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Sep 12, 2008 10:36 AM

Northampton/Amherst Mass (affordable eateries)

There’s not a lot you can do in a day and a half, but here are some observations:

Amanouz Café has wonderful, authentic food. It’s low key, offbeat with great music. Had a great falafel pita and lamb kebab pita. Service is order at the counter and the prices are good for what you get.

Yellow Sofa Café has great selection of loose tea, fresh pastries and free wifi. This place is right next door to the Amanouz Café. Place wasn’t busy which doesn’t surprise me as there are many other similar cafes in downtown Northampton.

Esselon Café in Hadley (heading towards Amherst from NoHo) has friendly, excellent service. See the menu on the way in at the hostess stand then pay and order at the counter. I had loose tea served in a Chinese metal pot. The place looks wonderful inside (love the tin ceiling), though the atmosphere seems out of place due to it’s location. The place was packed. I must say the side salad was fresh and good, but the falafel tasted awful and the pita bordered on stale. The only good thing about it was the greens.

Baku's African Restaurant in Amherst was dead (dinnertime) when many of the other places in town seemed busy. The owner is a delightful woman whose specialty is a red-tomato-curry sauce (she sells by the jar), which is very good. The food here is good, though obviously precooked, then re-heated and a bit pricy (probably due to high rent). I liked this place.

Lhasa Café in Noho serves “authentic” Tibetan food. I tried the potato dumplings and chicken curry. The food wasn’t bad per-se, but I’ve had better and wouldn’t bother going back. They had a pretty good lunch deal at $6.50, but the rest of the menu was expensive.

We walked past the India House Restaurant on State Street and there was a terrible smell emanating from (what I assume) was the restaurant’s dumpster. You couldn’t pay me to eat in a place that smelled like an open grease trap outside. The only places that were busy for lunch were the Marketplace Café in Thornes Marketplace, the Green Bean across the street and the Haymarket Café. All the rest of the town eateries were slow as molasses.

Overall, I think Northampton and local area has suffered from over-gentrification. It’s a small ecosytem of liberal, like-minded hipsters (due to the universities) surrounded by rural New England rednecks and transplant yuppies. Northampton’s oversaturation of cafes reminds me of the t-shirt shops in Key West, (read: there’s too many of them). Haymarket is an excellent café that could be straight out of the East Village, but come on, this place is absurd with all the cafes. As for the “Dirty Truth” beer bar--give me a break--you’re just not that hip to not have signage outside: this is not NYC, Portland, or Seattle it’s Northampton, Mass.

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  1. your picks are pretty much on the mark. and yeah, there are a lotta cafes around these days, but that's just one of those trends. it will either straighten out after a while or the town will be all cafes. but sir, i take exception to your comments on dirty truth. this is the northampton outpost of amherst's long-cherished moan & dove, and i think its selection of beers kinda speaks for itself. should you ever find yourself in the area again, i suggest you try the place out. their pub menu is excellent and affordable as well. also, in hadley, on route 9, is mi tierra, which is one of the best mexican restaurants the area has ever known. they recently revamped/repriced the menu, but it's still in a budget-friendly range.

    2 Replies
    1. re: fatheryod

      We went to the Moan and Dove three years ago. We live a few hours away, so this was a bit of a haul for us. After we went there, we tried the Indian place in Amherst. The Indian food was ok, nothing special. I had to go back to a former review in the BA to recall my experience about the Moan and Dove, here it is:

      “At the Moan and Dove the bartender seemed efficient, but barely. He dropped a bottle, so his dexterity may have been off. The truth be told we waited a bit for a refill (while he picked up his laundry next door). Basically, he had a zero personality and was probably suffering from the night before. No biggie. The service issue notwithstanding; the beer selection was fantastic as well as the atmosphere. For the beer selection alone we would go back in a heartbeat.”

      The Dirty Truth and the Moan and Dove (places known for their substantial beer selections) are not only local hangouts, but also destination spots. People (and sometimes crazy beer fanatics) travel great distances to these places as if they’re temples of worship. The fact that I had to walk around for 15 minutes, then have to inquire as to where the place was, only to find that there weren’t any signs marking their name or hours--just some dark windows--pissed me off. To their credit, the Dirty Truth does have a website with some of this information, but I didn’t happen to have that luxury while I was walking around Northampton trying to find the place.

      Their great beer selection notwithstanding I’d have to say that the real dirty truth is that there’s a bit of pretension going on here. These two places may be great for locals, but I’m not so sure they’re customer oriented.

      I've heard good things about mi terra and will definitely try them when in the area next and report back. Thanks for the suggestion.

      1. re: bewley

        The Indian place in Amherst is much worse than OK. Dirty Truth is a treasure for its selection, though its staff seems less knowledgable about beer than they used to, and the place is a loud, crowded mess on weekend nights.

    2. Found the 2 URLs quite reasonable, but the best yet is Bernie's !!! Prime Rib a must !!



      Bernie`s Dining Depot , 749 James Street , Chicopee, Massachusetts 01020-3915
      Best known for Prime Rib & Seafood, this is a family theme restaurant. The restaurant focuses on a traditional American menu. Expect the average entrée to cost $10 to $18

      1 Reply
      1. re: Peter B Wolf

        The Black Forest Cafe is located in Amherst NH - not Amherst, Mass :)

      2. Not at all a fan of India House, either.

        Umm, Dirty Truth seems to be doing just fine, even without a sign -- it's not my personal choice, too noisy, but it does have a good selection of Belgian beers and a decent moules frites.

        The cafes serve the college market and I agree with fatheryod, that may sort itself out eventually. There are a lot of very good restaurants outside of the "core" Northampton area that you can find out about on the boards -- branch out and give a couple of those a try next time. I guess I could be one of those "yuppie transplants" you speak of...and I rarely eat in NoHo these days.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hollerhither

          Me and the SO drive up to the Dirty Truth on a regular basis for the beer selection and tasty food. If you can't take the trouble to find it, I guess you're not worthy of its libations.

          1. re: newhavener07

            You must have played D&D as a kid.

            But, seriously, anyone who likes Ibiza can't be all that bad, please send Ignacio regards from someone from NYC who once bartended for him (in Norwalk) a long, long time ago. He was THE pioneer for introducing Spanish food to Fairfield County in the eighties.

            I take your point that the bar and their selection may be exceptional, but there's really no excuse for not having a sign.

        2. I like all the cafes - as a student it's nice to have options for studying or taking a break. Each does something well - Haymarket has some tasty lunch dishes, Northampton Coffee does the best espresso, Woodstar has the best baked goods.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fame da lupo

            If everyone were as devoted as you, all those wonderful cafes wouldn't be so slow during lunch and the off hours. I'm going to guess that you are an exceptional student due to your love of food!

            Wouldn't it be nice to have a few places that do coffee, food and baked goods well, instead of a lot or redundant concepts. It's sort of analogous to all the T-shirt shops in Key West, how many do you need?

          2. Um... you're basing your review of India House on how the dumpster smelled? I can assure you, the dumpsters of most restaurants smell like... trash.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tcavanau

              No, no, this WAS something different. I've worked in restaurants for a good portion of my life and I've never (underline never) smelled a dumpster as bad as that. The smell was of rotting meat and sewage and was irresponsible on the owner's behalf. It should never (again underline never) get to that point and as such I think it's a safe determination that the place is one to avoid.