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Jan 9, 2008 09:36 AM

Driving on I-91 in Massachusetts

In the winter we drive up and down I-91 through Massachusetts every weekend on our way to go skiing. On the Sunday drive home we need a wonderful place to stop for dinner with the kids. Our favorite Chinese restaurant on the journey went upscale and has changed chefs. It's time for some new options. The kids are adventuresome and our main requirements are proximity to 91 and relatively quick food.

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  1. I know you didn't specify that it had to be Chinese, but my favorite Chinese place in the tri-state area (NH/VT/MA) is China Gourmet in Greenfield. Exit 26 of the 91, go through the roundabout, heading back under the freeway. China Gourmet is on the right side past the Mobil (?) station.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Bri

      I don't know what you mean by wonderful but Bubs BBq in Sunderland MA has always been a hit with my daughter. Its not fancy but the food's good. Get off I91 at the Yankee Candle exit and follow rt. 116 towards Sunderland, it's on the right side of the road.

      1. re: Bri

        I tried China Gourmet recently. Food is good not great IMO, but prcie/value was excellent, as was the service. Also in Greenfield is People's Pint. Open at 4pm, a great microbrew and very child friendly. I have heard good things about the new Korean restaurant in Greenfield but have not tried it. There are many good spots in Northampton; if you search the board you'll see many posts. Personally, I have always liked Eastside Grill, but it gets mixed reviews here. If you are down to Springfield, you can't beat the Student Prince (aka The Fort) on Fort Street. Excellent German food.

        1. re: joaniebaby

          What Chinese restaurant would you recommend that's better? I'd really like to know, because I've tried Chinese restaurants throughout W. Mass, W. NH and all of VT and haven't found any place whose dishes taste better. I especially like the pork w/black bean sauce, chicken & vegetables, lo mein. I didn't like the kung pao at all, but if I want something spicy I usually just ask for chili oil to add to the dishes I like.

          I don't recommend the Japanese menu there, however.

          1. re: Bri

            We had lunch, hot and sour soup, which was not very good, and something I admit I judge a typical local Chinese restaurant by. My chicken with basil was a nice portion and had a very good selection of veggies but only a little tough old basil with little taste. Hubby's spicy shrimp and scallop had the same sauce as my dish. Again, nice portion, nice veggies, but just okay. Drinks were terrible. My gulity pleasure, a Mai Tai, was made with marschino cherry juice Still, with two drinks, the bill was only @20.00, so I thought it was a good value, but not great food.

            In my area, Hartford Ct., any typical Chinese restaurant is better, such as Butterfly, China Pan, and Cheng du . Great Wall in New Britain is the best Chinese in this area IMO (and they have great Mai Tai's too)

            Up your way, I have eaten at Panda North, Hunan Gourmet and Great Wall, and preferred all of my meals to the one I had a China Gourmet. But, I haven't eaten at any of them more than a few times and I will give China Gourmet another try.

              1. re: joaniebaby

                I haven't tried the chicken w/basil and I usually avoid seafood at Chinese restaurants (unless they're seafood restaurants) because its usually not fresh and rather fishy tasting. Sad news about the Mai Tai's though. I've never been outside of lunch and really can't drink during the day, so I had no idea. You're right on about the hot & sour soup, its definitely hit or miss for me as well and had forgotten all about it.

                In Brattleboro, I do like Panda North and have been there many times. I like the Mala Chicken there. I'm not familiar with Hunan Gourmet, but will definitely look it up; and Noho friends have said good things about Great Wall for months now and I just haven't checked it out yet.

                Thanks for the feedback!

        2. You can always stop at Rein's Deli in Springfield. They have another branch off I-84 north of Hartford. It ain't the Carnegie or Second Ave Deli, but it is better than almost any other Jewish Deli in New England, except perhaps Weintraub's in Worcester

          2 Replies
          1. re: PutneySwope

            Rein's is closed in Springfield and will soon close in West Spfld..
            Go to Big Mamou in Springfield for great Cajun/Creole. it's BYOB
            Just South of Springfield, over the line into CT is the Hazard Grille. Locally owned/managed; Great menu, super fresh seafood, pasta, steaks, sandwiches, homemade everything!

            1. re: jbruce

              I recently ate at Rein's in West Springfield and it was HORRIBLE. I have good memories of one in CT somewhere, but this was really BAD.... horrible service, horrible food. How hard is it to mess up a deli sandwich?

          2. I know that Brattleboro, Vermont isn't in Mass., but it is only 7 miles north right off 91. We have some good food here, I promise! I'll just list a bunch of places. They are all used to families large and small. I'm only listing places I go to and think well of. Just google them for directions.

            There are loads of other places that my friends say are great, but I haven't had time to visit them. No matter what, have fun and enjoy this years amazing snow dump!

            Brattleboro Food Coop-- Cafe in the store has all sorts of excellent sandwiches, hot and cold foods, lots of vegetarian options, as well as "ethnic" food. High quality deli!

            Latchis brew pub-- (opens at 4 p.m.) has very limited menu, but is cheery with delicious beers.

            Panda North-- Chinese that is really quite good.

            Thai Garden-- I have been to Thailand, and think it better than Anon Thai, but both are options.

            Chelsea Royal Diner-- What it says: Diner. Nice staff, big menu.

            Dhaba-- In a hotel, so room for kids to roam and excellent bathrooms. Very good Indian in a backwater of the US -- I have been to India twice and this is the place I go to in the area. They have a nice cheap lunch buffet.

            The Marina-- Decent American food, and the view is lovely -- river that is all spread out and with water plants, boaters, birds etc.

            Riverview Cafe-- Another perfectly fine American place, with great view of the Connecticut river and bridge. If you want water view, go to the Marina, as it is more laid back, better for kids.

            Shin La-- Both Korean and Japanese (sushi included). I love the Bi Bim Bab with egg! However, once I waited 45 minutes for my food, due to a staff shortage. I believe this has been dealt with. It is good food, and good for the adventerous.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BratleFoodie

              Dhaba has been closed for quite awhile and supposedly there are putting in a Mexican restaurant. There is another Indian restaurant (or there was) in downtown Bratt but I wasn't really knocked out by it and only ate there twice. I can't remember the name now.

              Thai Garden is *excellent*. I love, love, love this place. Shin La is another favorite but I've had similar service issues lately so haven't been back in several months.

              I pretty much echo all of your points. I just don't ever feel a need to go back to The Marina or The Riverview. The food was just so ho hum.

              1. re: Bri

                Oh no! I've had some health issues that have kept me pretty much out of the loop for a while. I'd hoped that Dhaba would live on. I completely agree with you regarding the Indian downtown in Brat. But the grocery shop next door has saved my life more than once.

                Thai Garden is o.k., but if you really love Thai food, you have got to make a road trip to NYC, or some other center for fabulous Thai cuisine. To die for! I'm kind of a snob about it, having taken some cooking school classes in Thailand and spending a lot of time eating there. Which is actually often a pain, having one's taste buds spoiled by greatness! ;-) Ooh, you made me hungry!

                Yeah, I guess Riverview is not what our original poster wants. If one chooses very carefully at the Marina, it works. Their cheese platter is good, their middle eastern platter too, and the bruschetta is perfectly fine (and the theme here is starters). I just do love going there with something good to read on a lovely day, having some wine and just sitting there for two hours. The kids can gambol on the docks in that season, or in the snow mounds this year!

                Unless the new mexican in the hotel is really good, go to La Veracruzana in downtown Northampton. Very yummy!

                Love all the suggestions I've seen here -- got some new ideas for sure. Thanks to everyone, and I'm not even the original poster.

              2. re: BratleFoodie

                bratlefoodie, can you update this list?

              3. Everyone's hit the high points that I know of, so I'll just support the crowd. I second the Rein's recommendation -- huge menu, and it's fairly close to the highway. And the Student Prince in Springfield -- there's a parking lot right around the corner from the restaurant and they also valet which can be useful in Springfield's "entertainment district." I'm usually in there at lunchtime, and I can't say I've ever seen kids in there, but maybe dinner is different. Also in Springfield is Sitar, decent Indian food, and Cafe Lebanon, Middle Eastern food.

                In Greenfield, the People's Pint is great -- it is my new neighborhood pub so I'm almost reluctant to spread its popularity (ETA -- it's not a new place, *I'm* new to the neighborhood). Excellent salads, burger, scotch ale and brown ale. I've heard good things about China Gourmet but haven't been there yet. It always seems to draw a good-sized crowd, though.

                Great Wall (Florence) is something special but it's probably too far off the highway for you. (Ditto for Great Wall in New Britain.)

                Brattleboro is also a great suggestion, just for all the additional options.

                4 Replies
                1. re: hollerhither

                  I'm pretty sure that Cafe Lebanon in Noho has closed. I went to the movies with Noho friends a few weeks ago and they were mourning its demise...

                  1. re: Bri

                    Sad but true regarding Cafe Lebanon, which was fabulous and truly authentic. The original place is still open in Springfield, right next to the big Court/Town Hall complex. The news is that the second cafe will reopen in East Longmeadow (!). It is not open yet.

                    1. re: Bri

                      Yes, I was talking about the Cafe Lebanon in Springfield. It is a shame about the Noho location, though.

                  2. We made this trip for twelve years (happily, we are no longer doing so as we've moved to NH). From the White Mountains of NH to Suffield.

                    I highly recommend Spoleto Express on King Street in Hamp. (I was born in Hamp; still can't quite get used to "Noho.") There's also an Asian restaurant pretty much next door on King Street (name escapes me at the moment). This restaurant has been voted "Best in the Valley" in the Advocate.

                    I grew up in Florence; I'd say it is a bit off the highway. Doing this trip, one wants quick off and back on. That's why King Street in Hamp is ideal. Get off 91 at the Hatfield exit and get back on after driving down King Street and Pleasant Street.

                    The Student Prince/Fort in Spfld. is an all-time favorite. Save it for an evening when you're not in a hurry.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: vikingsue

                      Hey, how about Webster's Fish Hook in Northampton? Its just off the Interstate (exit 19 when heading north). It's not fancy but the fish is always fresh, you can get decent fried whole clams, shrimp, scallops, etc. Good grilled or broiled fish. The owner is always fishing himself and often serves the fish he caught off Rhode Island. I remember even having fresh grilled Blackfish (Tautog) there once. It's quick, easy on/off, and as good a simple seafood spot as you'll find this far away from the coast.

                      1. re: Big Fat Moe

                        Is Webster's Fish Hook near the Rt. 9 bridge to Amherst? If so, coming from the north one would have to get off 91 at the Hatfield exit, turn left at the off ramp then left again onto Damon Road.

                        1. re: Big Fat Moe

                          Webster's Fish Hook was excellent. I will say that the bay scallops I had there on Wednesday were the best I have ever had. DH had excellent grilled shrimp over tasty rice. Enough variety to keep non fish eating kids happy too. Will definitely be my stop of choice on northbound trips on I-91.

                          1. re: jwg

                            Tried it again this weekend, and it is a keeper! That may be the best fried shrimp I have had in my entire life, and I grew up having Gulf shrimp!

                            1. re: jwg

                              That surprises me. I have a good sense of what good friend seafood tastes like, and Webster's did not impress. I remember going shortly after a long roadtrip from the Cape to Maine, Nova Scotia, Quebec and back, and all those delicious fried bits of heaven during that trip made Webster's pale in comparison.

                              1. re: fame da lupo

                                Agreed. As a Maine native I have not been impressed.

                              2. re: jwg

                                I'm just gonna be the third person to say that Webster's did not impress and actually struck me as kinda gross. Again, coming from someone who has eaten good seafood all along the Atlantic Coast.

                          2. re: vikingsue

                            My sister lives in Florence, and I'd agree with you on the travel issue. But, Cup and Top is great for kids, very user-friendly, and there is free parking. Right at the main intersection of Florence. Good sandwiches, salads, etc.

                            1. re: BratleFoodie

                              Don't believe Cup & Top is open for dinner but take a left in Florence Center onto Maple St and drive a couple hundred yards you'll find Side Street Cafe which is open for dinner and worth the detour off I-91