10 Must-Visit Restaurants in Northampton, Mass.
The quaint, countercultural college town has an A-plus dining scene.
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Believe it or not, paradise is only two hours away from Boston. You’ll find it in Northampton, nicknamed “Paradise City,” a liberal-arts utopia in the heart of Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. The academic-hippie haven sits on the idyllic banks of the Connecticut River and is home to Smith College, one of the famous Seven Sisters schools. It’s also home to eclectic boutiques and bookstores, artisanal coffee shops, beloved Bay State scoop shop Herrell’s Ice Cream, and some of the most inventive and delectable dining options in Western Massachusetts. Here are a few of our favorite spots in Northampton to kick back, unwind, and embrace the vibrant scene.
Northampton is a university town, so naturally there’s no shortage of cafes serving coffee, simple sandwiches, and other Smith College-crowd-friendly midday bites. With its morning-through-night Moroccan eats, though, this mellow Main Street spot is a class act any time of day. Stop in for the egg lavash or feta-stuffed pita in the a.m.; after noon, it’s all about the chicken tagine and homemade spice-steeped Mediterranean kabobs. Amanouz also makes A-plus baklava: thick, flaky, and perfect for pairing with a tall glass of green tea infused with fresh mint leaves or a nous nous café (half milk, half espresso) brimming with fluffy foam.
44 Main St., Northampton, 413-585-9128, amanouzcafe.com.
After spending the morning wandering Smith College’s Botanic Garden and Edenic 19th century plant conservatory, you’re probably going to want something leafy. Luckily, this vegetarian- and vegan-friendly café is just a 10-minute stroll away. On any given day, the oft-changing menu might feature soy-glazed stir fries filled with locally sourced vegetables, or house-made lentil burgers served with a side of rosemary-roasted potatoes. If you want something a bit 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 St., Northampton, 413-586-8011, belaveg.com.
Modern Northampton is known as a countercultural hub, but this family-owned restaurant has been keeping it old school since 1950. In fact, the quaint and humble diner, a local landmark, brings guests right back to the Truman era with its train car-style architecture and vintage signage advertising Bluebonnet’s famously crispy, pressure-fried-to-order “broasted” chicken. Slip into a big blue booth to dig into the bird, or snag a stool at the counter for pancakes stuffed with hot apples, an endless supply of hot coffee poured by friendly staff, and some good old-fashioned chitchatting with the locals.
324 King St., Northampton, 413-584-3333, bluebonnetdiner.net.
At Bombay Royale, the Indian cuisine is served in queenly portions and, mercifully, at prices that won’t demand a king’s ransom. Start off with a regal-spread-sized smattering of chaat (Indian street snacks) like the bhel poori and the tamarind eggplant; then move on to a full rack of lamb cooked in a tandoor oven. The curries and masalas here, meanwhile, are superbly spiced—although if you’re really looking to test the limits of your heat tolerance, go for the mysore masala dosa. Don’t worry, servers will have a mango lassi on standby if you feel like your palate is 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 for devouring an 18 oz. rib eye with garlic confit mashed potatoes (or a taste bud-tingling bowl of spicy chorizo Bolognese). Cool things down with one of Caminito’s innovative and aromatic cocktails, such as the “Pink Slip” spiked with rosehip- and hibiscus-infused gin or an “Apple Old Fashioned” with black walnut bitters and bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup.
7 Old South St., Northampton, 413-387-6387, caminitosteakhouse.com.
Much like the period at the end of his restaurant’s name, chef Jeremy Werther’s cooking makes a bold statement. Marrying New England and coastal-Italian cuisines, he uses local, seasonal ingredients in dishes clearly designed to evoke nostalgia—you know, just like the dining room’s rustic and inviting décor, which takes you back to Sunday suppers at nonna’s home. The big difference though, is that when you gather around the table here, you’ll be tasting reinvented takes on classic pasta dishes: cacio e pepe with caramelized onions, as well as lasagna layered with spicy braised kale and parsnip béchamel.
7 Strong Ave., Northampton, 413-586-0502, eathomestead.com.
Northampton’s go-to brunch place was started by two best friends with a shared passion for the culinary arts. Adorable origin story aside, Jake’s all-day breakfast menu is full of unexpected takes on classic dishes like Korean BBQ pork belly breakfast burritos or “Guac and Lox” toast topped with pickled red onions and lime crema. As for Jake’s special “Eggs in Purgatory Bowl” with pulled pork, tomatillo sauce, and queso fresco? It’s heavenly, actually. And hell, while you’re at it, grab some pancake mix from Jake’s in-house marketplace to bring a bit of the Pioneer Valley back to the big city.
17 King St., Northampton, 413-584-9613, jakesnorthampton.com.
Paul and Elizabeth’s
Since 1978, the namesake owners of this mainstay at Thornes Marketplace, a landmark downtown shopping center filled with indie shops, have turned to local seasonal produce (and a macrobiotic approach to diet) to bring a sense of breezy harmony to Northampton’s dining scene. Given the Japanese underpinnings to Paul and Elizabeth’s internationally-inspired menu, these regional ingredients eventually find their way into crave-worthy dishes, such as crunchy shrimp tempura and sautéed udon noodles with house made seitan, that are delicious and healthy. So why not splurge on an extra order of the cream pie du jour? It’s all about balance, after all.
150 Main St., Northampton, 413-584-4832, paulandelizabeths.com.
In typically quirky Northampton fashion, Peter St. Martin and Maureen McGuinness decided to honor Sylvester Graham—the eccentric clergyman and vegetarianism activist whose whole-wheat evangelism inspired the creation of the graham cracker—by opening a restaurant in his former home back in 1983. Today, in keeping with Graham’s famous health-mindedness, every dish at Sylvester’s, from the omelets to the pancakes, is made from scratch using as many locally sourced ingredients. The place clearly departs, though, from Graham’s belief that eating bland foods enhanced moral virtue. Why, just look at the pastry case, which at any given moment might be stocked with sweet strawberry scones or exceptionally moist banana bread. If this is wrong, we don’t want to be right.
111 Pleasant St., Northampton, 413-586-5343, sylvestersrestaurant.com.
The Tunnel Bar
So-called speakeasys with barely-secret doors pale in comparison to this truly unusual cocktail lounge: It’s tucked inside an 1897-constructed pedestrian tunnel below a former train station. Take in the original stone and brickwork from a comfy leather wingback chair as you sip on a smooth glass of Scotch, an excellent classic martini, or an innovative house concoction from the extensive craft cocktail list. Lest you get bit by El Chupacabra, a dangerously delicious mix of tequila and orange liqueur, be sure to order a few tasty flatbreads and truffle fries as a preemptive hangover cure.
125 A Pleasant St., Northampton, 413-326-4151, thetunnelbar.com.