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I need a little help from my springfield area friends

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I need help.
I have a wall in my kitchen that has pictures of the best meals i've ever had. I've done a good amount of traveling and I've photographed just about everything I've ordered out. I then determine if the meal was "food wall worthy". If it is, it's displayed in my kitchen in the form of an 8x10 or 5x7. I probably need help, but I'm posting this on Chowhound, so I may have friends who need the same help as me. I've lived in the Springfield area for ten years. I grew up in CT and I work in CT. I cant help but head south to the Hartford area every time I want a nice night out...(or north to northampton or east to Boston). Why should I be a gastronomical prisoner in my own region? We have the White Hut. I just went to type something else, and nothing else came to mind as far as "staples". I think I live in a region that deserves bail-out money for sub-standard cusine, or at least a tax write-off for travel expenses incurred for fleeing the region in search of a nice meal. Do I have any friends in this culinary void known as Springfield, MA that can help me navigate these tasteless waters?

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  1. You're ignoring the wonderful Big Mamou in downtown Springfield. Chef Wayne Hooker turns out a mean Cajun menu at his Liberty Street digs and his newest eatery in Williamsburg.

    Ginger Blossom on Parker Street in Springfield doesn't disappoint with some very tasty Chinese food.

    Not far away is the Federal in Agawam, and although I have yet to dine there, I've heard nothing but the most positive reviews of that fine dining restaurant.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BoNapateet

      Chef Wayne is the best thing going in Springfield. It's real deal and dosen't let you down. The Federal in Agawam is stuffy and the food is just OK. Its similar to Storrowtown Tavern. I like to think that i'll get what i pay for. I haven't tried Ginger Blossom, but I can say that I haven't had a good Chinese meal outside Chinatown in Boston. I'm a real Chinese food guy, not an americhinese Pupufortwo guy.

      1. re: BoNapateet

        I have to agree about Chef Wayne's. Best food from a cuisine not readily available.

        1. re: BoNapateet

          School Street Bistro in Westfield is very good. Fratelli's in Westfield is very good as well. Pintu in West Springfield is a great Indian resturant. Aside from those places, I'm at a loss.

        2. I know it's a resturant that has been there for a while, but what about " The Student Prince"? When I have been, it's old school german, but still a classic.

          2 Replies
          1. re: breakfastfan

            The Student Prince used to be "the place". The Phantom was there and he was a fan. Not as good anymore. The Hofbrahaus in West Springfield was my "go to" place. That went down too. Everything dies, baby, thats a fact.

            1. re: foodwallguy

              Points for the Boss.

          2. foodwallguy, I love that you have a foodwall--what a very cool idea!

            Can anyone tell me whatever happened to Caffeine's on Memorial Ave. near the Big E? I used to love that place and would always stop when in the area (or on a packy run, back when it was worthwhile to do that!). I never made it to the downtown location. By chance, have the Caffeine's folks opened somewhere new?

            5 Replies
            1. re: kattyeyes

              Caffeines closed down a couple of years ago. It's now a place called Lattitude. I hear good things for lunch. Haven't heard anything for dinner. I've been meaning to try it there because i'm determined to find a decent place around here (Springfield). It can't be this bad, can it?

              1. re: foodwallguy

                Hey, thanks for the info, foodwallguy. I'll check out these menus when I'm on my other PC. How cool would it be if we both find a new great place in Springfield as a result of your inquiry? :)
                http://www.lattitude1338.com/menus.htm

                -----
                Lattitude
                1338 Memorial Avenue, West Springfield, MA 01089

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  My glass is raised......Here's to hope!

                2. re: foodwallguy

                  Latitudes is pricey and not fabulous. It thinks it's a five star restaurant and doesn't make the grade for those who know what fine dining really is. I'm going to give it one more try as I had a crabcake and fried brussel sprouts last time I was there (you can't call a crabcake seared when there is absolutely no crust on it and is obviously baked and the sprouts were really salty. My friends weren't overly-impressed with their meals either). I do want to try the braised beef taco and a couple other items and will make my final determination then. Theodore's for ribs and Southern Comfort food is also a good choice. And the best pizza in the Hood is an MJ's pizza from MJ's on Worthington Street. It's a Greek crust without sauce and has spinach, fresh tomatoes, and feta cheese. It's really good but you don't want to eat there.

                  1. re: Zazu22

                    Every place in the Springfield area thinks its a 5 star restaurant. In a culinary void such as Springfield, restaurant owners should get a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon right, before adding a sprig of blah blah blah with a hint of yada yada finished in a truffle infused bechamel. And, pricing shouldn't be at NYC or Boston rates.
                    I'm gonna try MJ's Pizza on your recommendation. You seem like you know what you're doing. Red Rose is pretty good , but Frank Pepe is only a half an hour away!! Theodores is actually a good place to eat. I love the live blues on saturday nights.

              2. I went to Onyx/Fusion with a group of 12 in December and it was fabulous. Granted the drinks were expensive but everything we had was great. Service was excellent as well. Worth a try in my book.

                1 Reply
                1. re: lonborgfan

                  Onyx in Springfield and Fusion in East Longmeadow are both good. Maybe a little better than good. The problem is they think they can get away charging $15 for pot stickers and $18 for a Crown and coke and a Grey and cranberry. I'm not gazing out of the 86th floor overlooking Midtown Manhattan as the sun sets over New Jersey.....I'M IN SPRINGFIELD!!!!!!!

                2. Been to Pho Saigon at the X? People come from miles around to eat there. I've have "good" to "very good" meals there. . . nothing I'd put on a food wall, but still. Might be worth a try.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: edub23

                    Allright edub23, next time I dine out, I'm going to Pho Saigon. What do you recommend? I take pics of everything I eat out.....just in case it's "wall worthy"

                    1. re: foodwallguy

                      Skip Pho Saigon and head across the street to Vinh Chau, much better! I usually get the pho with beef and meatballs.

                      1. re: Bri

                        Seconded, Vinh Chau trumps Pho Saigon anyday.

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

                        1. re: andytee

                          AT,
                          You seem to have a very comprehensive view of the Springfield food scene. I thought of your post last night when I was driving through Springfield from Westside over the north end bridge. I passed on Chef Wayne because it was raining and I didn't want to stand in the rain. I passed on Theresa's southern soul food because my wardrobe choice was lacking kevlar. I ended up at red rose, more out of familiarity than anything. What I really wanted to do was try the Vinh Chau on your recommendation. The problem is of all the cuisines I am familiar with, Vietnamese is not one of them. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I'd like to know what the "American hook" dish is so there won't be disappointment at the table. (every foreign cuisine seems to have one, whether its pad Thai or chicken masala or sesame chicken...something that non adventurous americans will eat because when I say "lets try the Vietnamese place", they hear "He's going to make us eat roasted salamanders in a snake blood reduction" ) Then I'd like to know what I need to try. I want to check this place out soon.

                          1. re: foodwallguy

                            Okay, I tend to agree that Vinh Chau's pho is superior, but if you're looking for a dish that any American will like, try the shaking beef at Pho Saigon. It's UNBELIEVABLY delicious. Cubed supertender beef cooked in a wok (thats where the term "shaking" comes from, I think) with some addictive marinade and then served hot over watercress and slices of onion. I feel comfortable saying that ANYONE would love it. It is 100% ADDICTIVE and it keeps me going back to Pho Saigon, even though there is better pho across the street. Seriously foodwall-worthy. It is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

                            That said, I think anyone could appreciate pho. Just try it.

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

                            1. re: foodwallguy

                              The great thing about Vietnamese food, I think, is that it's all pretty accessible. I suppose it's possible my judgement is off - I definitely have an adventurous palate and sometimes forget other people don't - but very little is too spicy or strangely flavored.

                              Pho is the Pad Thai of Vietnamese food. It's a delicious beef noodle soup. Savory broth, rice noodles, various kinds of beef. Comes with a plate on the side of bean sprouts, lime, herbs, etc for you to doctor as you like - or not at all. Any Vietnamese menu will have numerous Pho variants, newcomers might want to choose simpler version that don't have tendons and tripe - stick to rare beef and brisket, stuff like that - but I've never seen someone try Pho and not like it.

                              Bun (noodles) is another whole section of the menu. Kinda like Pho without broth, bun are rice noodles served at room temperature with some raw shredded vegetables on top and some sizzling delicious meat. You pour a tangy and sweet sauce over the noodles, or dip them in it, and enjoy.

                              Most menus will also have a section of stir-fry type dishes served over rice that should not seem that strange to anyone used to eating Chinese food.

                              Of course, google will also turn up tons of info if you want to read up a bit to get more comfortable (or hungry).
                              Start here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BB%9F
                              or here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietname...

                              For any new-flavor adverse friends, Goi Ga is a simple but delicious cabbage and chicken salad - http://whiteonricecouple.com/recipes/... - that will appeal to anyone who likes "Chinese Chicken Salad"
                              and Goi Cuon is a fresh spring roll that anybody will love - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad_roll

                              Don't worry about mis-pronouncing anything. Everyone does. Often you can just order by pointing or saying an item number, but even if you can't, just go for it, it will work out.

                    2. I'm leaving Springfield, yet again, to find a good steak. Caminetos in Northampton is on tonights docket.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: foodwallguy

                        What did you think? I've never been tempted to go in there.

                        1. re: fame da lupo

                          I thought it was fantastic. The food was excellent and the ambiance was right up my alley. I like real places with great food, not "fufu" places with decent food. I got the ribeye "gaucho". I was very impressed !

                          1. re: foodwallguy

                            we've been super pleased lately with the indian at sitar on main street. worth the drive from deerfield. also. the carribean food at talk of the town on wilbraham road can be pretty amazing, depending on the day's specials. fatty as hell, but hey. the neighborhood can get a little rough at night though, so it's best for lunch.

                            fy

                            1. re: fatheryod

                              I'm a big fan of Pintu in West Springfield, but I haven't been to Sitar yet. How do you think Pintu stacks up to Sitar? I've never heard of talk of the town, but I'm intrigued. Thanks fatheryod, this sort of imput is why I started this thread. I love great food, but I don't know the nooks and crannies of springfield.

                              1. re: foodwallguy

                                well, sir, i enjoy the food at pintu's, but i feel as though sitar is right up there.

                                1. re: fatheryod

                                  Based on that, it looks as though I'll be having a lovely duo of masala and Kingfisher at Sitar this weekend. I'll let you know...Thanks.

                      2. Do you ever go up to Northhampton? That's not far at all from Springfiled. They have a couple lovely, lovely restaurants worth driving from southern CT for... One of which is the Indian place across from the bread bakery. I swear, that is the BEST place anywhere in this region, by far. I love it, love it, love it!!!

                        Wish I knew the name right now.

                        But in that block area alone are several good choices to eat and have awesome coffee and desserts.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: MasterofLightChick

                          If you think of the name, let me know. I love Northampton, but it's not Springfield. I'm on a mission, bestowed on me from the wonderful and satisfying God of great food, to find a worthy resturant in the Springfield area. So far, I've been a dismal failure, but I intend to prevail, with a little help from friends like you. Just aim a little more to the south. Thanks

                          1. re: MasterofLightChick

                            That would be India House. 45 State St.

                            1. re: corinnerose

                              Which is the best? Pintu, Sitar or India House? Maybe I'm off base, but based on the "India House" name, I'd think it wasn't very good. Please correct me if i'm wrong. I'm Italian, and if I opened a real deal Italian resturant, It wouldn't have a generic name like "Italian Kitchen"

                              1. re: foodwallguy

                                well, opinions are all personal, but i would rate both sitar and pintu far ahead of india house. but i do find the food & service at pintu's are definitely affected by whether or not pintu himself is in the house. i have not visited either of northampton's indian restaurants in a while, mind you, but neither of them has changed management, so i'd definitely check some of the northampton threads for other's opinions. will be curious t hear what you make of sitar. i'm gonna hit it again this weekend. i have also heard good things about the garden in agawam, but have yet to make the trek.

                                fy

                                1. re: fatheryod

                                  hey fwg --
                                  i'm curious if you made it to sitar and what you thought. i keep thinking maybe i'm just so pissed at the service at pintu's that i'm projecting visions of better food over all other indian restaurants. could it be? i have also heard good things about the garden in agawam. anyone been there?

                                  fy

                                  1. re: fatheryod

                                    I actually went to Pintu's this past friday and I had a the lamb vindaloo. It was very good. I heard Pintu used to work at Sitar before he opened his own place. I still do want to try Sitar, but I live right in Westside, so geographically, I always seem to end up at Pintu.

                                    1. re: foodwallguy

                                      I have been to all three places and I would rate them in this order: Sitar (by far), India House, then Pintu. The food is good at all of the places, but the service was EXTREMELY SLOW at Pintu (took an hour and a half to get our food). India House is overpriced, as are most of the restaurants in Northampton. Try take out at Sitar if you don't have time to eat in. They are fast and friendly. Just call ahead.

                                      1. re: eyetri

                                        I will try Sitar next time Indian food is the order of the night. I've always heard mixed reviews of the Pintu. I really have to try a different place to have a better comparison. Since Sitar is within the culinary-barren city limits of Springfield, It's my obligation to try every place recommended in said city. Thanks, eyetri. (eyetri...that's not another way to say Sitar in Hindu, is it?)

                                        1. re: foodwallguy

                                          India house is overpriced and not very good, as well as undeservedly snooty, IMO, Sitar is WAY better.

                                    2. re: fatheryod

                                      Went to the Garden and was very happy. Besides the usual nothern indian fare (which was very good) they have the harder to find southern stuff like dosas and idylls. Highly recommend!

                                      1. re: gneek

                                        Is that the Garden in Agawam near 6 flags?

                                        1. re: foodwallguy

                                          yeah, and it was very good when we went the other night. have not been back to try the southern indian menu yet, but the basics were tasty as hell & the portions were large enough to supply excellent left-overs,

                                          1. re: fatheryod

                                            Hooray for the Garden. All of the Indian Restaurants in the area serve a Northern Indian Cuisine. If you wanted traditional authentic Southern Indian (udupi style, which is vegetarian) you had to travel to Middletown Ct or Haverhill or Shrewsbury Ma. Not any More !!

                                            Based on this thread, we tried The Garden on Main Street in Agawam, Ma. a few weeks ago and it rates 5 stars in my book.
                                            We started with Rasa Vada which are hot, crisp little donuts in a rasam. This is traditional street food and was straight on.
                                            The dosa was large (overflowing the ends of the plate) and crispy. The masala filing was hot and spiced for a mild taste.
                                            The Uttapam was again overflowing the plate and was soft and thick. I get it plain to enjoy it with the cutney and sambar. I want to return to try the Pineapple uttapam as I have never had (nor heard of) that combination.
                                            The sambar was less spicy and a little thin. I suspect that is was made fresh as all the other diners were having Northern Indian. (A dosa is tough to miss coming out of the kitchen!)
                                            The Carrot Halwa for dessert was warm and sinfully rich & delicious.
                                            The Service was attentive and not too overbearing (We had barely a sip of water before our glasses were refilled.) Our total bill was around $30.00

                                            I don't imagine many of you have tried Southern Indian Cuisine. I encourage you go on an adventure and try it. I doubt you will miss the meat. I'll be back to the Garden regularly now.

                                            1. re: belcherveggie

                                              The malai kofa I had there was wonderful - all other time I've been to the lunch buffet and it was tasty indian but nothing stood out. It's a very small lunch buffet.

                                              Pryia in Rocky Hill does Southern Indian and it's fantastic - the dosas are a thing of beauty. Pryia rates as my second favorite indian place.

                                              1. re: belcherveggie

                                                Alas, the dosas at the Garden are no more. We went tonight and didn't see the Southern Indian menu anywhere. When I asked, he said they stopped doing that menu because they were only selling one or two dosas a week, which meant a lot of waste, etc. Truly sad - I'll never forget the first time I ordered and saw what came out of the kitchen.

                                    3. re: foodwallguy

                                      To decide between Pintu and Sitar I would have to try the same dishes from both back to back. I've been to both frequently and I find them both excellent.

                                      Both Indian restaurants in Northhampton are awful, in my opinion. Sadly.

                                2. How about cannoli at La Fiorentina? I detour for a box of 'em anytime I'm in that area.
                                  http://www.lafiorentinapastry.com/

                                  I get that it's not a meal, but it's certainly a dessert that's food wall worthy--particularly the chocolate-dipped shells. :)

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Good cannoli, the cakes are too airy and sugary. If you like the classic birthday cake, then you'd like their cakes.

                                  2. Try Typical Sicilian and Abudanza at the X in Springfield. Patsy's in E. Longmeadow does a nice job with everything he does and it's CLEAN. Leone's on Parker St. is good, Bamboo House, Vinh Chau and Pho Saigon are all good Vietnamese restaurants also at the X, Fazio's in E. Longmeadow is pretty good, Pintu's in W. Springfield for Indian food (he used to manage Sitar). Texas Roadhouse for a chain restaurant does well, but it's very noisy,

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

                                    1. I had the best dining experience last Friday night at a place that had fallen off my radar. In an area of mainly chain restaurants and square plate fusion fufu places, I've become annoyed at the thought of dining in the immediate area that I live in. I do have a food wall in my kitchen. The only representation from the Springfield area is White Hut (Cheeseburg fried), Pintu (Tandoori lamb), and Big Mammou (alligator and sausage). Well that is until now. I have added the Chicken Mofongo to my wall from Santiago Restaurant in Westfield. The place blew me away. It's a little hole in the wall with great food, great service, great atmosphere and wonderful live music played by the guy who owns the place. When I think of the best of dining experiences, this is all I need! I took my 15 year old son and 14 year old daughter. The boy almost didn't go because of an allegiance to the skillet con queso at Chili's. My 5 year old son has the same allegiance to the queso. With my daughter for me and my son against, we drove to the Santiago Restaurant. I asked the boy why he wanted to go to the same ol chili's, wait 45 minutes standing like a penguin in an area of the waiting area where it seems like you are always in someones way and glare down the no kid couple all sprawled out in the seating area waiting for their night to begin as mine is not coming to an end fast enough. He said "whatever Dad" with almost a yawn! After walking into Santiagos, he was converted in two and a half minutes. We all loved the potato balls and the empanadas. We listened to the guitar and had a blast. The boy even got up and played a little guitar set. His 16th birthday is next Saturday and we always go out to dinner wherever the birthday child wants to go. He's picked Chili's 6 years running, but his 16th will be spent at Santiagos eating great food and playing with the band!

                                      -----
                                      White Hut
                                      280 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA 01089

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: foodwallguy

                                        Whoa, glowing review! I'm dying to hear more about this place. Is it counter service? Have you tried anything else since the empanadas, potato balls, and mofongo?

                                        1. re: corinnerose

                                          It's a sit down place. For my sons birthday there were 20 of us. They served 3 different types of empanadas, beef, pork and shrimp. The shrimp was unbelievable. The roast pork with rice and beans was fantastic. My wife got the roast chicken with vegetables with rice and beans. She loved it and she's as gringo as they come! The flan for dessert was great. And, of course, the music was terrific. I'm Italian from a large Italian family. Santiago Restaurant makes me feel like I'm home with the family. The only difference is instead of Grandmas sauce, beef cutlets and scaccada (my spelling, which is most certainly wrong) , I have rice and beans, empanadas and mofongo!

                                      2. Similar to you, I grew up in CT and have lived in the Springfield area now for over 10 years. It is tough to find those places that you just have to keep going back to.

                                        For Pizza, my favorite is Peppa's in East Longmeadow. They push slices, but also do plenty of fresh made pizzas. They do a very nice thin crust not as burnt as Pepe's, but a nice Neapolitan version. They also do a great Sicilian style. My favorite is the thin sliced tomato white pizza with no mozz, just grated cheese, garlic and fresh basil.

                                        For Chinese, I end up at Panda South which just so happens to be right next to Peppa's. No buffet, clean, very good food. Atmosphere is a little garish. Good dumplings, clean sauces.

                                        For Italian, I love Frigo's for a Joe's Favorite. Veal Cutlet with roasted peppers, oil and vinegar with provlone. Also, Figaro's in Enfield might be the closest to the type of food I grew up with. Otherwise, for more upscale Italian, I like Carmelina's. They do a great Osso Buoco.

                                        As you know, Big Mamou's is always a great place. The burgers at Northhampton Brewery are the best in the area from all the ones I've tried. Not a big seafood eater, but Wilbraham Seafood is a little seafood shop on Rt. 20 that does the best fried seafood around. It only has about 6 tables/booths right in the shop. Theodores for ribs/BBQ never disappointing.

                                        Good Luck on your wall.

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

                                        21 Replies
                                        1. re: awm922

                                          That Peppa's sounds really good. I'll have to give it a try. Last Saturday night I went to J. Gilberts in Glastonbury and it was, as always, fantastic. Do you know of any "go-to" steak places in Springfield that aren't attached to a strip club? I've eaten at Schremerhorns in Holyoke for seafood and it was just as good as MIckey's Oceanic in East Hartford. You're right about Theodores! I always overlook that place. The food is really good and the bands are always great. I just discovered Frigos last month. Ma-don, that place is good. My only gripe is they don't have the tin of Colavita olive oil (extra virgin of course). I still have to go to DD in Hartford to get that.

                                          1. re: foodwallguy

                                            The best place for steak in Springfield for me is the Student Prince. I like the extra cut filet done medium rare. They don't have too many choices for steak. I have been to J. Gilbert's and they are very good. Don't laugh, but I have found bottles of Colavita Olive Oil at Ocean State Job Lot at half the price of the mainstream supermarkets. I just check any dates as they get some close coded items. Lots of imported items there.

                                            -----
                                            Student Prince Cafe
                                            8 Fort St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                            1. re: awm922

                                              There's 3 ways you anorder a steak out. Medium ( if you're just getting into steak ), Medium rare ( if you love steak and you know how to order it ) and rare (if you love steak and the last meal you had out was sashimi ). I've been to the Hofbahaus( the cousin of the Student Prince) many times. It has slipped over the past 3 years. They have one of the best ceasar salads i've had, but the great food they once had has seemed to have slipped away.

                                              -----
                                              Student Prince Cafe
                                              8 Fort St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                              1. re: foodwallguy

                                                fwg,
                                                time to try the garden in agawam. also, i've now hit sarape in enfield thrice, and IT IS SOLID. i live in deerfield, so do it.

                                                1. re: fatheryod

                                                  foodwallguy, have you really NEVER eaten at Sarape?? Time to remedy this.
                                                  fathery, have you had the puerco en pipan? It's sublime (their carnitas are also but they only have them occasionally as a special)

                                                  1. re: cowgirlinthesand

                                                    I went a couple of months ago. I read about it somewhere and decided to give it a try. With all the very good reviews, I must have hit it on an off night. I went on a Friday night at around 7. There was hardly anyone in the place, which is always weird, especially on that day and time. I almost left, thinking that I had the wrong place. Just to be sure, it is the place in the little brick building next to a laundry mat?

                                                    1. re: cowgirlinthesand

                                                      Serape's is high on my to-do list as well. Nice to hear a report.

                                                      1. re: andytee

                                                        Serape's is a great place to skip.. I really like Hacienda Del Sol just down the street from Serape's. Terrific food and atmosphere!

                                                        1. re: foodwallguy

                                                          really? i've only been a few times, but i've enjoyed it enough to drive down from south deerfield to eat there. i've spent a lot of time in oaxaca, nayarit & jalisco and it has hit many of the right notes for me. have only managed for lunch, however. i found their use of elements like epazote and queso fresco very solid, and thought the pork dishes (especially) were really well done. obviously, everyone has different tastes, but i have a hard time thinking of an east coast mex place i've enjoyed more. but i'll check out hacienda on yr commendation. and if it's better, i will say a prayer to everyone i know!

                                                          1. re: foodwallguy

                                                            I am very skeptical of a Mexican restaurant that serves cheeseburgers and ham & cheese sandwiches, but my husband and I are going to try an early dinner there tonight. Your reputation is on the line, FWG!!

                                                            1. re: JunieB

                                                              Try the seafood burrito or the seafood chimichanga. The Tacos pastor and the enchiladas are great too. As for the cheeseburger on the menu, believe it or not there are culinarily slow people who would think, by name alone, a hamburguesa con queso is sheep liver marinated in fish eye juice. I hope I keep my rep!

                                                              1. re: foodwallguy

                                                                FWG - I will try to never doubt you again. My husband and I went to Hacienda Del Sol yesterday. I left my camera there and when we went to pick it up today the sweet waitress was standing there with the camera in her hand as we walked through the door! I don't know how she noticed us before we even came in but that's kind of how the service is there. My husband is off work this week so we have been skipping lunch in favor of early dinners - so we had another one there today! Yesterday I ordered the tacos al pastor because I love the ones at Sarape's so much. I didn't think they were as good at HDS but there was nothing fundamentally wrong with them. The ones at Sarape's are served in two handmade corn tortillas so that you can eat them with your hands. The ones at HDS are in one handmade taco shell and you cannot eat them with your hands because they fall apart. The ones at Sarape's are marinated in pineapple and the ones at HDS are citrus flavored. I prefer the pineapple flavor, not pineapple chunks mind you. I also prefer the texture of the pork in the tacos from Sarape's. At HDS the pork was a little too finely minced for me. It is more like a small dice at Sarape. All that said, there was nothing really wrong with HDS's tacos al pastor; I just prefer Sarape's. The beans and rice were both good. I prefer lettuce but the cabbage slaw is okay too. The chips they give you to start are excellent, and addictive. I've never eaten so many chips anywhere! They're consistently warm and crisp and not stale. The salsa is kind of spicy with chili powder I think or maybe adobo sauce. It's the deep red sauce, not the cut up tomatoes and onion type. It was very good. My husband had the chili verde yesterday and he loved it.

                                                                Today when we sat down the waitress asked us if we wanted the same drinks we had yesterday! For entrees I had the chicken fajitas and my husband had the tacos al carbon because someone recommended them online. The fajitas were perfect. The chicken was moist and tender and the flavor was most excellent. I had a lot of leftovers and even though I was full, the smell in the car almost made me want to eat again. This dish came with lettuce and tomato instead of the cabbage slaw. It also came with sour cream and guacamole which was quite good. My husband said his beef tacos were excellent! But he did have to eat them with a fork.

                                                                You're right, the space at HDS is a little more inviting. It's large and open with a combination of booths and tables. If I went there a lot I would have to ask them to rearrange the art on the walls so that it is centered over the tables instead of the way they have it!! We will definitely go back, but if I get a craving for tacos al pastor I will head for Sarape's. Thanks for the recommendation! It's so nice to find suitable Mexican flavors on the East Coast. BTW - if you lived in the city you wouldn't think twice about making your way to Brooklyn for a good meal, so I think you should just accept that your new community extends through the entire Valley, not just Springfield. Besides, I think you've managed to find quite a few gems there. Certainly more than we have in Easthampton!

                                                                1. re: JunieB

                                                                  I think Sarape has the best tacos al pastor, but their corn tortillas aren't handmade. That honor is reserved only for Mi Tierra in Hadley on rt. 9. But they are good.
                                                                  But everything at Sarape is as good. Next time try their puerco en pipian. It's lucious large chunks of tender pork in a spicy pumpkin seed sauce (creamy and green) with rice and beans. Yummm
                                                                  If you call ahead they'll make you the best carnitas you'll have outside of Oaxaca.
                                                                  Their seafood cevice tostada app is fresh and a great way to start a meal.

                                                                  Also they have great tamales de elote (slightly sweet with corn). We order some to go home. Great late at night or in the morning with coffee.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Mi Tierra
                                                                  206 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035

                                              2. re: awm922

                                                We don't have a lot of great restaurants, but there are some gems:
                                                Big Mamou's in downtown Springfield
                                                La Fiorentina's in East Longmeadow for dessert and cappacino
                                                Ginger Blossom on Parker Street in Springfield
                                                Leone's Restaurant on Cooley Street for Italian
                                                Casa De Nana on Boston Road for Mexican
                                                La Cucina di Hampden House in Hampden
                                                I miss Caffeine's and haven't eaten at School Street Bistro in a long time.

                                                -----
                                                Ginger Blossom
                                                1203 Parker St, Springfield, MA 01129

                                                Casa De Nana
                                                995 Boston Rd, Springfield, MA 01119

                                                Big Mamou
                                                63 Liberty St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                                1. re: kberley

                                                  I love the Big Mamou, especially on a nice summer night when the line is out the door and down the street. The whole BYOB is a lot of fun. It's nice to meet new people while waiting in line having tasty cocktails. Sometimes a table for 2 becomes a table for 6 by the time your seated!

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

                                                  1. re: foodwallguy

                                                    Foodwallguy - I haven't read all the posts in this thread but have you tried Cafe Lebanon? I think they still have two locations, one in Springfield and one in Longmeadow. There used to be one in Northampton but they closed. It was my favorite, although the food is pretty much the same at all of them.

                                                    Recently discovered Plan B and Joe Pizza in Simsbury. Not a long drive and there's a great toy store on the way, Necker's. All good.

                                                    Also recently went to Zonin's in Springfield recently. Famous for their sausage. I got a sausage dish at Frigo's that was inedible. Zonin's is supposed to be famous for theirs.

                                                    If you don't mind the drive, Alina's up in S. Deerfield is excellent!

                                                    I second the rec for Peppa's.

                                                    -----
                                                    Joe Pizza
                                                    140 Albany Tpke, Canton, CT 06019

                                                    Plan B
                                                    4 Railroad St, Simsbury, CT 06070

                                                    Cafe Lebanon
                                                    1390 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                                    1. re: foodwallguy

                                                      Also, saw that you were looking for a steak. I ate at the School St. Bistro in Westfield last night for the first time. The filet was excellent. Can't speak for the other cuts.

                                                      If you haven't tried Cafe Lebanon, you really should. Appetizers are all good. I usually get the chicken kebob and my husband usually has the kefta kebob, both are excellent. The pilaf is some of the best I've ever had and I love the toum that accompanies every meal. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!

                                                      -----
                                                      Cafe Lebanon
                                                      1390 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                                      1. re: JunieB

                                                        Cafe Lebanon is far too expensive for what it is.

                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                          I can say that about just about every restaurant in the Pioneer Valley!! But for my money, Cafe Lebanon in Northampton was the best Northampton had to offer (it and Caminito's) and I never felt like a $20 dinner there was too expensive.

                                                          After the family that ran the Northampton restaurant moved back to Lebanon my husband and I tried the one in Springfield. We found the atmosphere not to be as good but the food was similar enough to make us return. As a matter of fact we ate there last night.

                                                          There were two young women sitting outside enjoying a hooka and what looked like grape colored martinis! Not sure what that was all about but it looked interesting! Made me wish I still smoked!

                                                          To start, they always serve pita with a dipping oil and that had changed. The predominant spice in the oil used to be sumac, but now it is anise flavored. I preferred the sumac. We always get the cold vegetarian grape leaves ($7.99) and hummus ($5.99) as appetizers. The flavors were still very good but the grape leaves were a little fatter than usual and the hummus had a few whole chickpeas spread on top, which to me was not a feature! We usually get the Fattoush salad ($4.50) but passed this time. I most often get the Chicken Kabob ($13.99) with rice pilaf and toum. $13.99 gets you two kabobs so I eat half and take half home to eat for another meal. My husband usually gets the Kefta Kabob ($12.99 for one kabob).

                                                          Our tab last night was $42 which I don't find bad at all. Appetizers are $5 - $7, side salad $4.50, entrees average between $13 and $20, and desserts are $4 to $5. My husband and I both love the flavors of their food, the rice pilaf is some of the best I have ever had, and we just think the overall quality of the food is far above most places in the Pioneer Valley (with the exception of Gypsy Apple and Alina's). So for me, that makes their prices a real bargain. I never eat there and wish I had my money back like I have at so many other places!

                                                          We have also had the Full Maza with groups of people and everyone has always left feeling very satisfied. I have never heard any complaints about the food. I'm just sorry the one in Northampton closed because it had the best atmosphere and the nicest group of people working there. But sometimes I get a craving for that chicken kabob dipped in a little toum and it's nice to know I can still get it even if I have to go to Springfield.

                                                          -----
                                                          Gypsy Apple
                                                          65 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

                                                          Cafe Lebanon
                                                          1390 Main St, Springfield, MA 01103

                                                  2. re: awm922

                                                    On your recommendation, I went to Peppas last Saturday for lunch. I got a couple of slices and it was really good. The Sicilian was terrific. Next step is a freshly cooked pie! The panda south next door was being completely remodeled. I was hoping to get a menu. After eating out a lot in Chinatown Boston, I have trouble with the americhinese stuff. Real Chinese food is so damn good. It's tough to go back to pupufortwo all duck sauced up.

                                                    1. re: foodwallguy

                                                      Glad you enjoyed Peppas. I haven't been to Panda South for a few months. Interesting about the remodel. I knew they had new owners as of just over a year ago. Hopefully, they don't remodel the food.

                                                  3. Does anyone know if Smokey Mountain BBQ is still open? If it is, is it still good?
                                                    thanks!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: cowgirlinthesand

                                                      Don't know about BBQ but I'm a big fan of Frigos and Pepas as AWM922 mentioned above.

                                                    2. One more I haven't seen on the list - Theresa's Southern Soul Food is excellent.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: andytee

                                                        Pintu is excellent.....
                                                        Just a little south of the MA/CT border - Dorothy & Leroy's Cajun & BBQ. OUTSTANDING!!! gIVE THEm a try. Better than the Mamou and cheaper.
                                                        Love Peppas & Frigo

                                                        1. re: dmm74

                                                          I went to the Pintu Sunday night. Those Tandoori Lamb Chops "Dodiya" are becoming a powerful and addictive drug for me. If I eat them on a Friday night, I think I'll be fine not to eat them for a week. By Wednesday I feel compelled to ask anyone with a white styrofoam take out box it they are holding any Pintu Lamb. Oh by the way, The Taste of West Springfield starts Thursday 6/9 and Pintu will be there! The "Better than Mammou" statement is a mighty bold one! I work close to D&L's. I have to try it. Two questions, Is it a lunch place and is it BYOB ?

                                                          1. re: foodwallguy

                                                            FWG, I also prefer Dorothy & Leroy's over the Mamou. The prices are more reasonable, the place is very spacious and comfortable and there is more variety on the menu. Plus you dont have the stress of trying to time your visit so you dont have to wait.

                                                            The CAJUN menu is only offered Thurs-Sat. evening and all day Sunday. Rest of the week is southern food and po'boys. I ALWAYS order the fried okra and collard greens- just not many places around here where you can get them. They do serve lunch everyday except Monday and yep- it IS a BYOB. Waitress even cut up a lime and brought it to my table for the coronas.

                                                            Its in a little strip mall near the E.Windsor bridge. website is http://www.dorothyandleroysrestaurant...