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Overview of Springfield / Holyoke / Lower Pioneer Valley

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I'm going to be taking a class this summer in Springfield, and one of the things I'm excited about is the opportunity to explore some new eating spots, normally I'm stuck in the top half of the PV. Who can give me a good overview or pointers on favorite places?

The class is at STCC so stuff near Armory Square is great but I can also travel, and would be up for checking out just about anything, esp. if anyone has tips on great Puerto Rican or Dominican food in Holyoke.

I had lunch today at Cafe Lebanon and liked it, and am looking forward to checking out Pintu's and Vinh Chau, longtimers on my must-try list. What else you got, to see or to stay away from?

Thanks!

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  1. Even though I have had a few terrible meals there, the Student Prince (AKA The Fort) is a restaurant I always like going to. Old school cooking done well. Great viener shnitsel (horribly spelled I know). I will keep going back there a few times a year.

    11 Replies
    1. re: chrisandbetsyc

      The Fort is a way-back machine. My favorite place to go in Springfield. If you like German food, this is a must-try. Also, for burgers -- White Hut. It's an institution.

      1. re: bigeks

        Where's White Hut? What's to love about their burgers?

        Student Prince / Fort sounds awesome, but might be best as a special trip, right now I'm looking mostly for casual lunches with myself.

        Anybody have tips for Vietnamese food (Vinh Chau or others) or really good Mexican or Latin American food?

        Are there any Ethiopian / Etreian / African restaurants in Springfield?

        Anyone know anything about a Soul Food place across the street from the Sitar (Indian) on Main St.? It was closed and locked when I saw it.

        1. re: andytee

          Not sure about Soul Food on Main St., but try to get down to Chef Wayne's Big Mamou, on Liberty across from the Post Office. It gets very crowded at lunch, so be prepared for a wait, or call ahead for takeout.
          http://www.chefwaynes-bigmamou.com/

          And when you're at STCC, stop by the library and say hi.

          1. re: edub23

            Hi edub!

            What do you like to order from Big Mamou?

            1. re: andytee

              I usually get the muffaletta po boy, but I've had the catfish po boy, the crab cakes (love the accompanying remoulade) and various specials. He does a great roast pork, for example, and every now and then he'll have ribs as a lunch special. Call ahead to check - might be worth it.

              btw, Chef Wayne's is BYOB. At least the Springfield store.

            2. re: edub23

              The Soul Food place is on Main just up from the Fort so I peeked again today - there's now a "NOW OPEN" sign and a good looking menu up, and posted hours of "11am-11pm Every Day", but at 1:30 on a Monday, doors locked and no-one there.

            3. re: andytee

              White Hut is right across Memorial Bridge. Cheesburger with fried onions is the must have. The Prince has really cheap lunch specials, so it might be worth checking out. JB

              1. re: joaniebaby

                Think I'll check 'em out today. Thanks for the tip.

                1. re: andytee

                  or maybe Frigo's, can't decide!

                2. re: joaniebaby

                  You weren't joking about White Hut - they keep it so basic there are no menus.
                  4 questions -
                  Burger or Dog?
                  Fried Onions or no?
                  Cheese or no?
                  Condiments - ketchup, mustard, raw onion, relish.

                  Great burger. This is what Wimpy was talking about when he said "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday...". Thanks for the tip.

              2. re: bigeks

                I hit the Student Prince for lunch today, loved it. Definitely the way-back machine, and the food was good in this interesting way, I imagined my Grandfather eating it with satisfaction. Thanks for the tip.

            4. Pretty dismal area for culinary marvels, I'd suggest White Hut in W. Spfld for a great burger or dog, Student Prince can be meh but, if you keep it simple it's passable. Hope you have some transportation, you may need to go further to get some good chow. Here's an older thread about the area, hope it helps.

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/431140

              3 Replies
              1. re: treb

                Thanks treb - I've read, even posted on, that Pioneer Valley thread, but while it mentions some Springfield spots (how I found Vinh Chau), it's skewed a bit north and I though a Springfield specific thread might be useful.

                1. re: andytee

                  Just keep in mind that Vinh Chau is closed Tuesday. Soooo good.

                  1. re: Bri

                    Made it to Vinh Chau today, liked it. I had Goi Cuon and Pho. Nothing that was up there with my favorite Vietnamese spots in Lowell or Boston, but far better than the place in Amherst, and definitely at least up to par with your average big-city Vietnamese place - and that's pretty darn good. Great find, this is what Chowhound is good for.

              2. There's a fantastic Puerto Rican restaurant on High St. in Holyoke called Fernandez Family Restaurant. It's pretty cheap and guaranteed to fill you up. Just thinking about it makes me want to go eat there again!

                33 Replies
                1. re: Shane9

                  that sounds completely up my alley - thanks!

                  what's your favorite thing to order there?

                  1. re: andytee

                    I almost always order the roast pork with the yellow rice and beans. It's pretty much the best pulled pork I've ever had. And I would definitely recommend ordering a side of the crispy skin. It's not the healthiest of side dishes but quite possibly one of the tastiest. Their chicken stew is fantastic and you must try the fried plantains. It's all DELICIOUS!!

                    1. re: Shane9

                      Awesome!

                      I also found a Puerto Rican restaurant in Springfield - just called "Puerto Rican Restaurant + Bakery" as far as I can tell. It's on Armory pretty near STCC campus. It was packed so I checked it out. Buffet style food instead of a menu, as well as made to order sandwiches, baked sweets, a case of fried things (pasteles, empanadas, etc) and some ceviches. I has a pernil (roast pork shoulder) sandwich that was really good, huge, and cost something like $6.50.

                      Will check out the Fernandez Family place soon.

                      1. re: andytee

                        OK, here is the definitive list of places to go in the area:
                        1. White Hut, W Springfield (order Cheeseburg fried onions)
                        2. Vinh Chau, at X in Springfield (and Pho Saigon across street is fine)
                        3. Frigo's, Springfield (The Best Italian Grocery.Right, HOLLERHITHER?)
                        4. Fernandez Family Rest, Holyoke (yep, the pork and rice..lunch only)
                        5. The Fort/Student Prince, Springfield (lunch in a Bar Booth)
                        6. Primavera, Ludlow (very good Portuguese food)
                        7. Serape, Enfield (just over the border.fine Mexican)
                        8. Max's, Springfield (always good upscale dining priced reasonable at lunch)
                        After these, you are on your own!

                        1. re: Big Fat Moe

                          Next week, I'll go next week! :D

                          1. re: hollerhither

                            hollerhither - yes, go to frigos already. at this point i'm afraid moe will have overhyped it, but it's really a nice spot.

                            1. re: andytee

                              2nd Frigos visit today, Hollerhither, how about you? It's definitely worth a trip.

                              1. re: andytee

                                Still hoping for this week!

                                1. re: hollerhither

                                  Haha! Somehow all the Western Mass threads disintegrate into Moe bugging you to get there. Do it already, I went back for lunch again today, the place is really growing on me.

                                2. re: andytee

                                  There are two Frigo's, which one do you refer to?
                                  Williams Street (the original), the better one (I used to know "Ronzo" and his father in the early Sixties !!)
                                  ......and Main Street

                                  1. re: Peter B Wolf

                                    http://www.frigofoods.com/

                                    William St. is the only address they list, and it's the one I've been going to. Where's the Main Street location? Is it run by the same people?

                                    1. re: Peter B Wolf

                                      So, Hollerhither, you been to Frigos yet?

                              2. re: Big Fat Moe

                                "Definitive" and no mention of Chef Waynes?

                                Hmmm...

                                If we're going south to Enfield, I'd include Hazard Grille. Open for lunch, fairly upscale but reasonably priced; good seafood, sandwiches, and service. I know, because STCC students work there.

                                Red Rose, on Main St. in Springfield, has good pizza and is a Springfield institution. Less than five minutes from STCC.

                                Mykonos, on Liberty St., is only 5-7 minutes from STCC. The service is spotty (saw patrons leave when they weren't acknowledged by staff) but the gyros is great and I've had tasty Greek appetizers recently.

                                1. re: edub23

                                  I applaude BFM for not mentioning Big MamPooh.

                                  1. re: treb

                                    Well, the place is mobbed every single day. To each his/her own, I guess.

                                    Actually, though it's not gourmet fare, there's a place across the street from STCC in the Tech Park, called Molly's, that's not half bad for a quick bite. They make a good Reuben, for example, and the price is right - around $5. Friday they usually have some sort of seafood special, i.e. fish and chips (though no classes on Friday so you probably won't be taking advantage of that).

                                    1. re: edub23

                                      I haven't been in a classroom for some time. He gets a lot of hype but, IMO I don't think it delivers. I can understand the crowd considering the whole PV food scene, as I said earlier, pretty dismal.

                                  2. re: edub23

                                    I have to completely disagree on the Hazard Grille as anything for a CH-er to seek out. I've given it several tries, because the location was convenient. It is nothing special -- although at least it's an independent restaurant in a town full of chains.

                                    1. re: edub23

                                      edub, i thought the same about wayne's mamou, but noticed on another thread that moe really does not like it.

                                      enfield is not on my list, i need to head north after class if anything. someday maybe serapes, but nothing extra.

                                      red rose is on the list, someday when a pizza mood hits.

                                      thanks for the tip on mykonos - i love good greek food, the closest place to me (el greco in greenfield) was pretty dismal the one time i went.

                                      1. re: andytee

                                        Tried Red Rose today for a sausage and broccoli pizza. It struck me as a lot like what I've heard about the Student Prince - real throwback dining room, solid food that tastes like it was made in a time machine, good at what they do but nothing to write home about. "Solid" is the word that comes to mind. Nothing was wrong - good marinara, not too greasy, broccoli chopped and cooked a nice size and degree, fairly tasty sausage - but nothing was especially on either. If my class wasn't ending next week, I'd go back, but I wouldn't put it on a list to recommend to anyone else.

                                        Also walked down the street to La Florentina for a pastry and coffee afterwards, which I regretted. My cannoli was completely soggy, service was disinterested bordering on rude, cappuccino had nothing going for it at all. Only good point was two pretty decent walnut cookies. I could see going here for a cake or cookies for a party, but as a place to stop for coffee and dessert it was a real mistake.

                                        1. re: andytee

                                          You write exactly what the Red Rose is, Solid Old School Italian, but, express disappointment. If you want a good Italian dinner that will fill your cavity and won't break the college bank, go there, it isn't anything else. It's not bad and it's not gourmet or up-scale.

                                          1. re: treb

                                            Don't get me wrong, I was not exactly disappointed in the Red Rose, it was fine. I think I had read some reviews (on yelp.com perhaps?) where people put their pizza on par with places like Frank Pepe's in New Haven, and while I assumed that to be nothing but hyperbole, it's still hard not to get a little excited when you hear comparisons like that.

                                            Decent pie, no serious complaints. Just not a place I would go out of my way to revisit or recommend.

                                            1. re: andytee

                                              I believe you're correct a good pie for short money. Be careful with yelpers opinions, not the best advise, IMO comparing to Pepe's is a pretty tall order.

                                          2. re: andytee

                                            Yup, that's Red Rose. It's a Springfield institution. Was Mayor Sarno there? : )

                                            The pizza is. . . good pizza. I've had lots worse and when I'm in the mood, Red Rose is usually a pretty good fix, especially given the general dining situation in the area.

                                            1. re: edub23

                                              In terms of Red Rose Pizza... there are so many pizza places from Enfield CT to Springfield MA and they're not very good. Red Rose is a standout and is good. I prefer to go up toward Northampton or Amherst MA or Wooster Street in Manchester CT. Other than that I'd be hard pressed to say there's a better place in that radius. In my opinion I prefer Peppas in Longmeadow MA to Red Rose if you're talking pizza places near CT and Springfield. Those places are about it for really good pizza, or at least NY style pizza, in the area - again my opinion.

                                              1. re: Nickmerill

                                                Nick, what do you prefer in Amherst or Northampton? I like Red Rose better than most of what I know in those two towns, at least what I've tried.

                                                1. re: andytee

                                                  I like Pizza Paradiso in Northampton. I really like Pinnocolos (? on spelling) on main street Northampton. I found that pizza after passing that shop for years while waiting for Mimmos to open one day. Mimmos has big slices and is okay. One day it didn't open on time so I decided to try Pinnocolos and I enjoyed it far more. I guess it's a matter of opinion. My friend likes Lunas and I don't think it's anything special. But if my opinion counts I'd take Pinnocolos all day any day over Red Rose - it's thinner, crisper and the cheese isn't heavy. What's amazing to me is I never thought much of the place from the outside and no one mentions it in the best pizza of Northampton, but I love it. Some pies at pizza Paradiso are pure heaven to me as well. Great selection.

                                                  However, if I don't feel like driving the extra 20 or so minutes then it's hard to beat Red Rose.

                                                  1. re: Nickmerill

                                                    My favorite pizza in WMass?
                                                    Regina's at Holyoke Mall. Local outpost of Boston legend.
                                                    Also OK: Joe's and Paradiso Northampton.
                                                    Red Rose is too heavy too thick..3rd rate all the way.

                                                    1. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                      I'm right with you there, Moe. Regina's does a remarkable job with their outpost pizzas. Not as good as the original, but pretty darned tasty. I'd have to say they are my second favorite, after Luna, in Northampton.

                                                      1. re: hilltowner

                                                        did not know there was a regina's in the holyoke mall. this is good.

                                                      2. re: Big Fat Moe

                                                        Yeah, Joe's, Paradiso, and Luna each have something different to offer and I enjoyed them all compared to the other spots in Northampton. Paradiso has the most diverse toppings menu and, as a bonus, some good strong sangria. Joe's is old-school, has a great neighborhood vibe. I have a soft spot for Luna, thin crusts/fresh mozz, because they delivered and their pies were closest to Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, which I kind of miss (but not the lines/tourists).

                                                        Bread Euphoria in Williamsburg has takeout pizzas on the weekends that are also something a little different from the norm.

                                                        BTW in Greenfield I've become attached to Roberto's, which has good crusts and a slightly spicy, hearty tomato sauce. But now that you mention it I am very curious about Regina's.

                                                        1. re: hollerhither

                                                          I was skeptical to say the least as I grew up on Boston pizza, but was very pleasantly surprised. The location is less than ideal, but if you have to be at the mall, at least you can get good pizza. Tell me about Bread Euphoria's pizza. I drive by there quite frequently on my way to Northampton.

                                                          1. re: hilltowner

                                                            Paradiso pizzas are stupid overpriced. Count me out.

                                                            1. re: hilltowner

                                                              I haven't had it in a while since I moved northward, but: organic ingredients, excellent crust, and they use herbs liberally in the dough. It's not always red sauce, sometimes it approaches more of a foccacia-type construction (with the toppings, not the crust), if I remember correctly. If you grab one, feel free to update/contradict me...!

                                2. Tony's Pizza on Boston Road in Pine Point is really delicious and my family prefers it to Red Rose! Even after moving to Middletown, CT we will make a special trip to pick up a pie from Tony's. Brothers Tony and Neal and their family have been providing delicious pizza (and more) at reasonable prices in a welcoming atmosphere for many many years.

                                  1. Wanted to revive this thread to share some info, a colleague and I made a google map detailing interesting independent and ethnic eateries and groceries in Springfield. This is just a compilation, not reviews, but thought it might be useful to people who are curious about places in the area.

                                    You should be able to view it at:
                                    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

                                    It's a pretty "everything but the kitchen sink" sort of list, but the places I have eaten have been mostly good, and many of them were ones you folks pointed me to when this thread was first up.

                                    We compiled the list as part of a grad school project mapping cultural resources in Springfield. Anyhow, the list seemed like it might have use beyond just being an academic exercise so I thought I would share it here.

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: andytee

                                      Wow, this is amazing. Thanks!

                                      Any you would particularly recommend, aside from those already mentioned on the thread?

                                      1. re: corinnerose

                                        theresa's soul food is good and deserves patronage - on main st across from sitar, near student prince.

                                        3ng baking is a good but small middle eastern market, their home-made pastries and meat items (like baked kibbe) are great. got stuffed grape leaves there that were terrible, but the rest was very good.

                                        elke's bake shop has great german style cakes and pastries and does lunch special too - didn't try lunch but it looked good.

                                        other than that, the list is either places mentioned here as good - frigos, student prince, vinh chau, etc, or places i've noted but haven't had a chance to try. i'd love if someone else picked a new place off the map and reported back. springfield really seems to have a wealth of interesting ethnic eateries but there spread out and not well promoted. anyhow - please report back if you try something new!

                                        1. re: andytee

                                          i have been to pho saigon a few times and have enjoyed the food ...fresh spring roll, seafood noodle soup and the catfish i don't eat meat..... how does vinh chau compare?

                                          1. re: sakeandgin

                                            I have been to both and prefer Vinh Chau. Several years ago the Pho Saigon menu wasn't as large as Vinh Chau but now they have comparable menus. The initial reason why I prefered Vinh Chau was the diverse menu but the continuing reason why I prefer Vinh Chau is the service and that I get what I order. I like all the bits in the pho (tendon, liver, etc.) and Pho Saigon will never give me the pho or bun that I order and their excuse (on more than one occasion) has been "oh we didn't think you would like it." I like a restaurant to give me what I order and not Americanize it.

                                          2. re: andytee

                                            My research of the Springfield culinary scene has yeilded this advice, If you want good food, leave Springfield. The only exception is Chef Waynes Big Mamou. Aside from that, everything is either bad, old and bad, or decent but silly (I think fufu dining is both expensive and ridiculous unless you are actually in a cultural Mecca such as a Boston or New York). But hey, some people don't mind eating between a gym and a cool looking waterfall and paying $9 for pot stickers and $10 for a slim Crown and Coke. Yup, the bitterness runs deep my friends.

                                            -----
                                            Big Mamou
                                            63 Liberty St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                            1. re: foodwallguy

                                              Well, I disagree. Springfield is no culinary mecca, and I can't say I've even begun to try to explore high-end fine dining there, nor do I want to. But there are some pretty great spots listed in this thread that are well worth a mention.

                                              Are Vinh Chau, Pho Saigon, or any of the other Vietnamese places in Springfield the best anywhere? No, definitely not, there are many better in Boston. But they are the best in Western Massachusetts, and are worth knowing about and visiting. And places like the White Hut and Student Prince are unique enough to recommend to anyone. Frigos is a top-knotch Italian deli that could rival any number of big city places.

                                              Long story short, we eat where we live, and pretty much anyone living in Western Massachusetts or surrounding areas will find things in Springfield that they will not find anywhere else. If food is your only criteria in selecting a place to live, yes, you might be much better off in another area of the country entirely. There are many threads on Chow probably entirely devoted to that topic - and still you find people in San Francisco complaining there is no good pizza and people in New York complaining there is no good Mexican, and so on. For those of us who do live here and like good food, Springfield has some things to offer that are well worth noting.

                                              The beauty of chow is that there is plenty of room for diversity of opinion. Certainly if you know of better Vietnamese food in the Pioneer Valley I'd love to know about it. But food discussion tends by it's nature to be localized - I certainly miss ordering green chile in New Mexico but it's not an option in my day to day life now. Think what you will, but my experience is that taking an across the board negative position on food in Springfield will mean missing out on some things that aren't found elsewhere. And, again, if you are finding them elsewhere, I'd love to hear about it.

                                              -----
                                              Chau's Restaurant
                                              964 Main St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                              White Hut
                                              280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089

                                              Student Prince Cafe
                                              8 Fort St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                              1. re: andytee

                                                Wow! The Red Rose is still around? Used to eat their pasta n figgoili and their Ziti many many lifetimes ago. And thanks for the map. Few of these spots were open back in the day but brings back memories.

                                                -----
                                                Red Rose Cafe
                                                800 Broad St, Weymouth, MA 02189

                                                1. re: crewsweeper

                                                  We are quite fond of Sitar and -- when you take speed-of-service into account -- we'd probably rate it ahead of Pintu's for basic Indian. Also, I haven't been for a while but Talk of the Town on Wilbraham Rd used to have some great Caribbean lunch specials -- fatty and delicious. The neighborhood can be a little tough in the evening, but the eats were excellent. Can't recall which day they do goat stew, but it was great.

                                                  fy

                                        2. re: andytee

                                          While I haven't actually gotten around to visiting many of the places on that map, I do have a few that I think are worth adding.

                                          -Jamaican Blend - on Wilbraham Rd. This place has the classics (jerk chicken, curry goat) I've also seen some more unusual stuff, like goat head soup. It might not be up to NY standards, and the dishes I've had could definitely be spicier, but it's satisfying and the only decent Caribbean food in the Pioneer Valley area--that I've had anyways! The curry goat is served with chunks of bone, of course, yum yum. It's pretty much just take out--order at the counter and the food is served in styrofoam to-go containers. There is also a Golden Krust (Caribbean chain) across the street, and a market nextdoor that carries some Caribbean stuff. Definitely worth a visit!

                                          -There is a taco truck in the parking lot of Food Zone on Belmont St in Forest Park (kinda near the X) that is pretty decent. They make their own corn tortillas (the tiny ones) and salsa and have a good variety of fillings--lengua, res, cabesa, enchilada, al apastor. Also on the menu are quesadillas and a torta milanesa. The guy running it told me they are usually there until about 8:30pm. Check it out!

                                          -While we are talking about food near the X, there is also a little asian market right across from pho saigon (so, nextdoor to Vinh Chau) that has some interesting stuff: duck & quail eggs, mustard greens, watercress, bao that they get from NY, rice noodles & wrappers.... sometimes they have cool fruit. The people who work there are really nice and helpful, too.

                                          -----
                                          Chau's Restaurant
                                          964 Main St, Manchester, CT 06040

                                          1. re: corinnerose

                                            I have been to Ichiban East Longmeadow Stop & Shop Plaza a few times. BYOB and a pretty extensive menu. Not bad at all for this area. Last visit the Chirashi was very good and a wok fried calamari all tenticles with 2 dipping sauces was quite tasty. Sammie the owner is attentitive and very nice .She may even bring you a few surprises

                                            -----
                                            Ichiban Restaurant
                                            146 Gansett Ave, Cranston, RI 02910

                                            1. re: corinnerose

                                              i wonder if jamaican blend is a new edition of talk of the town? i really dud that place.

                                              1. re: fatheryod

                                                okay, I'm not totally sure what talk of the town is, but the address that comes up when you google it is the address of what is now a Golden Krust (chain) bakery. When did that place close? What did they have? Jamaican blend is right across the street.

                                                1. re: corinnerose

                                                  it was all carribean with rotating daily specials. lots of goat and whatnot. i used t eat there regularly about 8-10 years ago. more recently, for carribean, i hit imperial carribean in cromwell ct. but they also closed up. so i'm glad to hear of this!

                                                  1. re: fatheryod

                                                    Hmm, well try out Jamaican Blend and let me know what you think!

                                                    I can't believe more people aren't excited about the taco truck. It's really good!!!

                                                    1. re: corinnerose

                                                      Frankie's Pizza in Somersville, CT - best pizza ever.
                                                      Peppa's Pizza in E. Longmeadow is very good also.
                                                      Taste of Garlic in Springfield at the "X" - latest Italian favorite
                                                      Dorothy & Leroy's in Windsor Locks, CT - Cajun better than Chef Wayne
                                                      Frigo's in East Longmeadow - Chicken Parm for $5.99 - you get at least 2 meals out of it.
                                                      Can't beat White Hut for burgers - they do fries too now!
                                                      Maine Fish Market in Warehouse Point - excellent seafood - only thing missing is the ocean.

                                                      -----
                                                      Maine Fish Market Restaurant
                                                      60 Bridge St, East Windsor, CT 06088

                                                      White Hut
                                                      280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089

                                          2. Bamboo House for Vietnamese on Belmont Ave in Springfield a few blocks southeast of the X. Delicious food with no pretense in clean but humble surroundings. You know Grandma's doing the cooking in the kitchen.

                                            Li's on Maple Road in Longmeadow for sushi and Chinese food.

                                            The Federal in Agawam as your special occasion restaurant - or just when you want a really good meal. Everything I've ever had there has been perfect.

                                            Mateus "Steakhouse" on Winchester St. in Ludlow for Portuguese food - like Primavera, but different too.

                                            Pizza - Family Pizza on Sumner Ave across from the Bing, or the Pizza Shoppe (yes, really) on Shaker Road in East Longmeadow for their sweet biscuit-like crust.