autumn veggie melts with Bardwell Farm broccolini, sauteed kale, chicken of the woods mushrooms, and smoked cheddar, or prawns with roasted fennel, Israeli couscous, garlicky haricots verts, and Sungolds.

Friends and neighbors gather on the beach for the annual summer Lake House Fun House event
Joanna Chattman/The Ashfield Lake House

In a region teeming with American Chinese food, this Amherst spot stands out, and for good reason. Two decades after Lili Jia immigrated to the U.S. from Xi’an, she opened her restaurant in 2017 and has been imbuing the Pioneer Valley with the spicy, savory flavors of China’s Shaanxi province ever since. Customer favorites include the hand-pulled biang biang noodles sluiced in fragrant chile oil; plump dumplings filled with cabbage or leeks that bob up and down in savory, sour broth; and hearty rou jia mo stuffed with tender stewed pork.

Dumplings with fillings such as pork and leek are hand-folded in freshly-made wrappers
Lili’s Restaurant

Housed in the historic Amherst cinema, this coffee shop doubles as a bar in the evening, so you can start your day in the gorgeous space and work all the way through until happy hour. Freshly baked pastries and a wide selection of thoughtfully sourced teas show up first. As afternoon wears on, wine, beer, and cocktails emerge with trays of oysters and hot dogs with fun toppings. Plan to arrive early during exam season to score a spot, as UMass and Amherst students tend to fill the space, cramming over copious cups of coffee.

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Vintage Frogger, Galaga, and Mortal Kombat machines line the walls at this arcade bar, evoking the sort of nostalgia that’ll have you missing the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s — even for students who weren’t alive yet. Grab a cold draft beer and dive into a craveworthy menu of Tetris-shaped tater tots, smothered hot dogs, and baskets of sauce-doused tenders. Keep an eye out for announcements about theme nights and monthly trivia on Instagram, and if you’re in the mood for more curated cocktails, check out sibling speakeasy bar The Archives down the road in Amherst.

Groups of friends enjoy cold beers and bites clustered around vintage arcade games at The Quarters
Dominic Perri/The Quarters

A bustling destination for brunch, especially on Parents Weekends at any of the five colleges, Esselon’s simple, fresh fare is as hearty and filling as it is healthy. The capacious outdoor patio and gardens seem to go on forever, with plenty of shaded tables where you can enjoy your meal or post up for a while with coffee and a book. Be sure to pick up a bag of the freshly roasted beans on the way out, and maybe a cookie or two to go with.

Esselon’s ample outdoor patio is an especially delightful place to enjoy a meal during the spring, summer, and autumn months
Esselon Café and Coffee Roasting

Opened in 1941, the Miss Florence Diner is one of the oldest operating lunch cars in the country and still retains many of its historic architectural details from nearly a century ago. In classic diner fashion, expect a seemingly infinite list of offerings ranging from oversize omelets, pancakes with toppings galore, cold salad sandwiches, and patty melts from the griddle.

Guests can enjoy tunes played on the jukebox while chowing down on diner classics such as loaded French toast, slices of pie, and club sandwiches
Miss Florence Diner

Promoting seasonal ingredients and supporting local farmers, this postage stamp of a shop has become a fixture in the Pioneer Valley. In 2022, Florence Pie Bar received a nod from New England Magazine, which named it one of the five best pie shops in New England. Biscuit sandwiches, hand pies, breads, and galettes both savory and sweet sell out quickly, so be sure to stop in early or place large orders ahead of time.

Sweet potato, maple, and soy galettes from Florence Pie Bar
Katy Beyer/Florence Pie Bar

The Masa team uses fresh masa — Masienda brand, shipped in from California — in just about everything on the menu, a commitment that sets the restaurant apart from other Mexican restaurants in the area. In addition to tortilla-swaddled items, the menu skews slightly toward Oaxacan flavors. The torta stuffed with beef barbacoa or al pastor pork is not to be missed.

A working dairy since the late ’90s, Flayvors of Cook Farm is perhaps best known for ice cream, made and sold right on the property. Order a few scoops or a pint to enjoy with friends at one of the outdoor picnic tables just feet from the farm’s cows grazing against the panoramic backdrop of the Hadley hills. Flayvors is one of the few purveyors of raw milk in the area; it’s worth grabbing a gallon on your next visit.

The Hadley farm stand’s take on the legendary Choco Taco Kirsten Cook/Flayvours of Cook Farm

While you can certainly order a great cocktail at this Main Street bar, it’s the expansive rotating beer, wine, and cider list that has cemented the Dirty Truth’s presence as a NoHo staple. Many Smithies start their evenings out by enjoying mixed pickles, burgers, mustard-slathered soft pretzels, and other turned-up pub fare, before working their way back toward campus.

Situated next to the Calvin, one of Northampton’s many live music venues, Jake’s is the ideal spot, whether you’re recovering from last night’s debauchery or meeting a professor for brunch. The pancakes are as good as any diner flapjacks, and the Benedict is sure to please, but don’t hit Jake’s without trying the hash of the day in flavors like Moroccan beef, Italian sausage and peppers, and taco supreme, along with the traditional corned beef variety.

The name of this bakery is a reference to Buddhist theology — the spirit of insatiable desire — and a nod to the kitchen’s sourdough starter, which produces most of the bakery’s offerings but must be fed twice a day, every day. Check the Ghost’s website and Facebook page for a daily rotating selection of cookies, scones, and breads, including those that use rarer types of wheat. Arrive early on weekends.

With the help of local organizations, the Hungry Ghost has turned the green space in front of their bakery into a community garden
Hungry Ghost Bread

With locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, this family-owned burger joint slings grass-fed patties from Easthampton neighbor Chicoine Family Farm. Locals know to order their burgers “pink” or “no pink,” and they’ll recommend that you not miss the cornmeal-dredged fried pickles with ranch, Buffalo blue cheese fries, and savory-sweet Cap’n Crunch-battered chicken tenders.

Local Burger pours local beers to enjoy with their fried pickles, loaded burgers, Cap’n Crunch-battered chicken tenders, and mac and cheese bites
Nat Belkov

This rustic downtown Northampton kitchen describes its cooking as “New England Italian.” The menu relies on the area’s bountiful produce and sustainably sourced meat, bringing those flavors to life through traditional Italian techniques. Most notably, the pastas — from the saffron bucatini a la vongole to the buckwheat campanelle with braised pork shoulder — are all house-made. Pair your primi and secondi with a glass of something from Homestead’s substantial Italian-leaning wine list.

Homestead’s signature rigatoni bolognese with smoked mozzarella is a menu stalwart amidst other rotating seasonal pasta dishes
Dominic Perry/Homestead

Come fall, this south Amherst farm store is bustling with locals, college students, and out-of-towners from open until close. While you can rely on Atkins for your weekly grocery shop, it’s the baked goods — like freshly made cider doughnuts and apple pies — that have regulars coming back time and time again. The store is just a quick walk from Hampshire’s campus, and it’s particularly popular on Mountain Day, when the colleges ring their bells, sending students out of classes to enjoy the outdoors.

The bakery is a point of pride at Woodstar, which is unquestionably evident after one taste of the breads or pastries. Beyond the bakery, there’s also a cafe space for studying or catching up with friends, which has become a fixture in Northampton for more than two decades. Warming soups, bagels, and sandwiches packed with cured meats, cheese, and fresh vegetables make for a filling lunch. Save room for the gluten-free, vegan Death by Chocolate cookie.

If Northampton had a Cheers bar, it would be Packard’s. Every square inch of the place displays pieces of local paraphernalia, including original signage from a few of the stores and restaurants the town has sadly lost over the past few decades. With a wide selection of beer on tap, tasty no-frills bar food, and dart boards and pool tables aplenty, this cozy pub is worthy of becoming your regular spot. It’ll be no time before everybody knows your name.

Grab a cold glass of one of the many regional brews Packard’s serves on draft before heading upstairs for a game of pool or darts
Packard’s

Founded outside of Boston 40 years ago, Herrell’s has made Northampton its home, dishing out generous scoops of ice cream to generations of Smithies and townies. Favorite flavors include dark chocolate-flecked, raspberry Purple Cow; Burnt Sugar & Butter; and Maple Cream. When your birthday rolls around, don’t forget to visit the scoop shop (with ID in hand) for free ice cream.

Herrell’s offers an assortment of sorbets along with their traditional and unique ice cream flavors
Kirsten Tabb/Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery

With a robust selection of craft beer and wine, along with a full-service counter boasting an array of international and domestic cheeses, Provisions is, as the name suggests, the one-stop shop for dinner parties and picnics. Load up on crackers, pickles, salumi, and a cold can or two of something tasty, before heading to Paradise Pond to enjoy your spoils while taking in arguably Northampton’s most breathtaking view.

As a dairy and cattle farm, Barstow turns out a rightly famous beef chili, made with the farm’s own beef. Nestled just below Mount Holyoke and Skinner State Park, this is an ideal spot for an outdoor lunch, especially for picnickers planning an afternoon hike or students traveling to or from classes at Mount Holyoke.

Bring your lunch outdoors to picnic amongst the cattle at Barstow’s Longview Farm
Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery

Two childhood friends founded the Little Trúc food truck to serve then-hard-to-find regional Southeast Asian dishes such as bo luc lac, laab woonsen, and gado gado. The duo now produce a line of fresh curry pastes and chile oils, which are stocked in supermarkets and specialty stores across the country. Luckily, even with the national success, the truck remains in operation. Pick up something from the rotating menu to enjoy at one of the nearby breweries or parks.

A selection of rotating specials from Little Trúc
Little Trúc

What began as a pandemic hobby developed into an occasional “order-by-DM” outfit in a small Western Mass apartment, which in turn yielded Will Meyer’s full-time job. Along with business partner Mike Cook, Meyer slings sourdough-crust pies laden with cashew cheese and seasonal vegetables from an Airstream stationed outside of Abandoned Building Brewery. Make sure to save room for dessert, as the team is dishing up some exciting flavor combinations like carrot cake with Chinese five-spice powder and chocolate chip cookies with tahini.

The Mexican street corn pie, one of the many seasonal flavor combinations one can find at Vegan Pizza Land
Joe Gutierrez/Vegan Pizza Land

Located in the now-buzzing converted mill complex Eastworks, Daily Operation’s menu is creative and pleasantly all over the place, with just as much for the vegan and vegetarian diner as for their carnivorous counterparts. The team boasts about making everything in-house, proclaiming on the menu: “no shortcuts, no half steppin.” Favorite items include the Sloppy Mapo Grinder, Charred Broccoli Hero with giardiniera, and OG Cabbage Salad with coconut dressing and “mad herbz.” Keep an eye on the website and Instagram where live music and other events are frequently announced.

The dry-aged cheeseburger, OG cabbage salad, and cheesy fried potatoes from Daily Operation
Nat Belkov

Supporting local farmers, butchers, and dairies is a way of life in this part of the country, so it’s no surprise that Galaxy furnishes the names of its suppliers front and center on its website, and hosts will likely mention one or two throughout dinner service. Aside from what’s fresh, the menu doesn’t have a central focus, instead pulling inspiration from pan-Asian, Southern, and modern American flavors, all with a midcentury twist that matches the restaurant’s funky decor.

One could easily argue that Gigantic leads the pack on innovative and unexpected cocktail programs in this part of Massachusetts. The team of mixologists, including Punch contributor Al Culliton, place their collection of vintage spirits front and center, and they build a rotating menu of boozy, low-ABV, and NA beverages around seasonal ingredients and other calendrical themes. Head to the bar’s Instagram where the team announces themed tastings, queer nights, and karaoke.

Gigantic’s team of bartenders are eager to chat with customers about their cocktail menu, and collection of rare spirits that can be found behind the bar
Ned King/Gigantic

As if a used-guitar shop housing a full-service bar and live music venue isn’t cool enough, try adding a food concept run by real-life lovebirds, chefs Christina Prairie and Peter Bunce. The duo dish out comforting bowls of dashi-laced fish, crunchy broccoli gomaae salads with sesame vinaigrette, stacked beef katsu sandwiches, and buckets of crispy fried chicken.

Lovebird Kitchen’s crispy pork meatballs, with buttermilk crema, unagi sauce and bonito flakes
Lovebird Kitchen

Located on a quiet street in downtown Springfield, Panjabi Tadka offers well-executed takes on all the usual suspects of Indian cuisine. The easily navigable menu shepherds diners through various cooking styles such as vindaloo, jalfrezi, and masala. A list of specials includes the Indian (and Pakistani) specialty shahi naan, a flatbread stuffed with paneer, almonds, onions, and a myriad of spices, which is less commonly seen in these parts.

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With an extensive selection of baked goods — milk bread slathered in tahini and torched house-made marshmallow fluff, griddled cornbread with pineapple jam and koji, miso apple cake — this cozy Turners Falls cafe is enlivening the Pioneer Valley with unique flavor combinations alongside classic brunch staples. Be sure not to miss the sodas incorporating shrubs in flavors like preserved lemon, tulsi, and thyme.

The Upper Bend’s iconic tomato toast on housemade milk bread with peak-season tomatoes, aioli, and fresh herbs
Alistair Shurman/The Upper Bend

Founded in 2019 with a mission to serve handmade baked goods in a homey, comforting space, this Greenfield shop has become a favorite among locals, who start their mornings with fresh tarts, sourdough loaves, and other pastries. Sourcing local is a priority for owner and head baker Brian Meunier, who relies on Holyoke’s Ground Up Grain, Deerfield’s Clarkdale Fruit Farms, and other neighboring producers.

Rise Above’s baguettes stuffed with local asparagus and red onions, as well as mozzarella and housemade pesto 
Brian Meunier/Rise Above Bakery

Despite the tagline “books you don’t need in a place you can’t find,” locals and visitors still find their way to this converted 1842 gristmill to take advantage of its numerous study spaces, reading nooks, and outdoor picnic areas. Overlooking the Sawmill River, the property also houses a used-record store and small cafe serving pressed panini, veggie salads, and cold noodles.

A corner seat at the Lady Killigrew Cafe inside the Montague Bookmill
The Lady Killigrew Cafe at The Montague Bookmill

With an unfussy menu of creative snacks and bountiful, family-style plates built around the natural wine, beer, and cocktail program, this lakeside slice of paradise is quickly becoming a pillar in the Pioneer Valley community. The team supports a number of local farmers and relies on their own kitchen garden for much of the menu’s building blocks. Expect a rotation of dishes that make the most of peak-season ingredients, like autumn veggie melts with Bardwell Farm broccolini, sauteed kale, chicken of the woods mushrooms, and smoked cheddar, or prawns with roasted fennel, Israeli couscous, garlicky haricots verts, and Sungolds.

Friends and neighbors gather on the beach for the annual summer Lake House Fun House event
Joanna Chattman/The Ashfield Lake House

In a region teeming with American Chinese food, this Amherst spot stands out, and for good reason. Two decades after Lili Jia immigrated to the U.S. from Xi’an, she opened her restaurant in 2017 and has been imbuing the Pioneer Valley with the spicy, savory flavors of China’s Shaanxi province ever since. Customer favorites include the hand-pulled biang biang noodles sluiced in fragrant chile oil; plump dumplings filled with cabbage or leeks that bob up and down in savory, sour broth; and hearty rou jia mo stuffed with tender stewed pork.

Dumplings with fillings such as pork and leek are hand-folded in freshly-made wrappers
Lili’s Restaurant

Housed in the historic Amherst cinema, this coffee shop doubles as a bar in the evening, so you can start your day in the gorgeous space and work all the way through until happy hour. Freshly baked pastries and a wide selection of thoughtfully sourced teas show up first. As afternoon wears on, wine, beer, and cocktails emerge with trays of oysters and hot dogs with fun toppings. Plan to arrive early during exam season to score a spot, as UMass and Amherst students tend to fill the space, cramming over copious cups of coffee.

Vintage Frogger, Galaga, and Mortal Kombat machines line the walls at this arcade bar, evoking the sort of nostalgia that’ll have you missing the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s — even for students who weren’t alive yet. Grab a cold draft beer and dive into a craveworthy menu of Tetris-shaped tater tots, smothered hot dogs, and baskets of sauce-doused tenders. Keep an eye out for announcements about theme nights and monthly trivia on Instagram, and if you’re in the mood for more curated cocktails, check out sibling speakeasy bar The Archives down the road in Amherst.

Groups of friends enjoy cold beers and bites clustered around vintage arcade games at The Quarters
Dominic Perri/The Quarters

A bustling destination for brunch, especially on Parents Weekends at any of the five colleges, Esselon’s simple, fresh fare is as hearty and filling as it is healthy. The capacious outdoor patio and gardens seem to go on forever, with plenty of shaded tables where you can enjoy your meal or post up for a while with coffee and a book. Be sure to pick up a bag of the freshly roasted beans on the way out, and maybe a cookie or two to go with.

Esselon’s ample outdoor patio is an especially delightful place to enjoy a meal during the spring, summer, and autumn months
Esselon Café and Coffee Roasting

Opened in 1941, the Miss Florence Diner is one of the oldest operating lunch cars in the country and still retains many of its historic architectural details from nearly a century ago. In classic diner fashion, expect a seemingly infinite list of offerings ranging from oversize omelets, pancakes with toppings galore, cold salad sandwiches, and patty melts from the griddle.

Guests can enjoy tunes played on the jukebox while chowing down on diner classics such as loaded French toast, slices of pie, and club sandwiches
Miss Florence Diner

Promoting seasonal ingredients and supporting local farmers, this postage stamp of a shop has become a fixture in the Pioneer Valley. In 2022, Florence Pie Bar received a nod from New England Magazine, which named it one of the five best pie shops in New England. Biscuit sandwiches, hand pies, breads, and galettes both savory and sweet sell out quickly, so be sure to stop in early or place large orders ahead of time.

Sweet potato, maple, and soy galettes from Florence Pie Bar
Katy Beyer/Florence Pie Bar

The Masa team uses fresh masa — Masienda brand, shipped in from California — in just about everything on the menu, a commitment that sets the restaurant apart from other Mexican restaurants in the area. In addition to tortilla-swaddled items, the menu skews slightly toward Oaxacan flavors. The torta stuffed with beef barbacoa or al pastor pork is not to be missed.

A working dairy since the late ’90s, Flayvors of Cook Farm is perhaps best known for ice cream, made and sold right on the property. Order a few scoops or a pint to enjoy with friends at one of the outdoor picnic tables just feet from the farm’s cows grazing against the panoramic backdrop of the Hadley hills. Flayvors is one of the few purveyors of raw milk in the area; it’s worth grabbing a gallon on your next visit.

The Hadley farm stand’s take on the legendary Choco Taco Kirsten Cook/Flayvours of Cook Farm

While you can certainly order a great cocktail at this Main Street bar, it’s the expansive rotating beer, wine, and cider list that has cemented the Dirty Truth’s presence as a NoHo staple. Many Smithies start their evenings out by enjoying mixed pickles, burgers, mustard-slathered soft pretzels, and other turned-up pub fare, before working their way back toward campus.

Situated next to the Calvin, one of Northampton’s many live music venues, Jake’s is the ideal spot, whether you’re recovering from last night’s debauchery or meeting a professor for brunch. The pancakes are as good as any diner flapjacks, and the Benedict is sure to please, but don’t hit Jake’s without trying the hash of the day in flavors like Moroccan beef, Italian sausage and peppers, and taco supreme, along with the traditional corned beef variety.

The name of this bakery is a reference to Buddhist theology — the spirit of insatiable desire — and a nod to the kitchen’s sourdough starter, which produces most of the bakery’s offerings but must be fed twice a day, every day. Check the Ghost’s website and Facebook page for a daily rotating selection of cookies, scones, and breads, including those that use rarer types of wheat. Arrive early on weekends.

With the help of local organizations, the Hungry Ghost has turned the green space in front of their bakery into a community garden
Hungry Ghost Bread

With locations in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, this family-owned burger joint slings grass-fed patties from Easthampton neighbor Chicoine Family Farm. Locals know to order their burgers “pink” or “no pink,” and they’ll recommend that you not miss the cornmeal-dredged fried pickles with ranch, Buffalo blue cheese fries, and savory-sweet Cap’n Crunch-battered chicken tenders.

Local Burger pours local beers to enjoy with their fried pickles, loaded burgers, Cap’n Crunch-battered chicken tenders, and mac and cheese bites
Nat Belkov

This rustic downtown Northampton kitchen describes its cooking as “New England Italian.” The menu relies on the area’s bountiful produce and sustainably sourced meat, bringing those flavors to life through traditional Italian techniques. Most notably, the pastas — from the saffron bucatini a la vongole to the buckwheat campanelle with braised pork shoulder — are all house-made. Pair your primi and secondi with a glass of something from Homestead’s substantial Italian-leaning wine list.

Homestead’s signature rigatoni bolognese with smoked mozzarella is a menu stalwart amidst other rotating seasonal pasta dishes
Dominic Perry/Homestead

Come fall, this south Amherst farm store is bustling with locals, college students, and out-of-towners from open until close. While you can rely on Atkins for your weekly grocery shop, it’s the baked goods — like freshly made cider doughnuts and apple pies — that have regulars coming back time and time again. The store is just a quick walk from Hampshire’s campus, and it’s particularly popular on Mountain Day, when the colleges ring their bells, sending students out of classes to enjoy the outdoors.

The bakery is a point of pride at Woodstar, which is unquestionably evident after one taste of the breads or pastries. Beyond the bakery, there’s also a cafe space for studying or catching up with friends, which has become a fixture in Northampton for more than two decades. Warming soups, bagels, and sandwiches packed with cured meats, cheese, and fresh vegetables make for a filling lunch. Save room for the gluten-free, vegan Death by Chocolate cookie.

If Northampton had a Cheers bar, it would be Packard’s. Every square inch of the place displays pieces of local paraphernalia, including original signage from a few of the stores and restaurants the town has sadly lost over the past few decades. With a wide selection of beer on tap, tasty no-frills bar food, and dart boards and pool tables aplenty, this cozy pub is worthy of becoming your regular spot. It’ll be no time before everybody knows your name.

Grab a cold glass of one of the many regional brews Packard’s serves on draft before heading upstairs for a game of pool or darts
Packard’s

Founded outside of Boston 40 years ago, Herrell’s has made Northampton its home, dishing out generous scoops of ice cream to generations of Smithies and townies. Favorite flavors include dark chocolate-flecked, raspberry Purple Cow; Burnt Sugar & Butter; and Maple Cream. When your birthday rolls around, don’t forget to visit the scoop shop (with ID in hand) for free ice cream.

Herrell’s offers an assortment of sorbets along with their traditional and unique ice cream flavors
Kirsten Tabb/Herrell’s Ice Cream & Bakery

With a robust selection of craft beer and wine, along with a full-service counter boasting an array of international and domestic cheeses, Provisions is, as the name suggests, the one-stop shop for dinner parties and picnics. Load up on crackers, pickles, salumi, and a cold can or two of something tasty, before heading to Paradise Pond to enjoy your spoils while taking in arguably Northampton’s most breathtaking view.

As a dairy and cattle farm, Barstow turns out a rightly famous beef chili, made with the farm’s own beef. Nestled just below Mount Holyoke and Skinner State Park, this is an ideal spot for an outdoor lunch, especially for picnickers planning an afternoon hike or students traveling to or from classes at Mount Holyoke.

Bring your lunch outdoors to picnic amongst the cattle at Barstow’s Longview Farm
Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery

Two childhood friends founded the Little Trúc food truck to serve then-hard-to-find regional Southeast Asian dishes such as bo luc lac, laab woonsen, and gado gado. The duo now produce a line of fresh curry pastes and chile oils, which are stocked in supermarkets and specialty stores across the country. Luckily, even with the national success, the truck remains in operation. Pick up something from the rotating menu to enjoy at one of the nearby breweries or parks.

A selection of rotating specials from Little Trúc
Little Trúc

What began as a pandemic hobby developed into an occasional “order-by-DM” outfit in a small Western Mass apartment, which in turn yielded Will Meyer’s full-time job. Along with business partner Mike Cook, Meyer slings sourdough-crust pies laden with cashew cheese and seasonal vegetables from an Airstream stationed outside of Abandoned Building Brewery. Make sure to save room for dessert, as the team is dishing up some exciting flavor combinations like carrot cake with Chinese five-spice powder and chocolate chip cookies with tahini.

The Mexican street corn pie, one of the many seasonal flavor combinations one can find at Vegan Pizza Land
Joe Gutierrez/Vegan Pizza Land

Located in the now-buzzing converted mill complex Eastworks, Daily Operation’s menu is creative and pleasantly all over the place, with just as much for the vegan and vegetarian diner as for their carnivorous counterparts. The team boasts about making everything in-house, proclaiming on the menu: “no shortcuts, no half steppin.” Favorite items include the Sloppy Mapo Grinder, Charred Broccoli Hero with giardiniera, and OG Cabbage Salad with coconut dressing and “mad herbz.” Keep an eye on the website and Instagram where live music and other events are frequently announced.

The dry-aged cheeseburger, OG cabbage salad, and cheesy fried potatoes from Daily Operation
Nat Belkov

Supporting local farmers, butchers, and dairies is a way of life in this part of the country, so it’s no surprise that Galaxy furnishes the names of its suppliers front and center on its website, and hosts will likely mention one or two throughout dinner service. Aside from what’s fresh, the menu doesn’t have a central focus, instead pulling inspiration from pan-Asian, Southern, and modern American flavors, all with a midcentury twist that matches the restaurant’s funky decor.

One could easily argue that Gigantic leads the pack on innovative and unexpected cocktail programs in this part of Massachusetts. The team of mixologists, including Punch contributor Al Culliton, place their collection of vintage spirits front and center, and they build a rotating menu of boozy, low-ABV, and NA beverages around seasonal ingredients and other calendrical themes. Head to the bar’s Instagram where the team announces themed tastings, queer nights, and karaoke.

Gigantic’s team of bartenders are eager to chat with customers about their cocktail menu, and collection of rare spirits that can be found behind the bar
Ned King/Gigantic

As if a used-guitar shop housing a full-service bar and live music venue isn’t cool enough, try adding a food concept run by real-life lovebirds, chefs Christina Prairie and Peter Bunce. The duo dish out comforting bowls of dashi-laced fish, crunchy broccoli gomaae salads with sesame vinaigrette, stacked beef katsu sandwiches, and buckets of crispy fried chicken.

Lovebird Kitchen’s crispy pork meatballs, with buttermilk crema, unagi sauce and bonito flakes
Lovebird Kitchen

Located on a quiet street in downtown Springfield, Panjabi Tadka offers well-executed takes on all the usual suspects of Indian cuisine. The easily navigable menu shepherds diners through various cooking styles such as vindaloo, jalfrezi, and masala. A list of specials includes the Indian (and Pakistani) specialty shahi naan, a flatbread stuffed with paneer, almonds, onions, and a myriad of spices, which is less commonly seen in these parts.

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