WMass Sugar shacks. Tis' the season
I love living in Franklin Co. One of the perks comes this time of year..sugar shacks. Just when you really need something to go outside for. So...who's good, who's not and are ANY chowhound quality?
I will first say what my criteria are for a great sugar shack. 1. Location. Out in the woods is preferred. Down a dirt road is a plus. Hard to find and off the main roads, in other words. 2.Ambiance. This means something a little different for a sugar shack. Having an evaporator in the waiting room is great. I really like stone floors. Wood fires are pretty an additional plus. 3. Good Food. I'm a food lover but I put food quality at 3 because going to a sugar shack is so much more about the journey and experience than the food. I don't think you could serve truly amazing food and still be a 'sugar shack'. The food can't suck though. Luckily, breakfast fare is quite easy to make well. I've never had a meal and said I'd never come back. But on the other hand I have also never had a piece of bacon or sausage that was worth eating, anywhere. So, if anyone knows a shack serving decent pork product, I need to hear from you.
So here is who I like and who I don't.
Red Bucket, Worthington. Top of my list. Great location and ambiance. They even have a maple tree growing thru a table in the dining room that is tapped! My 4 year old was entranced. Food is decent, but not great.
South Face, Ashfield. Very good. Better food. Corn fritter are amazing. They also put pickles on the table to cut the sweetness of the syrup. Nice touch. Not as great on the ambiance.
Davenports, Shelburne. OK. Danish pancakes are different. Folks are very friendly. They staff a small army in the kitchen. They look like high schoolers. As a restaurant pro, I can't sit where I can see the kitchen. I just keep thinking, "Get rid of the 6 kids and hire 2 pros." But that is neither here nor there, just a personal quirk.
Goulds, Shelbure. I never went here till last season because it failed my first criteria. It's right on RT 2. And the ambiance isn't great (I especially hate a gift shop with a lot of country crafty crap). BUT...the food was really quite good. Maybe the best I've had at a shack.
N Hadley Sugar Shack, N Hadley. Hated it. Too big, too busy. Too tour bus accessible. Food was crap. Avoid.
Those are the ones I'm most familiar with. Would love to see opinions of others in Franklin Co.
One other issue that bugs me. I would love to see more places not using disposable plates/utensils. I hate being served a meal on a square foot of landfill fill. I know it is difficult to install a dishwasher for a business that only is open for a few weekends a year but I would give big props to any that would not use disposables.
We like Windy Hill Farm : Rte. 112 S. to Sam Hill Rd. to West St. Oldest sugarhouse in town according to the "list".
Definitely off the beaten path and rustic, it is truly a sugar "shack" and a very small place. Not buffet (which I prefer) and very, very much for locals not tourists. Unfortunately, I seem to remember plastic or styrofoam plates. Let me say again that the two operative words are: Rustic & SHACK. Quite a decent bkfst - more than decent - but the ambience (or lack thereof) makes everything taste even better!
I have a lot of affection for High Hopes in South Worthington, it is WAY off the beaten track, (I think I drove by Red Bucket on the way there) but it's unassuming, quiet, great folks running it. The food is buffet and I'm not sure it's the most fabulous, but heck, it's a great vehicle for syrup. I thought their sausage was good.
I *might* be wrong on this but I seem to remember that they had plastic (not disposable) plates.
I thought Gould's, while good, was crowded and more like a "restaurant" and that plus the big gift shop actually turned me off a bit. But it is conveniently located.
I'll be heading back to High Hopes again this year.