Breaking bread by the snap-crackle-pop of a roaring fire has the power to transport diners to new levels of Dickensian bliss. So get stoked about these eight restaurants, each of which features a working fireplace. Whether you’re sipping a bowl of Thai chicken soup at Great Barrington’s Prairie Whale or splitting a pot of fondue at the historic Stissing House in Pine Plains, the hearths and hearty fare at these eateries will keep you aglow all winter long.
The centerpiece of Prairie Whale (formerly Bell & Anchor), a farm-to-table restaurant in Great Barrington, is the cast-iron stove in its rustic dining room. If it’s your lucky day, a pot of mulled cider may even be simmering on the stovetop. Proprietor Mark Firth, a former co-owner of Williamsburg eateries Diner and Marlow & Sons, chopped down a cherry tree on his Monterey farm to provide fuel for the fire as well as wood for the restaurant’s bar and beams. The food is as local as the timber; winter favorites include duck confit with roasted potato, cauliflower and saffron aioli, and lamb gyro with flatbread, cucumber, yogurt and fries. Open on New Year’s Eve, the restaurant will offer a festive menu and a champagne toast at midnight. 178 Main St., Great Barrington, MA; (413) 528-5050.
Cafe le Perche
Curl up on a couch by the fire at Hudson’s Café le Perche with a petit brioche and a bissou—hot sipping chocolate with a shot of espresso and Grand Marnier—and you could swear you’d been whisked away to a French chateau. The restaurant, bar, and boulangerie is housed in a former bank built in 1842. The original dark wood wainscoting remains, but today Café le Perche offers farm-fresh Gallic food that’s as toothsome as it is unintimidating. Dishes range from traditional (coq au vin) to French twist (wild mushroom risotto, which highlights the best of the area’s cremini, shitake, oyster, and portabello fungi). Chef Robert Pecorino says the restaurant uses an exclusive Wild Hive flour blend, modeled after the grains found in France’s le Perche region, to keep its renowned baguettes and pastries both authentic and local. Join them for New Year’s Eve dinner; they have a few reservations left! 230 Warren Street, Hudson, NY; (518) 822-1850.
Falls Village Inn
At Falls Village Inn, an original 1834 tin roof and a brick fireplace face off for top showstopper status. The “Tap Room” and restaurant specialize in sophisticated comfort food like lobster macaroni and cheese and a burger topped with pecan wood-smoked bacon. For an elegant and mellow start to 2014, owner Colin Chambers invites all to reserve a spot at the inn’s New Year’s Eve dinner, which offers beef Wellington, Atlantic halibut, slow-braised lamb shank, coquilles St. Jacques, and homemade tiramisu for dessert. If you can’t make NYE, stop by for brunch on the first day of 2014. 33 Railroad St., Falls Village, CT; (860) 824-0033 .
John Andrews’ chef-owner Dan Smith grew up on a farm, so it’s only natural that his famed Egremont restaurant has been at the forefront of the local-foods movement since opening in 1990. Current seasonal favorites include steak with potato and red onion gratin, scallop risotto with braised leeks and parmesan, and delicate ricotta gnocchi with roasted pumpkin, floating in a pool of sage brown butter. A fireplace in the intimate dining room keeps guests warm on frosty nights, while bartender Eric Rudgunas makes Massachusetts history come to life with an apple brandy drink called Shay’s Rebellion. 224 Hillsdale Rd., South Egremont, MA; (413) 528-3469.
Red Lion Inn
From bowls of sugar-dusted gumdrops to a crackling fireplace to live harp music, Red Lion Inn’s lobby does cozy right. Dining options at the colonial-era lodge include the formal main dining room, which offers locally sourced American cuisine; the Widow Bingham’s Tavern, where antique pitchers and lanterns hang from low wooden beams; and the Lion’s Den pub, where diners can warm themselves by yet another fireplace and chow down on daily specials like Sunday’s $10 turkey dinner. Be sure to scope out the 200-pound gingerbread castle in the main dining room, but resist the urge to break off a peppermint — the confectionary mammoth was built in the 1970s. If you’re in the party mood, the Lion’s Den offers live music on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 30 Main St., Stockbridge, MA; (413) 298-5545.
Route 7 Grill
With stick-to-your-ribs fare like pulled pork and house-made salami, Route 7 Grill offers food fit for winter hibernation. But thanks to the BBQ joint’s lively atmosphere, there’s no danger of sleeping until spring. On a recent Thursday evening, owner Lester Blumenthal held court at the horseshoe-shaped bar, proffering samples of cabernet franc and Big Elm’s bourbon-barrel stout. The restaurant was decked out for the holidays with a twinkling fir, pine wreaths, and best of all, a geometric, 1950s-style fireplace commissioned from Monterey Masonry. Wine and dine at Route 7 on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for fun specials. 999 Main St., Great Barrington, MA; (413) 528-3235.
The Stissing House in Pine Plains has hosted its share of historical dignitaries since it was built in 1782, including the Marquis de Lafayette. Were he alive today, the major-general would surely be pleased with Provence chef Michel Jean’s French-inspired menu. Fondue with Gruyere emmental cheese, white wine, and kirsch is the perfect dish to share fireside. The restaurant’s wood oven produces roasted clams and pizzas charred to perfection; try the Stissing House, topped with translucent purple potato slices. Make plans to visit Stissing House for New Year’s Eve and enjoy a special dinner menu, and dancing until 1 a.m. 7801 South Main Street, Pine Plains, NY; (518) 398-8800.
Vico Restaurant & Bar
Vico chef-owner Mark Ganem spent five years living in Tuscany, learning to craft Italian delicacies like linguini with clams and garlic butter sauce. Now Vico brings the region’s sunny, simple flavors to Hudson’s Warren Street. With 1960’s jazz on the speakers, leather banquettes, and a stand-alone fireplace, the space has a slightly retro vibe, though bright paintings by local artists are modern as can be. The family-friendly menu has something for everyone. Pappardelle al Telefono, a pasta dish with tomatoes and mozzarella that stretches into cheesy “telephone cords,” gives kids the perfect excuse to play with their food. Adults can dig into crab cakes and get into a bubbly spirit by sipping prosecco with a splash of St. Germain. Celebrate “Capodanno” (Italian New Year’s Eve) here for a night complete with a four-course meal, bubbly, and good cheer. 136 Warren Street, Hudson, NY; (518) 828-6529.