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Jul 12, 2009 04:52 AM

What happened to Lenox?

I have lived in Lenox most of my life. I have enjoyed, for the most part, the choices that the restaurants in Lenox have offered. I must say though, the last year and a half, at least, have been major disappointments. I feel that I can no longer have a satisfying dining experience. It seems to me that all the restaurants in Lenox have fallen to the lowest common denominator. Right now, IMHO, Haven has the best food, but is seriously overpriced. After working in the "biz" for many, many years I know what they pay for their goods. Even so.... what happened? A fine meal in Lenox used to be a sure thing..... not so much anymore. I'm curious to read your thoughts... thankfully there are still a plethora of great establishments that serve fantastic food in the Berks, just not Lenox.

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  1. I strongly disagree...have you been to restaurants OTHER than Haven in the past number of months? Also, if you have been to Pearl's or Allium anytime recently, you would know that the Lenox restaurants far outperform those in Great Barrington, all the way around.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AikiLou

      I eat out once a week and ALWAYS make the rounds through town before the summer season. This is the second year in a row that I have been seriously disappointed. The quality of dining, IMO, throughout the Berks, has definitely gone up but I feel that Lenox overall has stagnated and therefore others have surpassed the "sure thing" that dining in Lenox used to offer.

    2. If you are saying Haven is the best in Lenox, you have probably not been to Blantyre anytime recently. Blantyre is arguably the best in the county. It is a Lenox restaurant, and, we all have opinions; however, I cannot see how Haven could be better than Blantyre...that restaurant and the experience that goes with it are incredible.

      3 Replies
      1. re: AikiLou

        Touche..... I guess I should be a little more direct... the downtown or "uptown" restaurants are what I was referring to.

        1. re: Lenox637

          I must give kudos to Gatetways Inn's La Terazza. Every time we eat there, we are impressed by the high quality of cooking, presentation, and service. While it is a few dollars more than some of the other Lenox restaurants, I don't mind paying the difference.

          The chef trained with Marcella Hazan and she always has homemade pasta on the menu. She is quite understated in her preparations but still creative. I don't think she is on the radar of the locals here and that is a shame.

          1. re: hopegoode

            Agreed... a slight step above the others... try getting fresh pasta at Zinc

      2. In my opinion, I think the dining in Lenox has always been overhyped and overpriced and generally not worth it. I believe that restaurants in Lenox feed off of the fact that they will inevitably have a bustling tourist season for 6 months of the year, and forget about the local demand for the remainder of it. If one is looking for a place to have a truly special meal, there are inarguably Berkshire restaurants and inns that can offer that, but how often is a normal person looking to spend $150+ on a meal out? I like to dine out often and as a younger person, it is just totally out of my budget. In terms of the more "affordable" Lenox options - Firefly, Church Street, etc. - I just do not think that they perform or are consistent.

        I have not lived in the area for two years or so, but return fairly regularly. On my last trip, I had brunch at Haven and was actually pleasantly surprised. The Santa Fe omelet was delicious and I enjoyed a chocolate-ginger cookie on the train ride home.

        Also - when is Lenox going to get some decent pizza?!

        2 Replies
        1. re: emmaleeb

          Well, I basically agree with Lenox637 'cept I haven't eaten at Haven due to being turned off by the look of their pastries (I'm a baker by avocation.) Perhaps I should try them. Never go to Lenox to eat, though we eat out about once a week. Fin is the only place 'downtown" I'd consider.
          But as to pizza......2 people recommended Betty's and I was hungry after a haircut last week and tried a slice. Was really disappointed. Basically ate the topping and tossed the undercooked (despite being reheated) and bland crust. Would not go back. Doesn't hold a candle to Hot Tomatoes.

          1. re: mjoyous

            The only reason people "recommend" Betty's is because it's the ONLY pizza in town! (Besides what used to be The Lenox Pizzaria, which also was sub-par). The pizza is so floppy and tasteless and useless. I was in high school when it opened and it was hot to go there every single day after class. I'm pretty certain that without that excited teenage crowd, it would be gone-zo.

            And you're right. I forgot about Fin. I have always had good rolls at Fin.

        2. I think you are right about Lenox. Was disappointed that the crepe place closed. Frankie's is acceptable but unexciting. Had pretty good food at Prime Steakhouse with the exception of the steak (unfortunate for a steakhouse). Fin is the best of a mediocre bunch for sushi in the Berkshires. Otherwise, within a reasonable price range (sorry, Blantyre and Wheatleigh), things are rather disappointing.

          I think overall Great Barrington comes out slightly ahead. Even Pittsfield's best (Brix, Mission) I think are better bets generally than Lenox. Fortunately it is pretty easy to get around to all the other towns.

          Probably best for another thread, but I can't blame Lenox for bad pizza, it's a New England-wide problem.

          6 Replies
          1. re: nfnebwiri

            No good pizza in New England, nfnebwiri? Have you never been to Connecticut? Though I do agree the Berkshires are not where it is at for good pizza.

            1. re: mels

              No mels, you are right considering New Haven area.

              But I kind of think of that geographically as closer to NYC. For the rest of New England I stand by my original statement (yes including Boston).

              AikiLou, within the "affordable" range, Cafe Adam, Napa, Xicotencatl have been far better than anything I have had in Lenox, but admittedly I have not been in the area for long so if you have anything to suggest I will definitely try it.

              1. re: nfnebwiri

                I agree that the region below New Haven is basically a suburb of NYC and not like the rest of New England (they mainly support the Yankees), so your comment makes perfect sense to me. However, I do think Boston has a few standouts: Reginas and Santarpios and a few newer "boutique" pizzerias are finally coming on the scene:


                I will say that in New England if a place doesn't attract the locals it MUST become a destination spot to survive, regardless of the town where it happens to be located.

                From what I've read here and experienced firsthand, it would seem Northampton has the same issue with mediocre restaurants. Of course this is a major generalization, but I think fast food and lack of culture has dumbed down most of New England (excepting urban centers and the small pockets of wealthy/artist enclaves).

                I also find it curious that many of the posters that discusss this region (especially NOHO) appear to have originated from Caloifornia or the Pacific Northwest. Why is that?

                1. re: bewley

                  I guess any large urban area is bound to have a few standouts for pizza. But what you can't do in most of New England is stroll into whatever your local pizza shops are and expect them to be good.

                  And despite the complaints about Lenox, overall I would say the Berkshires is pretty decent for restaurants considering the low population.

                  1. re: bewley

                    Bewley, there is, for whatever reason, a vocal student contingent from the west coast that posts about Northampton and Amherst. I've noticed (in some cases) that perspectives can vary based on how vested someone is in remaining in the community.

                    I really can't speak for Lenox but perhaps it's similar to Northampton, in that rising rents (due to tourism/students) pushed a lot of the smaller chef-run spots to surrounding towns, while attracting more of the business/restauranteur types who hire on chefs to work their concepts.

                    And "good pizza," wow, I bet you would get opinions far and wide on that one...New Haven-style, brick oven, thick crust thin crust whole-wheat crust heavy cheese no cheese fresh tomatoes chunky sauce smooth sauce extra sauce gourmet toppings no toppings...! Not at ALL controversial. :)

            2. When we first moved to the Berkshires to live full time, I remember asking a cousin of mine, who had summered up here for decades, which are the good restaurants. I remember her answer: which year? Every year it's a new deal, sometimes one is good, the next year not; some close, some open, some make it, some don't.
              Wisdom for the ages!
              In the 8 years we're here, we've watched the ups and downs (and suffered a number of them too). Unfortunately for 2009, I have to go along with Lenox 637. This is the worst restaurant year I've encountered, although not just in Lenox. There are exceptions (a few), but in general, prices have risen, quality has declined, and economics being what they are this year, I am cooking more, much more, at home.
              Brix (Pittsfield) is our favorite exception.
              Haven (Lenox) is a moderate priced exception. Last time we were at Fin it was still very good, far and away the best sushi in the Shires (we never have liked Bizen, overpriced, overcrowded, over-fiddled-with food).
              Everyone praises John Andrews to the skies, but we have never in four or five tries had a meal that matched up to the hype and prices. Just our experience, I'm perfectly willing to cede that it might be great.
              We have always enjoyed Mezze in W'town, but don't get up North often.
              The Dragon, by all odds our all around favorite place, is closed and may --- or may not--- ever open again, and who knows at what level the food would be, since it has been announced that the third brother will be the chef.
              Once Upon a Table (Stockbridge), which seems to be under everyone's radar, is one of our enduring favorites, especially at dinner.
              Blantyre and Wheatleigh? Please! Only millionaires need apply.
              But back to Lenox.
              Haven, our new best friend. Zinc we loved for a few years when we first moved in, no longer. Cafe Lucia, too pricey for our blood, especially for pasta. Church Street I always want to like, and they are very welcoming, but the food is overpriced especially for what it is. Things are tough, and I don't blame them, but I won't spend my money as carelessly as I used to. We've never tried the Terrazza, maybe we will. We don't enjoy steak (so never tried Prime) and Frankie's just doesn't appeal. We liked Dish for several years but then it declined and closed abruptly. Alta is a hope, but we haven't tried it yet, and Firefly is incredibly noisy.
              Yes, we've gotten cranky and fussy. At current prices, we feel entitled to be. In general I agree with the poster about Northampton and Lenox being underwhelmed with good restaurants, perhaps because of the built-in dining-out population. Excepting Boston, and the string of pearls that are the isolated jewels along, say, Route 2 (I take this on the word of chowhounds I respect and follow), New England mainly likes its food bland and boring.
              Don't get me wrong, I LOVE New England, went to college here and live here.
              But these days I eat mostly at home!
              Sorry for the rant, but ....
              P.S. to Lenox 637, we really loved Moe's Tavern! The honest simple places (Cafe Reva, On a Roll, Baba Louie's) in many ways turn out to be the best. They are what they are, and are good at it.
              P.P.S. We don't venture south to Great Barrington so very often, so haven't yet tried Allium, the new Pearl's, or Cafe Adam (all expensive, but perhaps might be worth it) but we plan to. I think I'm not the only cranky poster on this thread!

              13 Replies
              1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                Just had a thought to add, although I haven't been there this "high" season (nor will I likely, due to tourist rush).....I've taken to eating at the bar at Castle St, when in GB. Have solid, decent it is for the restaurant menu too, but much more reasonably priced.
                And Tsarina.....I'm keeping a close eye on the Dragon. Noticed it's yet another son, but am hoping moma's influence will prevail, at least re: the spring rolls! Will post as soon as we eat there.

                1. re: mjoyous

                  "I've taken to eating at the bar at Castle St, when in GB. Have solid, decent it is for the restaurant menu too, but much more reasonably priced." - mjoyous

                  Thanks, Joyous, for this tip: ditto Rouge, West Stockbridge. (I know you agree;-)
                  Trusting you to announce the rebirth of the Dragon!

                  1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                    What does everybody know that I do not? If one reads and compares the menu prices of restaurants in Great Barrington and West Stockbridge to those of Lenox restaurants, there is absolutely NO difference. Also, has it not crossed everybody's mind that one COULD go to a restaurant and order a couple of appetizers and walk away satisfied? Also, to those trashing Fin, I think it is terrific...try the rice balls some time. Also, the rolls are interesting and innovative. Once Upon a Table can stay under the radar as far as I am concerned. Also, a few months ago, I walked into Haven to order a sandwich. The woman behind the counter was aware of my presence, but, she was having a discussion with a friend about cappucino, and, that was more important to her than making a sale. After five minutes I left. Seriously, everybody, read the menus of all restaurants you have is all the same everywhere around the county.

                    1. re: AikiLou

                      Who trashed Fin? Not one person! In fact, its only mentions were to praise.

                      1. re: AikiLou

                        I disagree. I think it's is much, much easier to eat reasonably and walk away satisfied elsewhere in the county than in Lenox. Perhaps you have had exceptional meals at the Lenox restaurants ... I am not going to argue with you there (clearly it's a losing battle). Lenox has an extremely limited number of restaraunts, and if one is disappointed with the ones right downtown (Zinc, Firefly, Lucia's, Church Street, Prime), then there is not really elsewhere to go, especially affordably. I think that Lenox lacks inventive cuisine, and is also not progressive.

                        Fin is good, for Berkshire sushi. I don't think they are particularly inventive, unless you call putting chicken and bacon into rolls inventive.

                        And I don't understand your point about appetizers. If I'm looking to "save money" by just ordering appetizers in a restaurant that doesn't really specialize in them and they are not exceptional, that is just a waste of money.

                        1. re: emmaleeb

                          Let's talk Rouge for a second, a much loved restaurant in the area and on this board. Many of us have taken to eating at the bar (extensive tapas and innovative sandwich menus, plus you can order off the lovely but pricier standard menu.) For $10-12 you can get an extraordinary sandwich with real french fries and a small amount of greens, and I have not found the quality or range of inexpensive items duplicated in Lenox.

                          1. re: mjoyous

                            Exactly my point! Step outside of Lenox and there are many restaurants serving innovative dishes ... not just entrees ... and I would rather head somewhere like the bar at Rouge where if I am going to order a few appetizers, I know that they will be good and sensibly priced for the exceptional quality. Head into the majority of "downtown" Lenox restaurants and order a few appetizers and I leave unimpressed with a big bill.

                            1. re: emmaleeb

                              If I am going out for dinner, I do not want a sandwich. I want to go to a restaurant and sit in the dining room, and, also, I want to go to a restaurant that has a really good wine list with a number of bottles that are well chosen, but moderately priced. As for pizza, try Hot Tomatoes...I get it to take home to go with a really good salad sometimes on cold nights in the winter when I want to be casual. me pizza without salad isnot dinner; it is cocktail food. Also, if you check out the menu prices at Rouge, they ARE the same as those of most other restaurants. I would also refer you to Niccole's account of her experience there on Father's Day.

                              1. re: AikiLou

                                pizza......... cocktail food? C'mon.... that's getting a little "lofty".

                                1. re: Lenox637

                                  Picking up a slice of pizza, for me, does not dinner constitute. Lunch, mayyyybe, but dinner for me must be a proper meal. Pizza and salad can be Sunday night supper, perhaps, in front of the fire with a decent bottle of Syrah or Pinot Noir...I do not believe it is lofty to want a decent meal.

                            2. re: mjoyous

                              I agree with you assessment of Rouge.
                              The bar is the place to sit there with good cocktails,friendly bar staff,great tapas and ,if you want,a full dinner.
                              We avoid Wheatleigh because of the cold atmosphere and on top of that the overpriced food.
                              Cafe Lucia used to have the best Osso Bucco around imo but I've heard they took this item off the menu because of the cost.
                              We like Haven for breakfast because it's different from most other breakfast places.
                              Understand that we arrrive when they first open(we're early risers) so the service and great and the coffee is fresh.
                              Zinc is to be avoided at all costs from their surly staff to overpriced food with lousy service over the years.
                              We've tried this place several times and it never gets better.
                              I think that emmaleeb is right about his/her assessment of downtown Lenox.
                              We really prefer Chez Nous on a regular basis and we've never been disappointed with John Andrews although many here have been more critical lately of the place.
                              Going to try the bar in Lanesboro this weekend that supposedly has great wings.
                              Hopefully we'll get to t ry the Old Mill down Egremont way one of these days.

                              1. re: catnip

                                We seem to share similar tastes in restaurants! I intend to try Rouge one of these days and am happy to be cautioned to sit in the "right room" to have proper access to menus.

                                We have had some awful experiences in Lenox, and so tend not to gravitate there for dinner...Zinc may have been the all-time worst and biggest rip-off. Also a horrible dinner at Napa when it was there and the French place, meh, that used to be next to the bagel place. Tried Haven for lunch and was surprised at how good it was -- excellent, homemade roasted tomato soup with equally tasy fresh bread, nice salade Nicoise. Prices not bad considering the portions.

                                Lee is a better bet. Chez Nous is our favorite and we also like Salmon Run for simple, straighforward food and a good value. Also love John Andrew and have been wanting to try the Old Mill.

                                Surely Lenox can do better!

                                1. re: City Kid

                                  catnip! i hope you do try the old mill this weekend! report back if you do. i always think the perfect restaurant would be JA's food inside the old mill. the old mill IS tasty though. i think you will really enjoy it. let me know!

                                  citykid- try rouge for sure but YES, remember the dining room/menu issue.