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Boston Restaurant Blog >> 2008 archives >> September, 2008 >> blog entry

Boston Restaurant Blog -- September, 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Another Food Trip to the Pioneer Valley

Last summer, I took a leisurely trip to the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts that just happened to include a few dining spots, and discovered some great restaurants along the way. It was such an interesting trip that I decided to do a second Pioneer Valley trip this past Labor Day, this time making it exclusively a food trip.

A friend of mine and I got a fairly early start, making it to the area by noon, at which point we stopped at a restaurant I had gone to on the last trip (and subsequently featured on this site). And Skip's Roadside Diner greatly impressed once again, with outstanding homemade pierogies and perfectly grilled hot dogs with bacon on top. It was a lot busier than when I went last year, which is great to see because I always worry about little roadside stands such as Skip's, especially in a poor economy that keeps people from traveling through areas such as this. But happily, the place seems to be doing very well.

photo of Tom's, Whately, Massachusetts From Skip's, we took a quick side trip to the Montague Bookmill, then headed over to Routes 5 and 10 where we stopped at a little roadside stand in Whately called Tom's. Located in a humble-looking shack in a rural field and wedged between Route 91 and Routes 5/10, Tom's didn't look like much, but it was very busy (always a good sign), with people ordering hot dogs, hamburgers, and seafood dishes. I ordered a hot dog and fries while my friend went for the cheeseburger, also with fries. We went out back to a tent that had picnic tables and ate our meals swatting away lots of irritating little flies. My hot dog was all right, but nothing all that special, and the burger was about the same. The fries were terrific, though, with a good amount of salt and seasonings making them taste better than any fries I've had in many months. Tom's probably was my least favorite place on the trip, but I still thought it was pretty good, and if it had been the only stop we had made all day, I would have been satisfied in going there.

photo of Packard's, Northampton, MassachusettsWe were soon on the road again, heading south for a few miles until we hit the quirky city of Northampton. We drove around a bit until we found our destination, an improbably interesting place called Packard's that turned out to be the highlight of the trip. Packard's has the feel of a New York City speakeasy (Chumley's comes to mind) or perhaps an old-Boston political hangout in the vein of Doyle's or JJ Foley's. Either way, this was a classic old place with incredible charm (classic neon signs and other memorabilia, old wooden floors, well-worn booths and church pews, pool tables, countless nooks and crannies, and so on). I really wanted to try one of Packard's famous burgers, but was starting to fill up by this point, so I ordered a "shepherd's pie potato claw," which was basically a huge baked potato stuffed with ground beef, corn, and cheese. It was delicious, though it probably had more calories than the burger I had decided against. My friend had a BBQ chicken potato claw, which was every bit as good as my dish, if not better. We washed our meals down with some good beer (I had a very nice locally-brewed beer called Holyoke Dam Ale), then hit the road for our fourth and final stop.

photo of Cindy's Drive-In, Granby, Massachusetts Packard's was going to be tough to beat, plus we were very full at this point, so I had the feeling we were going to have a letdown at our last stop. But Cindy's Drive-In in the farming community of Granby turned out to be a memorable place, and while we were unable to eat anything other than ice cream at this point, the burgers and dogs at Cindy's looked great, the surrounding area was absolutely beautiful, and the drive-in itself was the classic type that you almost never see anymore in Massachusetts. I went with a junior-sized black raspberry chip ice cream while my friend ordered a nice-looking flurry with chocolate covered bananas and Snickers bars mixed in. We took our orders around the side of the drive-in where we could enjoy the bucolic views from the tables set up alongside the place. It was indeed a relaxing ending to another interesting road trip.

The more I travel to the Pioneer Valley, the more I like it; the scenery is very nice, the cities and towns are mostly attractive and appealing, and the restaurants (at least the ones I have been to) are varied and interesting. Hopefully over the coming months I can get out there again, and if I do, perhaps I can try one of those burgers at Packard's and/or order some food at Cindy's and sit outside again if the weather is nice.

Related Blog Entries: hot dogs, ice cream stands, road trips

blackthundermoon said:
Pioneer Valley food...check out the Hanger in Amherst off of route 9, they have a huge array of wings, the Carribean jerk was the best in my opinion, continue on down the same road into Sunderland and try Bub's order whatever you want to eat and then they have all you can eat, soup, salad and sides. For dessert the Black Sheep Bakery or Hennion's Bakery in Amherst center are both good choices.
Posted on 3/31/09
JG said:
You're crazy! Tom's is great, their hot dogs can't be beat.
Posted on 7/24/10
PLM said:
I tried skips it was one of the the worst eating experiences I have had in recent memory. It's hard to believe that this is the same place that you recommended. They can also do a better job cleaning, very disappointed.
Posted on 4/20/11

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