Topic: Massachusetts

Massachusetts Dining 2009

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Best Post-Theater Dining:
MEZZE BISTRO + BAR, Williamstown
This urbane restaurant’s refined wood-beamed and white-linen interior is the go-to spot for Williamstown Theatre Festival patrons and other loyal fans of dramatically good bistro fare. Deceptively simple yet full-flavored local lamb and beef draw rave reviews, and come apple season, it’d be downright criminal to miss the textbook rendition of tarte tatin. Entrées: from $11. 16 Water St. 413-458-0123; mezzerestaurant.com

Best Pancakes:
When the maple sap starts flowing in spring, savvy eaters across Western Massachusetts flock to Gray’s, Ashfield’s renowned sugar shack, for the best pancakes around. Now those large yet incredibly light pancakes are available all year long, always with 100 percent real maple syrup, at this 19th-century grocery-cum-cafe that doubles as the town social center. Breakfast entrées: from $2.99. 396 Main St. 413-628-4003; elmersstore.com

Best Restaurant for Locavores:
TABELLA, Amherst
Featuring local products is a well-established trend among better restaurants, but few are as passionate about sustaining regional organic food production as this attractive little college-town eatery. The creative menu is devoted entirely to tapas-style small plates (from $3), each savory gem proving how deliciously you can dine on New England’s pasture-raised meats, free-range poultry, farmstead cheeses, and fresh produce. 28 Amity St. 413-253-0220; tabellarestaurant.com

Best Cheese Selection:
Aficionados of fine artisanal cheeses will swoon at the cornucopia of sinfully rich ripened dairy available at this shop. Well over 100 farmstead cow’s-, sheep’s-, and goat’s-milk cheeses, primarily from small high-quality European and domestic producers, tempt lactose lovers. And if you need some assistance in making some choices, owner Matthew Rubiner and his friendly staff offer expert guidance. 264 Main St.; 413-528-0488, 413-528-0749

Best Rustic Sandwiches:
The modest menu belies the heartiness of this little bakery/cafe’s daily sandwich selections, featuring rustic whole-grain, naturally leavened artisanal breads made on the premises. The shop’s five-grain and country loaves are particularly good with the ham-and-gruyere combination, and if the seasonal apple sourdough is available, it adds a whole new dimension to the standard BLT. 13 Mechanic St. 508-885-3760; fiveloavesbakery.com

Best Fried Shellfish:
Whimsically shaped like its namesake container, this local institution has been serving deep-fried seafood since 1935. Cornflour batter yields a superior crust, and a gentle hand with seasonings lets the clams’ natural sweetness sing out. In short, you won’t find a crispier or more honest-tasting fried clam, so don’t be put off by the long lines. Call for seasonal hours. Entrées: from $5.75. 246 High St. (Route 133). 978-356-9707; ipswichma.com/clambox

Best Suburban Seafood:
Dining at this attractive storefront bistro is a reminder of why life too far from the ocean simply isn’t worth considering. Savory broths, reductions, and spice rubs let the seafood stand out, surrounded by an ensemble of complementary tastes, such as salmon with poached figs, St. Peter’s fish and lemon risotto, or caramelized scallops with braised short-rib stuffed ravioli. Entrées: from $18. 34 Church St. 781-729-1040; catchrestaurant.com

Best Pork Chop:
FAVA, Needham
Like a geode full of hidden crystals, the rough stone of Needham’s former rail depot contains a lovely gem of a restaurant whose menu is rich in roasted, braised, and grilled meats and fish. For the juiciest and most succulent pork imaginable, don’t miss the maple-and-molasses-brined chop, deservedly a signature dish for more than a decade. Entrées: from $21. 1027 Great Plain Ave. 781-455-8668; favarestaurant.com

Best Waterfront Dining With a Sunset View:
The coast of Buzzards Bay has a number of places where you can see drop-dead gorgeous sunsets, but none boasts the drop-dead delicious fare served at this consistently excellent restaurant overlooking Westport Harbor. The kitchen excels at attention-grabbing dishes such as chourico-stuffed quahogs, sushi-grade tuna with house-made kimchee, and spaghetti served with spicy arrabiata sauce, liberally laced with homemade garlic-and-fennel sausage. Call for seasonal hours. Entrées: from $17.50. 1 Bridge Road. 508-636-6500; thebackeddy.com

Best Dessert Sampler:
HEATHER, Mashpee
The inspired menu will tempt you to fill up on the savory courses, but leave room for a sweet finish–especially since there’s a marvelous sampler plate featuring up to 15 perfectly arranged portions of most of the dessert selections, composed with truffles and other sugary morsels. Entrées: from $19. 20 Joy St., South Cape Village. 508-539-0025; restaurantheather.com

Best Fusion Cuisine:
ABBA, Orleans
In the right hands, melding ingredients from different cultures is an act of revelation, producing tastes of which you simply can’t get enough. Chef Erez Pinhas creates unforgettable Mediterranean/Asian dishes such as Thai sate duck breast with herbed gnocchi, filet mignon with green coconut curry, and grilled tuna in a balsamic miso mustard sauce. Entrées: from $18. 89 Old Colony Way. 508-255-8144; abbarestaurant.com

Best Cape Sushi:
MAC’S SHACK, Wellfleet
Nothing showcases the impeccably fresh local seafood at this casual eatery, housed in a building with a wooden dory on the roof, better than its sushi menu. Generous nigiri slices and inventive maki rolls come with well-chosen cold sakes. For the day’s best catch, try the sashimi platter. Call or visit the Web site for a seasonal schedule. Entrées: from $19. 91 Commercial St., Wellfleet. 508-349-6333; macsseafood.com

Best Dining for Foodies with Children:
Traveling with your little ones? At the Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha’s Vineyard, you can enjoy a family meal without dropping your dining standards. Kids get the pizza, chicken fingers, tacos, and other dishes that they love, while you get to enjoy a full menu of local seafood, island-raised lamb, and other exceptional “farm-to-table” dishes. Call for seasonal hours. Entrées: from $18. Winnetu Oceanside Resort, 31 Dunes Road. 508-627-3663; winnetu.com

Best Bistro:
ORAN MOR, Nantucket
Up a flight of copper steps from the street sits an intimate pair of dining rooms whose attractive earth-toned decor is a warm prelude to delicious, beautifully prepared food. Familiar dishes–grilled steak, roasted fowl, sauteed fish–are presented in novel guises, recognizable flavors coming together in captivating combinations. Call for seasonal hours. Entrées: from $32. 2 South Beach St. 508-228-8655; oranmorbistro.com

Best Gelato:
What was once the general store for a tiny rural hamlet has now become a casual culinary offshoot of the renowned Old Inn on the Green in nearby New Marlborough. Yes, the breakfast pastries are outstanding, and the dinners leave foodies sighing, but for visions of paradise don’t miss the gelato–rich, smooth, and absolutely singing with pure, stunning flavor. 163 Norfolk Road. 413-229-5050; southfieldstore.com, oldinn.com

Best Hill-Town Dining:
Little bigger than a locket, Shelburne Falls has long had a disproportionate number of excellent eateries. The top spot belongs to this relative newcomer, where French technique frolics amid local produce and Caribbean influences. Entrées: from $22. 65 Bridge St.; 413-625-6345


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