Firefly Gastropub: A New Vision, And Better Than Ever
By Shawn Hartley Hancock
Photos by Jocelyn Vassos, courtesy of Firefly Gastropub.
The old Firefly restaurant in the walkable center of Lenox signed up for a makeover and re-opened in May as Firefly Gastropub with new décor, a new menu, better-trained staff, and food and drink offerings good enough to sustain it during slow Berkshire winters and hip enough to satisfy all comers in those other seasons. Chef-owner Laura Shack, a long-time Berkshire restaurateur and co-owner of 20 Railroad Public House in Great Barrington, kept what worked about Firefly — its charming name and her chef, Zee Vassos, who’s been with her for 26 years — but reconceived virtually everything else, including its new orientation as a gastropub (think gastronomique and pub) that serves high-quality comfort cuisine in a casual setting.
Firefly’s front and back porches, as comfortable as ever, now boast a friendly string of lights that literally mimic the warm glow of fireflies. Inside, Firefly glows with golden light, too. If two distinctive styles of décor — Art Deco and Craftsman — met, married and had a baby, the result might be its new interior.
Firefly’s oval-shaped, double-sided bar is elegant and comfortable. A variety of textures cover the restaurant’s walls and ceilings in a restrained palette of eggplant, purple and soft gold, unifying several dining alcoves with built-in booths. Shiny panels and light coves in the coffered ceilings reflect and diffuse light from many sources, dampen sound and evoke the feeling of dining inside a large, lovely jewelry box. Wood of different thicknesses and different species creates more texture along the far side of the bar. Even in the restrooms, the texture in the dark floors is echoed in the large-scale wall stencils.
The pros behind the bar are welcoming, and provide excellent and attentive service to accompany their creative list of cocktail options, which include an Elderflower Gimlet (made with Tito’s Vodka, fresh lime and St. Elder’s Elderflower Liqueur), a Spaghetti Western Old Fashioned (made with Vida Mezcal, Cocchi Rosa, Aztec chocolate bitters and house coffee bitters), and the aptly named Lava Lamp (made with Prosecco, Crispin Hard Cider and cranberries). The beer and wine list is extensive, much of it locally sourced, and offers some pleasant surprises, including the Green Flash West Coast IPA that both my date and I enjoyed.
The menu is long on small plates (there are 20 interesting dishes alone under “Noshes” and “Just a Bite”) but features only five entrees and a couple of dinner specials. This allows for flexible dining — order two “Just a Bites” and you’ve got dinner — and easier plate sharing.
While the mission, to “eat, drink, laugh and lounge,” makes Firefly an excellent place for friends to meet after work or for a quick bite before a cultural event, it’s also a serious fine-dining destination with entrees that are beautifully conceived and prepared. Grilled rainbow trout ($27), super fresh and perfectly cooked, was served with a lemony herb sauce over a flavorful corn and potato “risotto.” It was served in a narrow appetizer dish, which is neither good enough for this entree ($27) nor respectful enough of diners who need the margin of a larger plate to maneuver food as they eat.
The roasted half chicken ($24) reminded me of the baby chickens broiled to perfection at one of my favorite restaurants in NYC years ago. Firefly’s small and tender bird was richly flavored, locally sourced and perfectly seasoned. Mashed potatoes and roasted root veggies alongside were equally well prepared. Preceding that, we ordered the guacamole ($12), which lacked the customary spices, but the Caesar salad ($7) was a pleasure — we tasted subtle anchovy and could tell the dressing was freshly made. For dessert, we ordered the berry compote, every bit as good as your grandmother’s. Our server, Jeff S., was a delight throughout. If anything needs correcting at Firefly, it’s the knives, whose handles are so oddly shaped they don’t stay where placed.
The atmosphere, food and drinks at the new Firefly are first-rate, with service that ranks among the best of any restaurant in the Berkshires. And it might just be one of the most lively pubs, too, offering music every Friday and increasingly on Saturdays (no cover). Thankfully, Shack retained the popular $5 Burger Night — that happens on Wednesdays — and has added $10 Taco Thursdays.
71 Church Street, Lenox, MA
Open daily, 4-11 p.m.