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Foodie Family Moving to New England


My husband, myself and our two little girls are moving to New England to be closer to family and we are trying to decide where to move. We currently live in Montana. My husband is a chef so we are looking for a good foodie town that is not too big (boston is too big) and is also outdoorsy, progressive and family-friendly. My family lives in Western Mass and we're open to living up to 3-4 hours away. We have spent the last several years catering for weddings and second home owners and although it's been fun, we are so excited to move to a place with ethnic food, high end restaurants and just lots of options! Thanks so much for taking the time to help us out!

  1. Everytime I visit Burlington, VT, I'm astounded at how truly great the food scene seems to be. Local farms all over the place, and a restaurant scene that shuns chains and places a lot of emphasis on locally-sourced food. Amazing local beer, amazing local cheese... what more could you want?!

    1. Come back to Western Mass! There is now Vietnamese in Amherst, better Mexican than a Yankee has a right to expect on Rt. 9 in Hadley, some of the best beer bars and coffee roasters / espresso bars I've been to anywhere in the world. On the fancy tip, it's mostly upscale French Bistro (Chez Albert, Gypsy Apple, Bistro Le Gras) but it's done well. And there's a local beef burger joint in Northampton that merited a NY Times write-up.

      Burlington is a good town too. Sometimes it snows in June, but otherwise a lovely place.

      6 Replies
      1. re: andytee

        Greenfield, MA seems to have a burgeoning dining scene, with the Peoples' Pint and Hope and Olive leading the way. Are there other places that have opened up in their wake (I am in Boston, so I am not familiar with the daily goings-on).

        Providence is cool but the schools are not great unless you want to shell out $$$ for private school. Food scene in Portland ME is much better than Portsmouth NH, but Portsmouth is a bit closer to Western Mass. (Although, I guess you guys are used to long distances in Montana.)

        1. re: digga

          Hope and Olive is great, People's Pint is very good, there are also a bunch of other good places in Greenfield. Turner's Falls has Ristorante Di Paolo, a great fancy-night-out Italian place, The Rendezvous - a pub with great food, drink, and events, and a new burrito place, Burrito Rojo.

          1. re: andytee

            Don't forget Gypsy Apple in Shelburne Falls.

            1. re: hilltowner

              Gypsy Apple is one of my favorite spots in the valley, only left it off b/c I was responding to the post about Greenfield.

        2. re: andytee

          What/where is the Mexican on Route 9?

          1. re: eleeper

            Mi Tierra - its a bit hard to find because it's set back. The location used to be the Hadley Pub, if that helps. They now have a new bigger sign at the street, it's on your right if you are heading from Amherst to Northampton, and it's between the whole big box mall scene and Rt. 47. Great homeade tortillas, good pork tacos, great shrimp dishes.

            Mi Tierra
            206 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035

        3. Portland Maine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          4 Replies
          1. re: shaebones

            Hands down.... Portland, Maine.

            1. re: ciclista

              Probably more ethnic food than Montana, but not by much.

              1. re: the_MU

                Definitely Portland. I'm a foodie transplant from NYC, and I love this place.

                1. re: miradan

                  Also an NYC transplant to Portland and a major foodie. Been here 7 months and NOT disappointed in the food...or the town!

          2. Burlington Vermont gets great ratings on the scale of "great small cities to live in". I highly recommend looking into it.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Morganna

              Consider Concord NH not too much in the way of unusual ethnic but Manchester is close, Portsmouth is less than an hour, Boston is an hour south and The Mountains are only an hour north. Very family friendly. Lots of kayakers and bicyclists. Great apple orchards, etc. Check out the free Hippo Press newspaper. The new Red River Theater. We might not have as many cheese makers as VT but there's more and more emphasis on local food. More people raising local meat and poultry, FRESH seafood available.

              1. re: dfrostnh

                Respectfully disagree - NYC transplants here so our starting point maybe skewed... Concord and the surrounding area is nearly devoid of restaurants that are "foodie" quality. I approximate Boston to the south, Portsmouth/Kittery to the east, Burlington to the North to be a perimeter of sorts.

                In terms of cooking in, there are "hidden" places to find special things, but sourcing items overall is difficult without heading out of Concord.

                Burlington and Portland would be my two suggestions...

                1. re: wongadon

                  Respectful disagreement is good, it brings out a discussion of options. I balanced foodie with family and outdoorsy requirements. Yes, you have to drive to Manchester for a decent variety of ethnic ingredients and better restaurants but on my daily commute to a Concord suburb I pass or am within minutes of several farmstands. Daily availability of fresh corn, local eggs, apples ranks high. Neighbors who make maple syrup, another plus. Outdoorsy family could easily find a home where they could cross country ski from their back door, kayak, fish and hike nearby. Also hope an outdoorsy, foodie family will have their own garden and maybe a 4-H animal projects (Merrimack County has some of the most active 4-H programs in the state.) A local grower has dozens of varieties of heirloom tomato and pepper plants for sale each spring. There's also a good chance new friends/neighbors might share fresh game (we had bear steaks a couple of weeks ago).
                  It's an easy drive to a variety of sources but I still think Concord has a lot to offer where daily eating and family needs are concerned and more to offer an outdoorsy family than many. Providence = better restaurants but skiing isn't as good.

              2. Check out Northhampton, and Great Barrington, Mass.

                1. Providence! Huge foodie scene, and only two hours away from Western Mass. Also close to beaches, a ton of state parks... for family-friendly, would probably want to live just outside of Prov.

                  We're ranked #6 this year by travel + leisure mag for overall food/dining!

                  Check out the article: http://www.travelandleisure.com/afc/2...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: malyna

                    I like Providence, but there is very little in the way of outdoorsy culture. Going out the park seems to involve carting a cooler 150 feet away from your car and reading.

                  2. The town you are looking for is Boulder, Colorado. Progressive: Mass or VT. Outdoorsy: VT or ME. Family-friendly: everybody in New England hates children--jk!. Ethnic: Lowell MA. High end restaurants: Portland ME has a high ratio vs population.
                    Seriously, it will depend how much $ you can spend on real estate--I think Portsmouth NH is a wonderful, underappreciated town with many of the qualities you seek.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: whs

                      I agree with whs. I think for location, Portsmouth, NH is best. It has a few decent eateries but, more important, it's equidistant from Boston and Portland. It's two hours drive to Providence and the Cape. Close to Wells and Ogunquit, Maine and Newburyport, MA, Manchester, Concord & Lowell. You can drive to NYC in five hours and Montreal in six. If Portsmouth is too expensive look at Dover, NH or Kittery, ME.

                      Portland is wonderful, but you're really on the edge of civilization. Burlington, also, is too remote. It's a satellite and worth a days trip or so and the same goes for Northampton, MA. Those three towns are remote and don't have enough in and of themselves to sustain a dedicated foodie for too long. If you live in Portsmouth, most of these places are an hour or so away.

                      (And, for the outdoors, the White Mountains are just a few hours drive up Route 16.)

                      1. re: bewley

                        I would also recommend Portland. (See recent Bon Appetit article, too.) I'm originally from western Mass. (born in Northampton and still have family there), lived out west for over 20 years and moved back east in 2004. We now live in midcoast Maine, but for what you're seeking, Portland is best (schools, restaurants, etc.) Or Portsmouth. But, be forewarned, the real estate market in Portland is pricey.

                        1. re: Shooley

                          If considering RI, then Providence or Newport...

                    2. I would be careful when citing magazine articles. I didn't say that Portsmouth eateries were featured the most recent Gourmet, because it's most likely paid for. Providence also has a strong Hospitality association and was initially put on the map by a group of eateries that got together to promote the area as a hospitality consortium of sorts. No naming of names, but these are realities that should be considered when citing the latest string of blanket "promotional" articles. It was noted in another thread that the the same Portland eateries were featured in two magazine articles recently . . . you may see the pattern.

                      All that being said I would also consider Providence for the same considerations as Portsmouth (the ethnic restaurant scene in Providence beats Portsmouth, NH hands down) except Portsmouth is closer to Portland and more outdoor activities, ocean, mountains, etc.

                      1. In addition to the great food scene, Burlington VT was just named the best city in the USA to raise a family. Not sure of the origin but it was on the Today show.

                        1. I think many of the recomends are great, but would point out that the growing season in most of these regions is barely more hospitable than in most of Montana! It was down in the 20's in the Berkshires in late Sept/early Oct.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mjoyous

                            For longer growing seasons, stay near the ocean. Burlington is probably in zone 4 while Portland and Portsmouth are definitely zone 5. Not sure about Providence -- 5 or 6 I guess.

                          2. I work for a company that services high end restaurants and have the great opportunity to travel all over New England; as well as being a transplant to New England. I have to say that Burlington, Vermont is fabulos. Second is Portland, Maine and third is Providence, RI.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sarahbeth

                              Really? Can you recommend some Burlington Favorites? I haven't explored too much off Church St. but haven't seen too much I was impressed by. I'm sure they are out there but I don't know them. Love to know some good places for next time I'm up.

                              1. re: andytee

                                My first advice would be to stay OFF of Church Street. I can't remember ever having a great meal there. However, in the Burlington area (within walking distance) there are some options:

                                Trattoria Delia
                                American Flatbread

                                Within 15 Minutes

                                Tiny Thai (Winooski)
                                Belted Cow (Essex Jct.)
                                Drunken Noodle (Essex Jct.)
                                Martone's Deli (Essex Jct.)

                                Within 30 - 40 minutes

                                Kitchen Table Bistro (Richmond)
                                Hen of the Wood (Waterbury)

                                Church Street, IMO, is best for a couple beverages or a burger (Wednesday Night at The Scuffer 1/2 price). Leunig's has fans (I'm not one of them).

                                1. re: TonyO

                                  Thanks for the tips. I'm with you on Leunigs. I've been to Flatbread, liked the original one better than the Burlington location, and while both were fine I was actually kinda underwhelmed.

                                  I'll have to give Delia or L'Amante a try next time I'm up.

                            2. The suggestions for Portland, Burlington and Portsmouth are excellent with pros and cons, the cons on the first two being relatively remote locations, though with Burlington you're close to Montreal which is very good. Also note the weather in Burlington is frigid half the year, and Portland is a close second.

                              Just to throw another idea that hasn't yet been covered:

                              The Farmington Valley in CT. (where I live!). The towns of Simsbury, Avon, Farmington, and getting a little more urban (and even more progressive) West Hartford. The city of Hartford itself is not a dynamic, cultured, wealthy or particularly safe, city -- though there are some excellent ethnic restaurants and grocers - but get 10 miles out of town and it's quite lovely and bucolic, with access to some fine restaurants. Schools are excellent, and there's tremendous family-friendly opportunities. There's a airport nearby (Bradley), though not LGA or Logan, offers a pretty wide range of flights. And best of all the location is an easy drive to so many places. In under two hours you're in NYC or Boston or the Cape, on a VT ski slope. Within an hour you're in the Berkshires, CT Litchfield Hills, CT shoreline, Providence, Northampton, New Haven, CT casinos, etc.

                              As to your husband finding work in the restaurant trade in the area, I couldn't comment on employment opportunities. But the population in central CT is larger than Burlington, Portland, and Portsmouth combined, and therefore the number of restaurants, country clubs, etc.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Uncledave

                                I agree with you on central CT as a great option for the OP...and West Hartford in particular (where I live)...lots of great restaurants from hole in the wall to noisy scenes and everything in between, farmers markets, ethnic grocers, Chef/Farm dinners etc...and easy access to any outdoor activity you want... I disagree about your comment on Hartford having no culture however...it has the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Real Art Ways, Hartford Stage, TheaterWorks, the new Science Museum of CT, Bushnell Theater, XL Center for sports, RiverFront Recapture, Hartford Symphony etc... and many great restaurants... Like any city there is crime but no more so than any other..

                                1. re: LenaInNE

                                  I stand corrected that Hartford has cultural opportunities. What I meant to say was that it's not a cultural/entertainment center as a NY where you can enjoy a walk from a show to a meal to a dessert, etc. In Burlington and Portland, to use two examples given here, you can stroll around in the evening in a happening and safe section and do all sorts of things. In Hartford, sure, you can visit the places you mention, but it's get-in and get-out. Let's be honest, nobody moves to West Hartford or the Farmington Valley with the notion of enjoying what downtown Hartford has to offer.

                                  I do wonder how the new Front Street development will look and be received. Is it like a Blue Back Square, in a downtown Hartford version?

                                  1. re: Uncledave

                                    As far as I know it's a pretty scaled back version of the original plans... I don't know if it's going to be like Blue Back...but anything is an improvement on the empty lots that are there now...

                                    I agree, you're not going to walk from the Bushnell across the park at night to get a meal, but you can certainly walk from dinner to Hartford Stage and then after walk to find dessert... I get your point that Hartford is not a strolling city though

                              2. I have to cast my vote for Providence. It's a wonderful city, tons of great restaurants. You're an hour from Boston, 2 hours from the Berkshires, an hour from the "Quiet Corner" of CT which has recently begun to come into its own for restaurants, wineries, etc. Newport is just a daytrip away. Lovely as Burlington & Portland are, I agree w/the "edge of civilization" comment.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: JaneRI

                                  Ditto PVD.

                                  The restaurant scene is fabulous, with totally varied price-points and ethnicities. There are the most degreed chefs in the country (thanks you, Johnson and Wales). The ocean is right there, as is Roger Williams Park and Zoo. The city is extremely pedestrian-friendly and everybody walks everywhere. The architecture is amazing; there is a ridiculous amount of places on the National Registry.

                                  The only things missing are Ethiopian and a really great deli.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    "missing ... a really great deli" seems to imply that there is at least a passably good deli in Providence. Where, please?

                                    1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                      PVD is missing decent, good and great delis.

                                      1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                        I would classify the newly (re)opened Hudson St. Deli as good. Equal exchange coffee and Boar's Head meats.

                                  2. I will have to vote for Lowell/Chelmsford area (Chelmsford for great school system). My family is in the Lakes Region of NH and wants me up there but I just love the diversity and wonderful restaurants in the Lowell area. Belvidere is a great area of Lowell as is the Highlands. Chelmfford is next door and well known for great school system. Not far from Boston so you have those choices, manchester NH is 30 min (great dining scene growing), Nashua NH is only 25 min (great dining), Portsmouth is less then an hour - great town although I don't find it as diverse. Lowell/Chelmsford/Billerica has some fantastic ethnic diverse restaurants without going into the "big" city.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      I'd rather eat Vietnamese food in and around Lowell than in Boston. Had some great Indian food there once too, and there is nice Brazilian and Portuguese to be had.

                                      1. re: andytee

                                        you have just listed some of my top dining out destination - just recently found phenominal sichuan (I'm addicted now and wokring my way through the menu). Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica, love Friends for Portuguese, just went to new Tabocas for excllent brazillian, Pho 88 is one of my favs for Vietnamese as is Southeast Asian for viet, thai, bermese, laotian, etc. Awesome sushi in Chelmsford (we go weekly) at Sakuras.

                                        Lowell also has fantastic music throughout the summer - outside at Boarding House Park, the Lowell Folk Festival 3 days of awesome music and food, Tsongas Arena, Merrimack Repetory Theater, Memorial Auditorium, the Spinners, etc. A great new path just opened up for running, biking, etc. through several towns starting in Lowell. And canals and rivers for kayaking or white water rafting.

                                        1. re: lexpatti

                                          lexpatti, we have to get you up to Nashua for Meena's Kitchen--she does Hyderabadi cuisine, a great variation of South Indian.

                                          1. re: whs

                                            Yes, I'm starting to explore Nashua and love it so far. Finally made it to Sichuan Palace in Chelmsford - tonight. Awesome. We still love Sichuan Gourmet but because we are addicted to dan dan noodles and we didn't see it on the menu. Although we loved our dishes - definately going again.

                                    2. I will also throw in my vote for Connecticut. The West Hartford area offers many great dining choices, from Hartford west to Avon and environs. The employment outlook may be better than Burlington just because the population is much larger in the greater Hartford area. You really can't go wrong in a lot of the Hartford suburbs - a small city like West Hartford, medium sized town like Glastonbury or Avon, more "rural" areas like Granby, Marlborough, Hebron, etc... I moved up this way a couple years ago and was surprised by the amount of good restaurants around. Middletown, CT is another place that has emerged as a great small city to dine in.

                                      1. Providence (natch) is where you want to be. It's a perfect city for a chef. As for the outdoorsy, how about surfing, sailing, ocean and fresh water kayaking.

                                        1. Portland, Maine! The city is finally being taken seriously & being recognized nationally as a foodie city (Bon Appetite magazine 2009) & this March (2010) will mark it's very successful 2nd Annual Restaurant Week! My favorite foodie blog is http://blog.typeadiversions.com/ - a great local resource that will help get you started. And of course Portland has that perfect balance of small city feel & needs with all-season outdoor recreation. Love living here!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: inbox_blues

                                            We are definitely going to visit Portland next month. Thanks for the the link to the blog, it is fantastic. Are you familiar with the towns around the city? I was wondering if we live outside the city if there are towns with a quaint downtown that has good cafes and (non-chain) coffee shops?

                                            1. re: thehardys

                                              Depending on how far you're looking to go outside the city, Brunswick might be an option. It's about 25 minutes up the highway, home of Bowdoin College, many coffee shops and several excellent family-owned eateries (Frontier Cafe, El Camino, Scarlet Begonias). Freeport, home of the 24/7 LL Bean is 10 minutes closer, but really a shopping town rather than a thriving community (just my opinion).

                                              I can't help you too much if you're looking to stay closer to town, but my impression of Portland (I'm about an hour north) is that the downtown is really excellent, the immediate suburbs are so-so, and then the great towns start up again about 20 minutes outside. Luckily, Portland is small enough that you can actually be outside the city in about 10 minutes- a huge plus for those of us who like the city... but like the country too!

                                              1. re: thehardys

                                                I'm not sure what the town is like to live in, but South Portland has one of the best bakeries I've ever been to:

                                                1. re: thehardys

                                                  Among the immediate suburbs, the one with the quaintest downtown is Yarmouth, which does have Rosemont Market. Not much in Cape Elizabeth downtown-wise, and Falmouth's downtown is a strip mall. If you want to be within striking distance of Western Mass, you don't want to be too far north of Portland (we live in Portland and have family in Northampton, and it's at least 3.5 hours with kids in the car.)

                                                  Downtown Westbrook has some good restaurants too, actually. Grittier town, though.

                                                  1. re: thehardys

                                                    I've lived here almost a year now and have never had any trouble finding great (local & original) places to eat within a 20 mile radius of the city. I was just in Kennebunkport this past weekend -- had a great lunch at a place called Hurricane's on the water. Seems like every single little small town surrounding Portland has something great to offer a foodie! (See related entries below - good suggestions) Here's another interesting local food blog: http://www.portlandfoodmap.com/

                                                2. Portsmouth NH is a great place to live... although ethinic food (outside euro, thai, japan, latin) are somewhat limited, overall the town and area is well suited for foodies.... even better, imho, is the access to the outdoors.... less than 2hrs to the White Mountains, on the water, tons of amazing road/mountain biking... super friendly people who for the most part live here because they choose to.... easy access to airports and other urban areas is a def plus... no income taxes is quite nice too ;) I grew up outside NYC and have been here about 7 years and absolutely love it!

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: cepaulsen

                                                    This is funny...the original posters are probably yawning by now.

                                                    1. re: Shooley

                                                      Love the seacoast...great area....could have moved anywhere I wanted, similar desire as the poster, and I chose here....figure they aren't yawning, nor anybody who has chosen to move here...

                                                      1. re: cepaulsen

                                                        I just meant that it's kind of humorous watching everyone knock themselves out trying to convince everyone why their particular city is best and meanwhile, who knows if the OPs (the Hardys?) are still listening.

                                                        1. re: Shooley

                                                          thehardys Oct 26, 2009 01:39PM
                                                          Shooley Oct 26, 2009 04:47PM
                                                          Time difference = 03:08

                                                          1. re: wongadon

                                                            Oh yeah, we are checking it daily, this is so much fun to read!

                                                            1. re: thehardys

                                                              Great...we hope you'll let us know where you end up!

                                                    2. I would go to either Providence -- fabulous food of every sort and enthicity, it's a small and easily walkable city with fast and easy access to gorgeous beaches, rich history, colleges and museums, beautiful regentrified parks and East Side areas, it is a true gem. Throw in fresh seafood of every sort and you have a real winner. Portaland, ME is also a fabulous foodie town, very special as it is a combo of a real working city and waterfront and an elegant and upscale amiance. It has a great vibe, is very friendly and is a young people's city. It is also walkable, has a really wonderful museum and other great attractions and fabulous ocean vistas. Good seafood too. The downside to me would be the longer and colder winter.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: taddybelle

                                                        Inquiring minds want to know ... where do you find "fresh seafood of every sort" in Providence?

                                                        1. re: taddybelle

                                                          Rhode Island has hundreds and hundres of miles of coastland, I believe more per square mile than any other state and fish of every sort available in northern water swim there. Just go into any fish market or restaurant and you will find a huge variety of fresh and wonderful fish.

                                                          1. re: taddybelle

                                                            Huh? I don't know your soure, but RI does not REMOTELY have the most coastline of any other state.....it isn't even in the top ten.....and if you count all states, Alaska and Hawaii win bigtime. I think it suffices to say that most NE states that border the coast will be a reliable source for fresh fish. Whether there are good restaurants to prepare these fish for you is another matter. RI is certainly not as heavily laden with good restaurants as the other cities/states mentioned.


                                                            1. re: Science Chick

                                                              "RI is certainly not as heavily laden with good restaurants as the other cities/states mentioned"

                                                              Wow, do I disagree! Between Providence and Newport alone, there are hundreds of restaurants. While "good" is subjective, there is a Johnson and Wales campus right in Providence, and many of RI's chefs have attended.

                                                              Per the National Restaurant Association, RI has the third most restaurants per capita in the country. Yes, it's per capita, but Maine, NH and RI have about the same population and Vermont has half.

                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde


                                                                Rhode Island can easily compete with any other are of New England for both quantity and quality of its restaurants. The statement, "RI is certainly not as heavily laden with good restaurants as the other cities/states mentioned" makes me think that that poster has either not spent much time here, or has not in a very very long time.

                                                              2. re: Science Chick

                                                                Science Chick, you're half right.

                                                                Maine 3478
                                                                RI 384
                                                                Louisiana 7721
                                                                California 3427
                                                                Hawaii 1052
                                                                Alaska 31,383\

                                                                Many other states with more than RI.

                                                                1. re: Science Chick

                                                                  I'm sorry that you misunderstood me. Rhode Island of course doesn't have the most coastliine of any other state, it is a tiny state and the smallest state, 37 miles x 49 miles to be exact, but it has 400 miles of coastland. I could be wrong but I was always told that Rhode Island had more miles of coastland per square foot of land than any other state; perhaps that is simply bragging rights? It is also named "The Ocean State."

                                                                  1. re: taddybelle

                                                                    It makes sense to me that it would have the hightest coastline-to-square-foot ratio, based on the limited number of total square feet, and the fact that included in Rhode Island are several islands.

                                                                    1. re: taddybelle

                                                                      taddybelle, yes, it is officially The Ocean State, but for the very reason that your original post led to some confusion, that designation was roundly mocked when it was announced. Rhode Island will always be Little Rhody to us natives.

                                                                      PS The Capital Grille has very good seafood.

                                                                    2. re: Science Chick

                                                                      Actually, taddybelle is right, Rhode Island does have the most shoreline per square mile of landmass (0.38 miles of shore/sq mile of land, compared with 0.05 for AK).

                                                                      I think that's why we're called the Ocean State.

                                                                    3. re: taddybelle

                                                                      Go into any fish market, yes, OK. But -- as has been discussed here a bunch of times -- there are very few, arguably only one, halfway good seafood restaurants in the city, and no great ones. I'll be happy to be proved wrong if you can list specifics.

                                                                      1. re: Gin n Tonic

                                                                        Unfortunately I must agree with you on that point. It is a very puzzling hole in what is otherwise a very solid food city.

                                                                  2. I recommend our town of Peterborough, NH. We are very progressive here, have wonderful cultural life, we were declared one of the ten coolest towns in the US -- and are seriously foody despite our small size. We are also close enough to travel to larger towns like Manchester, Concord, and Brattleboro for dinner.

                                                                    1. I am a foodie who gre up in Los Angeles and now lives in New Haven County, CT. While I believe that the restaurant scene is getting a lot better. I love Burlington Vermont, though, and would highly reccommend checking it out! Best of luck to you.

                                                                      1. I think Portland has amazing food, but I would choose Burlington over Portland for a place to live. It has amazing farms for local produce and meats, and there is a great food culture within the town. If you like Montana, you'll find the outdoor culture to be better in Vermont than coastal Maine. IMHO

                                                                        Another place to consider is Saratoga Springs, NY. It is only like an hour from Western Mass and has a great mix of food and cultural offerings.

                                                                        1. Portland, ME is probably your best bet.

                                                                          I will also give a shout out to my hometown, New Haven, CT. Good food scene (ethnic & high end), not too big, progressive (actually after this last election we edge out Maine on that one), not as outdoorsy as Portland but easy to get to the CT shore etc., easy access to NYC.

                                                                          Northhampton, MA would also be a decent choice.

                                                                          1. Hardys, I have been a foodie chef for 30 yrs in New England; my husband is a teacher; we have travelled alot all over New England and eating out/eating well is always a top goal. If I correctly read your self description, your priorities, in no specific order, are:
                                                                            small city, good range of ethnic and high end restaurants, good outdoor activity options,
                                                                            progressive family-friendly population, 3-4 hrs from western ma. I may be wrong but I'm guessing that your priorities would also include public safety, good public schools, visually attractive environment , and active cultural scene(films, quality museums, music, theater)?

                                                                            Here are our thoughts:
                                                                            The only places we would strongly recommend , in no particular order,are Portland, Burlington, and Providence. Re some of the other suggestions in this thread, there is no way i would recommend New Haven, Hartford, Concord N.H.(restaurant desert)or Northhampton, Lowell or Portsmouth -as they cannot satisfy enough of your goals.

                                                                            You mentioned moving for family proximity. Asa busy 2 parent working family , are you really willing to be 3-4 hours from your family?(remember, pace of life in new eng is much faster than in Montana; you will likely have overly full schedules here.) Which town is your family in? There's a big difference travel-wise between Stockbridge and Springfield and Greenfield. If it's Stockbridge/Pittsfield or Springfield, you would be stretching a 4 hr.travel goal if you lived in Portld or Burl. Boston itself is 1 hr. from Providence, 2 hrs from Portld, 3.5 hrs from Burl. , and 3.5 hrs from Stockbridge Burl and Prov have major identities as 'University towns'.Of the 3 cities, only Portland and Providence have good art museums. For outdoors, Burl. has immediate access to mountains and lakes but is 4 hrs from the ocean; Providence and Portland have respectively, near and immediate access to the ocean. The closest you can get to 'Real 'mountains' in New Eng. (not in the same family as those in Montana).- are 2 hrs from Portland, 3.5 hrs from Providence. Of the 3 cities,Burl. is the most remote nature-dominant(closer to Montana in feeling); Providence is the least nature-dominant/ most urban. As economically stable cities (not losing alot of shops and restaurants due to the economy) the 3 appear to be equal., though Burlington does not seem to be growing new restaurants much. Public schools I cannot address. Of the 3 states, Vt. has always been a real hippie bastion and that independent free thinking spirit can be found everywhere there. They are a gay-marriage allowing state; Me. and R.I. are not.There is alot of serious poverty in rural Maine. I consider the states of Maine and Vt. to be exceptionally beautiful . Burlington and Portland have more cutting edge restaurants than Prov. Portland and Burl. have very active farmers markets,, and restaurants and stores with ' locally sourced ' orientations.
                                                                            Major snow will be part of your life, in descending order, in Burl, Portland, and Prov.
                                                                            Burlington has the shortest growing season of the 3. I strongly advise you to research the school systems and economic growth history of the three cities, and spend at leat one whole day in each place. And call up and talk to restaurant chefs in each city (use CH New England to I.D. those chefs/restnts) and ask them your food industry- health and job market questions along with anything else. Plenty of friendly chef-supportive chefs in each place.

                                                                            As you think of more questions plse tell us how we can help further , and plse tell us where you end up .

                                                                            OK. I'm done!! Gotta go fix dinner.

                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                              Thank you for such an insiteful post! This has been super helpful to us. My parents live in Belchertown, MA and my sister is in Wilmington, MA. Have you spent much time in Lenox and Great Barrington? There seem to be some good restaurants and high end resorts out there. I know that it's pretty rural but I thought I may check it out while we are there next week since it's not too far from my parents. It's been many years since I have been out that way. There seems to be a focus on farm to restaurant which we love. Thanks again and we'll definitely let you know when we figure things out. We're thinking we are going to visit Portland, ME and around Boston just to see if we could picture ourselves around there.

                                                                              1. re: thehardys

                                                                                hardys, i think the difficulty w/ western ma. is that it is tourism dependent and the dining scene pretty much dies in the winter. maybe if you could be somewhere where you could capitalize on the amherst area college business and then the summer tourism business you would be alright., but we are talking RURAL here; not a small city.

                                                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                  Portland is full of homeless bums throughout downtown and drunks on Commercial Street. It's a great place to visit and eat, but a bit too gritty to raise a family with two little girls from Montana. Same goes for Providence, very high crime rate. And Burlington (the city limits proper) is no culinary mecca by a long shot. What new has come to downtown Burlington this past year? Nada.

                                                                                  Portsmouth has a number of new restaurants this year Cava (upscale tapas and wine bar), Four (wood fired oven cuisine), RiRa (same as in Portland and Burlington and Providence, but with better ambiance), Shio (not in downtown proper but still in Portsmouth/ quality sushi and Japanese cuisine), Riverhouse (replaced the run down Stockpot with affordable "American" cuisine with a great view). And Portsmouth has a strong local ethic with the Seacoast Eat Local drive (though I find them a bit limited in scope and cliquey).

                                                                                  Again, what has Burlington done this year??

                                                                                  Plus, just across the river is Kittery with their burgeoning culinary scene: Anneke Jans, Tulsi, Loco Coco's, Golden Harvest Market, Terra Cotta Pasta, Cacao Chocolatier, Beach Pea, etc.

                                                                                  My vote is still for the Portsmouth area.

                                                                                  Cava Restaurant
                                                                                  1615 West St, Southington, CT 06489

                                                                                  Riverhouse Restaurant
                                                                                  53 Bow St, Portsmouth, NH 03801

                                                                                  1. re: bewley

                                                                                    That is really unfair. Any reasonably cosmopolitan town is going to have some rough elements, and Portland has experienced problems typical to a growing, diverse, largely working-class city with a recent influx of rich people. Commercial Street, the Old Port in general, and the Arts District are not terribly residential areas, and residents there tend not to be families with kids. There are, for example, no elementary schools in those particular neighborhoods.

                                                                                    Despite what tourists think, Portland does not consist of those areas only. Most of its geographical area is actually OFF of the peninsula, on the other side of the Back Cove. There are lots of nice neighborhoods with beautiful housing stock, parks with playgrounds, walking trails, sidewalks and street life.

                                                                                    Portsmouth is a nice place, but it's really a far-flung exurb of Boston. It's not terribly diverse and the businesses there all cater to people with extra cash.

                                                                                    1. re: the_MU

                                                                                      I agree with MU...bewley's description of Portland is a bit harsh, to say the least. I've lived all over the place, including Wyoming (my daughter was born there) but grew up visiting Maine (from western Mass.) and have never remotely thought of Portland as gritty. ALthough I live up the coast (midcoast) now, my brother and his family (young children both attending inner city Portland schools) and my daughter, son-in-law and grandson live there, too, so I'm there often, and view the city from both adult and child perspectives. It's all good, as far as I'm concerned, with the exception of ethnic diversity (Maine is unfortunately a very white state). Portland does have great neighborhoods, though, like Woodford Corners, with terrific little places to explore.

                                                                                      1. re: Shooley

                                                                                        I have quite a few friends who live in and absolutely love Portland. I visit Portland often and like the town. And I do think that 555, Hugo’s, Novare Res, Duckfat, Evangeline, Bresca, Fore Street, Rabelaise Books, Public Market, Shipyard Brewery, Great Lost Bear and many other establishments make it a great foodie destination. Portland has a Whole Foods whereas Portsmouth (including all of NH) does not. But the downtown tends to be ugly. Vomit in doorways, homeless in and around Monument Square, petty crime and vandalism, drunk sailors, rednecks and frat kids on Commercial Street all detract from what could be a better place to spend quality time. Do I like Portland enough to live in it’s suburbs? Absolutely not. (But I don’t mind living an hour away and visiting often.)

                                                                                        Plus it's too far from Boston, Providence and even Burlington.

                                                                                        Fore Street
                                                                                        288 Fore Street, Portland, ME 04101

                                                                                        111 Middle Street, Portland, ME 04101

                                                                                        1. re: bewley

                                                                                          Again, you are comparing a tourist's view of Portland to a resident's view. Nobody, on a regular basis, is taking their 4 year old and 7 year old to any of those places you mention (ok my 7 yr old son really likes waffle fries at GLB and going on the Shipyard tour). Tourists hang out in a very few areas in the town which also are the areas where the people who carry lots of cash, and therefore also the panhandlers, hang out. And you are comparing Portsmouth, which is a very nice upscale bedroom community, to Portland, which is a population center and the largest city in Maine.

                                                                                          And unless you're talking about the new mini-mall where the Army Surplus store used to be, the Public Market has been closed for almost two years now.

                                                                                    2. re: bewley

                                                                                      Providence's crime rate (like that of any city) needs to be taken w/a grain of salt. The vast majority of violent crime takes place in one of a couple of neighborhoods. And unless you're a member of the Crips or the Bloods, you probably don't have much reason to visit those neighborhoods. Every time you hear news of a murder in Providence, it's gang-related or domestic violence, it's not like tourists are getting mowed down in the streets. And I just checked....Bridgeport, Hartford & Springfield all have higher violent crime rates than Providence (I tried to look up NE cities of somewhat comparable size).

                                                                                      1. re: JaneRI

                                                                                        Folks, this discussion of crime rates and other non-chowish factors is really too far afield for our site.

                                                                                        In addition, it doesn't see that any new suggestions are being offered. We all have our favorite cities, and nobody's likely to convince anyone else that their favorite is the best. There's lots here for thehardys to ponder, so we're going to close this discussion and thank everyone for their input.

                                                                                  2. re: thehardys

                                                                                    We live in Lenox and love it; but in no one's wildest dreams would it (or Great Barrington or anywhere else in the Berkshires) be considered a foodie destination the likes of Portland or Burlington or Providence. Or even Hartford! Ethnic food is dismal even in high season; growing season is short and so farmers' markets have (forgive me!) a limited shelf life. Northampton and Amherst look good next to us, and believe me, they are not particularly good when you are talking about Serious Good Food. The focus on farm to restaurant in the Berkshires is real, but intellectual more than concretely realized. It's great for raising children, and in the summer, culturally, is terrific. But hey, Portland (my own particular first choice, not knowing the other two cities) is a whole nother ball game. And has no more snow than we do. (BTW, Boston's about 3 hours from Stockbridge, not more. Just for the record.)