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Funky Food Rec's in the Amherst/Northfield/Chicopee Axis

We are going down to Amherst for a long weekend this Friday to see our 18 year old son. He is a chowhound(He claimed to be a herring gourmet at 10!) As a former New Mexican I hope to hit Authentica in S. Hadley and on the way to visit Northfield to hit Gill's for some kielbasa and pierogies(if it is still open). What we would like to find out about are inexpensive, off beat or unusual cuisines to visit in the area. The best cheap burger and chile dog and something other than the usual Italian/Chinese/Thai is what we would like to find. We are staying in Chicopee; any breakfast rec's? Thanking you in advance.

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  1. I went to school in Amherst and frequented Antonios pizza - www.antoniospizzas.com - A huge selection of wonderful slices. You will have a lot of choices in Northampton - Including AUTHENTIC Mexican food a La Veracruzzana (I did live in CA so I know authentic Mexican) and Italian pastry at La Fiorentina.

    5 Replies
    1. re: doglady

      Born and raised in California and have travelled through Mexico - Veracruzana is trash. If you want good Mexican in the Pioneer Valley, make it at home.

      1. re: famedalupo

        I have traveled through Mexico as well and Veracruzana is certainly NOT "trash." True that you will not find "real" Mexican that much in New England (see other thread ad nauseam) but your comment is absurdly harsh.

        1. re: hollerhither

          Veracruzana can't even decently season meat, much less do anything more complicated well. My comments aren't related to its authenticity, but to its taste - bland!

            1. re: hollerhither

              "trash" might be harsh, but veracruzana is not something to recommend. especially to someone who lived in new mexico.

    2. the best cheap burger and hot dog joint is definitely the white hut in west springfield http://www.whitehut.com/history.html

      8 Replies
      1. re: eloise114

        Well, unless your son already goes to a lot of places in Amherst and wants to get away, in Amherst there are a few good places on "the green" at Main St and N Pleasant intersection. I second the Antonio's Pizza rec, which has all sorts of weird topping combos - the buffalo chicken was my favorite.
        There is a burrito place Bueno Y Sano that is good quality and inexpensive (not super authentic interior mexican but not totally gringo either, if you like the typical taquerias in Cali you'll like this). It is in a tiny alley off Main St next to Newbury Comics.

        I know you said not the usual Chinese /Italian etc. BUT, Amherst Chinese is not typical at all. It's some of the best and most authentic Chinese you can get in US. He grows his own vegetables, so you can order pea shoots, fresh greens and other veg based on the bulletin board specials. On weekends they were doing knife-cut noodles which is rare to find in the US. They are amazing hand-cut wide al dente noodles shaved off a big rectangle of homemade dough and cooked fresh and combined with whatever veg or meat choices you like in a dish. You could always ask for them in noodle soup too. They have freshly squeezed schisandra berry juice. Just good fresh food that you won't find elsewhere, so it's a funky choice.

        The Black Sheep bakery, deli, cafe is really good quality with some nice choices for breakfast, lunch, baked goods.

        Fatzos is cheap for burgers etc but quality and service not always great, varies. Some people love it and others think it's bad.

        Don't know much about Chicopee, sorry.

        1. re: starvinginNH

          I'm not an expert, but Amherst Chinese is hardly "funky" and its selection is seemed pretty standard. Our party of three didn't find it particularly good. Great Wall in Florence is a much better option for originality and taste.

          Fatzo's is closed down, in its place is Rolando's, a "roast beef and falaffel" place.

          Black Sheep is indeed excellent, particularly their baked goods. I'm told that their recipes are handed down from a man who later went to do the pastries at the French Laundry in Napa.

          1. re: famedalupo

            Definitely not funky....but I think the notable thing about Amherst Chinese is the use of Mr. Chang's fresh veggies from his farm. DId you order any of the veggie specials that feature these? I used to frequent their place some 25 years ago (college days) and still stop in when I'm in town. They are quite good still, IMHO....on par with the best I can get here in Boston.

            1. re: Science Chick

              Everyone has their own tastes of course, but you also have to know what to order. If you order the same dishes on every menu that have to be there for Americans, then you won't have the best experience. Order off the specials board! You'll get something great.
              Amherst Chinese is excellent, and I've lived in several regions in mainland China, Taiwan, eaten all over Hong Kong, so I have to say I know what's authentic, fresh, good Chinese food from experience.
              AmChi may not be the spiciest Sichuan cuisine, it doesn't have dim sum, so it's not sexy. But what makes really good Chinese food is the freshest veg/meat/seafood, the right texture and flavor combos in the dishes, and lots of greens, of which they have a wider choice than most "Chinese" restaurants in US.

              1. re: starvinginNH

                Fair enough, one of these days I may give it a second go. Thanks!

                1. re: famedalupo

                  i'd agree, amherst chinese can be a little bland sometimes, but all in all it's good simple healthy chinese food.

          2. re: starvinginNH

            antonio's is a real staple but your kid gets there plenty on his own i bet. it's not really very good pizza, just lots of inventive topping combos. ingredients are of poor quality and taste it, crust is nothing special either. still, they do come up with some fun toppings and can hit the spot late at night or when you are in a hurry.

          3. re: eloise114

            Yes! White Hut cheesburgers with grilled onions. And a second to the no for La Veracruzana. Tired and typical. You might also consider a drive up to People's Pint in Greenfield. Great micro brew with the focus on local and organic food, open after 4pm.

          4. For pizza, I would hit Joe's in Northampton for the best thin crust you can find for miles. The unchanged 1940's ambience is great too......

            1. Joes is great, I agree. I'd also recommend Chef Wayne's Big Mamou down in Springfield for funk and great flavor (Louisiana).

              1. Lhasa Cafe is a nice Tibetan restaurant in Northampton. Haven't tried Tibetan food elsewhere, so I've no basis for comparison but the food was interesting, fresh and good and the atmosphere pleasant..

                5 Replies
                1. re: janeh

                  Great, thanks for rec. We are also going to happy valley for a visit soon and I was hoping to try a couple interesting new places besides visiting some old haunts!

                    1. re: starvinginNH

                      We did get to Pioneer Valley and tried some new places, so I'll report. I did go to Lhasa in Northampton based on this thread, so thanks! I had a nice bowl of noodle soup and a drink. It was lunch and I was alone so didn't order other great-sounding apps. Then just had to go to Herell's across the street for ice cream!

                      My husband and I went to the African restaurant in Amherst for dinner. It was great. It's small, but nice service and fresh homemade food. We enjoyed the vegetarian appetizer sampler of fried and roasted plaintain, and black pea fritters all with a dipping sauce.
                      For entree I got the mango beef which has mango puree or juice in the simmer sauce (I had though it would be mango pieces with beef) and it was quite good. Just enough mango flavor (and I could see that it could easily get overwhelmingly bad but it wasn't) with the other spices and tender beef chunks. My DC got the curry goat, which was fabulous. We shared so got to try it all. The jollof rice which comes with entree tastes good, and is nicer than plain rice. We really enjoyed our meal and I'd go again. It's West African food, since the owner is from Nigeria, which is unusual to find in US and nothing like the Ethiopian restaurants that are more common in the US (which is great food as well but not similar).

                      I also went with an old friend to Sunday brunch to catch up at Lone Wolf (which wasn't there when I was hanging around 1999-2003. It was great, and worth the considerable wait. We both had the special because it sounded so fabulous - an omelette with duck and sausage and some fancy cheese with onions and spinach. It and the homefries were quite good. Not the best homefries I've ever had but not the worst. I would like to go back to try all the other interesting choices on the menu. And I probably will be going back more often again to Amherst for continuing ed weekends this summer and fall 2008, so I'm looking forward to any other great recommendations from you all!

                      1. re: starvinginNH

                        I went to that African place in Amherst as well and had a delicious meal. I enjoyed the goat with that rice and greens. My son had chicken and the sauces were unique and tasty. The lady who runs the place is very pleasant .

                        1. re: Big Fat Moe

                          The African restaurant is Baku's and we loved it when we tried it a while back, would love to try it again!