A New Haven in Great Barrington As Good As The Old
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
Face it – it isn’t just Florida retirees and visitors to Las Vegas that are devotees of the early-bird special (all you can eat or otherwise). The older we get, the earlier we want to have dinner. I’m starting to see evidence of this in my own life here in the Northeast, at least through the needs of dear husband Edgar. Increasingly, plans to dine at some lovely spot in the area have been scuttled because the restaurant isn’t open til six p.m., at which point Edgar tends to be settling down to watch true-life murder shows on the Investigation Discover Channel, content with a ham sandwich and package of Funyuns til slumber hits at nine or so. (Dreaming of hatchets, guns, garottes, kitchen knives, and moi, no doubt, though he denies it.)
So the challenge nowadays, to satiate both our epicurean predilections and circadian rhythms, is finding breakfast and lunch places that are culinary experiences as satisfying as nighttime ones can be. We’ve always depended on the cafe/bakery Haven in Lenox for this, and were certainly curious when owner Shelly Williams announced plans to open a second branch in Great Barrington. At the Lenox destination, the style is deceptively simple yet effective: customers walk in, review the menu, order, and pay at the counter, and then find a table. Soon enough, the food—delicious dishes such as grilled polenta (three triangles topped with basil pesto, roasted shiitake mushrooms, onion confit and goat cheese, $14.50) or Edgar’s favorite, a Croque Monsieur on farm bread with the special twist of pears ($12.50)—are brought to the table by someone invariably young and/or upbeat.
The question we kept asking ourselves was “could Shelly do it again at her new location?”—a space formerly occupied by Café Adam, which had moved across the street. Located opposite Hammertown and around the corner from The Meat Market, with plenty of parking and a definite increase in passing traffic, we could see why Williams picked this spot for business reasons. But there’s a dramatic difference in the eating experience as well, despite the fact that the mode of service remains the same. While the Lenox space tends to be, shall we say, cozy on crowded days, the main dining room in GB is light and feels more spacious (even though it’s actually the same size), with boldly colored walls and large and amusing paintings by Marilyn Kalish; on warmer days, for as long as they will last this year, there is a large outside deck filled with tables and jaunty red umbrellas. You still order, pay and get served in the same DIY way, but the overall feeling is more festive—almost dramatic.
None of this would count for much if the quality of the menu, the same as it is in Lenox, suffered somehow in the transition, perhaps out of stage fright. Well, here, the news is good. In addition to the regular reliable menu items, daily specials seemed to have read our minds on the days we dropped in: two pumpkin pancakes with toasted pepitas ($10) and a scrambled burrito with turkey sausage, cheddar cheese, and tomatillo ($12) were both the combo of comfy and challenging we were hankering for. A baby arugula and faro salad ($10.75) with heirloom tomatoes was a delicate mix of the slightly bitter spring flavors complementing the nutty faro and sweetness of the tomatoes. A breakfast burrito of scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and spinach, all wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla ($9.50), were just as memory served: the eggs moist but not soggy and all spiced up with layers of baby spinach and a zingy puree of avocado and tomatillo.
All of these are also served in Lenox, but there was just something about the feeling of the place that made eating at Haven Great Barrington an even tastier experience. Tonight… perhaps we could switch the channel and watch Long Island Medium instead?
Haven Cafe and Bakery
8 Franklin Street, Lenox, MA
325 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA