The Best Bites in Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley

Food Lists Massachusetts
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I grew up in The Pioneer Valley, a little slice of Western Massachusetts that’s home to Smith College, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and a handful of lesser-known but still great schools. Each autumn, these colleges (and the incredible foliage) bring in thousands people from around the world to my rural Massachusetts hometown. The result? An area rich with culture … and food.

If you ever find yourself in the area west of Springfield but east of North Adams, do yourself a favor and snag a bite at one of these local spots.

Pizza

Antonio’s – Amherst, Easthampton

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When the bars let out, you'll find a line of tipsy college students wrapped around the block waiting in line for one of Antonio's famous slices. They don't skimp on the toppings (try anything with the barbecue chicken, trust me) and even a sober slice is extremely satisfying.

Joe's – Northampton
If traditional thin crust is more your style, make your way off Main Street and onto Market Street to Joe's Cafe Spaghetti & Pizza. The sign's mustachioed man may be sporting a sombrero, but inside you'll find the homey comfort of a family-owned Italian restaurant. And while the cafe first became famous for its homemade spaghetti, it's the pizza that is the true star.

Magpie – Greenfield
Looking for a more modern pie? Magpie delivers. Chewy homemade dough is a vehicle for toppings like potato and garlic, artichoke and pesto, eggplant or chicken and spinach, or you can build your own from a variety of fresh toppings.

Village Pizza – Greenfield
My family would probably disown me if I didn't include Greenfield's Village Pizza on this list. It's a 50-year-old family-run restaurant and while I might be a bit biased, in my opinion it's the best pizza in the valley. Thick, crunchy crust is the signature of this Greek-style pizza. The pepperoni is buried under a layer of thick cheese, which bubbles and browns on top, perfectly cooked every time. Pair it with a Greek salad to cleanse the palate (that dressing is MAGICAL) and enjoy a cold beer in their small but cozy dining room.

Burgers & Dogs

White Hut – Springfield

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The original White Hut in Springfield doesn't really have a dining room, just a line of stools facing the grill, so you can see in real time how the burgers are made. The menu is simple: burgers, dogs, fries, onion rings and shakes, with some breakfast options in the morning. Their signature fried onions are what make these burgers really special.

Local Burger – Northampton
Every town has their wacky burger establishment, but something about Local Burger sets it apart from the rest. Maybe it's the burgers named after the surrounding schools. Or the cheese-stuffed Juicy Lucy. Or their Captain Crunch Fried Chicken, for those who don't feel like red meat. Or the fact they use all local ingredients. Or any number of other unique burgers, fries and shakes on the menu. It's a local hotspot for a reason, and being BYOB doesn't hurt.

Nick's Nest – Holyoke
A lot of these restaurants have been in business for decades. Nick's Nest has been serving boiled hot dogs in steamed buns for just under 100 years. Pop into this little piece of history and try their famous dogs, with a side of newly-introduced onion rings or popcorn—the original menu item when the storefront first opened in 1921. Holyoke's downtown is experiencing a bit of a revival as new businesses move in, but Nick's Nest will continue to be where the locals grab a delicious and inexpensive lunch for years to come.

Tom's Hot Dogs – Whatley
Tom's Hot Dogs is the best place in the area to snag a footlong. Even in the middle of winter, the steamed dogs and excellent fresh fries are a warm treat in the cold New England air. The most genius part? They put the condiments under the dog, so they don't rub off in the butcher paper.

Date Night

Coco & The Cellar Bar – Easthampton

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Who knew that a James Beard-nominated chef was running a restaurant in Easthampton? Chef Unmi Abkin has now been nominated two years in a row for her outstanding dishes at Coco & The Cellar Bar. The menu changes with the seasons, taking advantage of the valley's bountiful local produce. The bar downstairs makes for an intimate date night with select bites available for purchase, if you can't snag a reservation upstairs.

Eastside Grill – Northampton
Downtown Northampton has a plethora of great restaurants, from fine dining to fast casual, but if you want fresh seafood, Eastside Grille is the go-to spot. Year-round you can order fresh oysters by the single, half dozen or full dozen and their flavor is fantastic. Their steak and seafood menu has a Cajun twist, a unique find in the valley. Their cocktail menu is equally impressive. Opt for a surf and turf option like the Blackened Tenderloin Tips and Scallops to get the best of both worlds.

Gypsy Apple Bistro – Shelburne Falls
Gypsy Apple is another “farm to fork” restaurant (there's no shortage of those in rural Massachusetts) but with a French-inspired twist. Because of the local focus, the menu also changes with what's in season but you can expect each dish to be carefully crafted with fresh flavors every time.

The Delaney House/Mick's – Holyoke

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I remember The Delaney House used to be my parents’ go-to fancy date night. It was one of the few places in town that still required men to wear jackets in the dining room. While that rule has fallen out of favor, the restaurant’s class remains intact—and their steaks delicious. For a bit more of a casual atmosphere, but with the same high-quality food The Delaney House is known for, you can make a reservation at Mick’s, located in the bar area. The place is known for their steaks, but definitely start with a cup of the clam chowder. Just try not to dribble on your tie.

Ashley Blom is a New Englander and haphazard foodie living in Austin, Texas. Her book, “How to Eat a Lobster” is coming from Quirk Books in 2017, and you can find her recipes and ramblings at forkingup.com

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