North Adams, Massachusetts is not only home to America’s largest contemporary art museum (MASS MoCA) and Mount Greylock, whose snow-capped peak became author Herman Melville’s muse, Massachusetts’ smallest town is also known for its passionate artisans and unique hospitality. It will take a visitor the better part of a weekend to explore North Adams and discover why it is a must-see destination for food, culture and relaxation in the Northwestern region of the Berkshires.
The journey from Boston takes about three hours by car. There’s a scenic four-hour train ride from Boston to Pittsfield that runs once a day, and you’ll need to take a 30-minute cab ride from there, so plan on staying at the Porches Inn once you arrive. Once home to local mill workers, these stunning Victorian terraced houses now offer a boutique experience for visitors craving that retro-industrial vibe. Centrally located on the MASS MoCA campus, it is the perfect place to recharge your batteries and admire the natural beauty of North Adams.
Read on for a suggested itinerary for an overnight excursion, beginning with dinner on the day of arrival.
Chingón Taco Truck — Mariah and Justin Forstmann’s pandemic experiment that went right — is serving up uniqueness, nerve and talent from an 18-foot truck in the parking lot of MASS MoCA from May through October. But their experimental winter pop-ups are the kind of collaborative adventures that just keep getting better. Dishes like gently sautéed cacti and mushrooms, pozole with tomatillo broth and succulent confit pork ribs in tangy almond mole fit seamlessly into the casual yet complex spirit of this community-focused team.
If you can’t snag a chingón pop-up, try Mezze, a sturdy farm-to-table bistro worth the 15-minute drive to neighboring Williamstown. Locals, visitors and farmers alike flock to the eight acres of Berkshire Hills for modern American cuisine, presented in a three-course, fixed-price menu. Order everything from crispy Jerusalem artichoke with pimento aioli, frisee and smoked pork vinaigrette – featuring East Mountain Farm pork – to duck stew and buttermilk panna cotta. Alongside seasonal spirits, microbrews, and local wines, Mezze offers non-alcoholic options with the same attention to detail.
Look no further for inspiration than at the Distillery at Greylock Works, where master distiller Ryan Max Riley has been crafting rum and gin in traditional copper stills since 2015. Classic beverages are reimagined with slowly fermented spirits that anchor you firmly in both time and place. like the Saffron Elixir, made with Forager Summer Wildflower Gin, saffron pistils and grapefruit bitters. Bottles to go become archives for ingredients such as harvested berries and rose hips, spruce tips and black birch. The distillery is located at Greylock Works, a four-story, architecturally reclaimed former cotton mill that houses a shared culinary lab, coworking space, and manufacturing center.
Or, grab a nightcap near Porches Inn with one (or two) of Public’s 11 rotating craft beers, or pair with carefully curated cocktails like the Currant Situation – Combier Creme de Cassis, Disaronno Originale, and TNT Bitters Co. Napalm Bitters combine to offer a sensory delight. Incorporate the timeless Bourbon Amaretto with Berkshire Mountain Distillers Berkshire Bourbon. The imaginative bar program celebrates the regional bounty of local farmers and distillers in a welcoming, upscale pub atmosphere.
Back at Greylock Works, escape the brunch rush at the Break Room, where Executive Chef Brian Alberg and his dynamic team are spearheading Berkshire’s food movement by serving dishes that are both down-to-earth and transcendent. Reflecting the delicate webs of interdependence found in nature, these culinary creatives are redefining community with an emphasis on experimentation. Choose from a tempting selection of scones, Danish pastries and croissants; The cinnamon glazed palmier and almond croissant do not disappoint. Just as impressive as the pastry program is the hearty breakfast. Outstanding are the chili (for vegans and meat lovers alike), poached eggs with crispy house potatoes and a fluffy frittata filled with mushrooms and cheddar. Don’t miss coffee roasted in nearby Dalton by Currency Coffee.
Barbecue and craft beer have become art forms at A-OK BBQ and Bright Ideas Brewing, located at the entrance to the MASS MoCA campus. During the winter months, A-OK offers comfortable indoor seating in the seven-keg microbrewery, making it the ideal place to explore art, community, and conversation. Regional producers are the main ingredient of this successful, uncomplicated menu. Sandwiches made with co-founder Alex Oster’s bread are loaded with smoky pulled pork, chicken and coleslaw, while the aptly named Yamwich, roasted and marinated yams with collard greens, packs a mind-blowing punch. Once you’ve recovered, grab a side of house sausage (Italian or Cheddar) as a snack while perusing the drinks menu at Bright Ideas.
The small but mighty crew, led by Orion Howard (who is also a co-founder of A-OK BBQ), serves a wide variety of beers (lagers, stouts, porters, IPAs) in a 1,400-square-foot taproom and has the gap between them has been bridging anxious locals and eager museum-goers with creative yet accessible beers since 2016. Try the Horchata Cream Ale, brewed with rice, cinnamon, vanilla and lactose, or the Dark Ideas Imperial Stout with notes of roasted malt, chocolate and coffee, raisin and star anise aromas. Before heading out, stock up on cans of New England Roots IPA to bring a taste of the Berkshires home.