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Mad Jack's is Smokin'

By Stephanie FarringtonBerkshire Food

Mad Jack's BBQ recently moved to larger quarters at 295 North St.; below, sides and ribs.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Every time we drove by the little barbecue joint on Fenn Street, I used to say, “we really need to check that place out.” 

Well, by the time we finally did, they had hauled up stakes and moved to a much larger location on North Street. Mad Jack’s is that good.
We made our way there in plenty of time on a Wednesday night about two weeks after the move. The liquor license isn’t ready yet and because of a small fender bender, we arrived pretty late but we still managed to find enough to fill the barbecue craving. If anything, a brush with danger sharpens your appetite, so we were famished by the time we sat down.
Mad Jack’s has moved from being a little hole in the wall take-out place to being a sit-down restaurant big enough to host a live band, something I’m hoping they’ll eventually do.
We ordered dishes to share, a rib sampler, pulled pork, collard greens, mac and cheese, cole slaw and mashed sweet potatoes. They were out of beef ribs so they let me substitute a Texas favorite, smoked brisket.
When you go to a place that’s newly opened or just moved, you need to be a little patient with things. Wait staff are still finding their way, the kitchen is still finding its rhythm and while all of that is true at Mad Jack’s right now, I’m confident it won’t be true forever. 
No matter what, if you want to eat ribs in the Berkshires, this is the place to go. 
Mad Jack’s ribs, dry-rubbed Memphis, baby back ribs and spare ribs, were delicious, sweet and meaty and falling off the bone tender. They were smokey and flavorful, everything you want in a rib. And if you’re not from Texas, the brisket was pretty darned good, too. (Texans prefer their brisket sliced and as an honorary Texan, I do, too.)
The pulled pork was smokey and tender, portions were generous, too. Just before our dinner arrived, Soleil, our server, plunked a beer case on the table, it was full of different sauces. Five different kinds — decisions, decisions. 
About the sides, here’s the thing; when I go out for Southern food, I don’t want it gussied up. Southern-style collard greens are the only vegetable I know that benefits from being overcooked — and I mean way overcooked. If you’re serving barbecue and your greens aren’t olive drab, limp and swimming in “pot liquor” (the juice from the greens mixed with fatback drippings and whatever seasonings are in there) they’re not greens. 
An emerald-green, barely wilted baby bok choy plant sliced in two and arranged artfully on a plate, well, it might have lots of vitamins and it might be pretty but that’s not greens. 
Thankfully, Mad Jack’s gets it. Our greens arrived in a bowl, suitably limp, oozing flavor and having been cooked for more than an hour, yum.

Top, the man behind Mad Jack's: Jabari Powell. Right, hush puppies.
Macaroni and cheese was exactly right, not too mushy but stodgy and cheesy, a great foil to the sweet sauce on the barbecue and the near-bitter tang of greens. And while the peach cobbler was not actually cobbler but peach pie, it, too, was really very delicious. It was good enough that we ate the whole thing despite being far too full to finish our dinners. (You have to order the cobbler when you order your dinner so we didn’t know we’d be that full.)

There are some debates to be had over things like hush puppies (I think they should be fluffier) and cole slaw (I like mine on the sweet and tangy side, Mad Jack’s is salty) but you can get sweet potato pie at Mad Jack’s and that’s something to be cherished — I could eat it all day.
The salads looked fantastic, imaginative and tasty, there’s fried chicken for those days you really need it (and who doesn’t have those days?) And the prices are down-home sensible. The bill came to $40 before the tip. My rib sampler came with enough food to feed both of us, easily. 
As it was, we ate leftovers for lunch the next day and were happy to have them.
But really? It’s all about the ribs. Mad Jack’s does a great take-out business and no wonder but it’s a place that’s really poised to become somewhere like the legendary barbecue and blues joints they have in Texas and the Carolinas. Add in some music and some local beer and you have a perfect place to spend a hot Friday night.
Can’t wait.


Mezze Sets Date For Opening Of New Location

Staff reports

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mezze Restaurant Group announced Wednesday that the Mezze Bistro + Bar will open for business at its new 777 Cold Spring Road location on Monday, June 7.

The restaurant will be open at its current 16 Water Street location through Sunday, May 16, then it will be closed for two weeks to complete the transition into the new space. Mezze Restaurant Group purchased the Cold Spring Road property, which was previously Jae's Inn, in April 2009. Since the purchase, interior and exterior renovations have been made to the building in keeping with sustainable building practices.

“The Cold Spring Road property aligns our values and mission with the greater goal of food as culture,” said Nancy Thomas, co-owner of Mezze Restaurant Group along with Bo Peabody. “This move allows us to better put into practice our farm-to-table mission and our relationship to the environment."

In March, the Board of Selectmen paved the way for Mezze's change in location.


Tags: Mezze Bistro + Bar      

Gramercy Bistro Opens at MoCA

By Tammy Daniels

Gramercy's new look at Mass MoCA. The fine dining establishment opened last week.

Gramercy Bistro has settled into its new location in the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts complex in North Adams.

The restaurant had a soft opening this past Friday in the space formerly occupied by Cafe Latino. Owned by chef Alexander "Sandy" Smith, the restaurant first opened in 2001 on Marshall Street and seated about 60 after renovations a few years ago.

The new location offers a more comfortable layout and adds about a dozen more seats in the bar area and allows expansion into a patio during the summer. The somewhat spare decor of Cafe Latino has given way to a more luxurious look, with creamy yellow walls and charcoal shades on the many windows. White tableclothes, gleaming dinnerware and upholstered booths gives the space a more classic feel.

"We really wanted it to be fresh and new," said Sarah Smith on Wednesday. "We wanted to make it our own."

The restaurant's added on a lunch menu on Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon to 2 and a brunch on Sundays from 11 to 2 with menu items including apple pancakes and eggs benedict. The bar will be open from noon until midnight, offering a small menu of light fare between meal periods and after dinner service ends. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays for the winter, but will be open seven days from July to October.

The Adams Lions will hold its third annual benefit  'Flavors of France' at Gramercy on Tuesday, March 23.

In a statement, Alexander Smith described the opening as exciting. "We have been looking to grow for a while, and when the space became available it was the perfect opportunity," he wrote. "We'll have more seating for our growing dinner business, seasonal outdoor seating, and a kitchen that can accommodate more meal periods."

Sarah Smith said the restaurant's opening days have gone well. "We've gotten a lot of good response from our existing clientele."

The bistro will continue to offer contemporary classics and its strong commitment buying fresh, local ingredients as a member of Berkshire Grown. Gramercy also offers full catering service. It's Web site is currently being revamped.

Cafe Latino closed in September when its lease was up. The restaurant and its predecessor, Eleven, were both owned by Nancy Thomas and Bo Peabody of Mezze Inc.

Tags: Gramercy, MoCA, North Adams      

Mazzeo's Opens; New Eateries for Adams, North Adams

Staff Reports

Mazzeo's Ristorante on South Street in Pittsfield is open for dinner business. The Italian restaurant opened quietly on Tuesday afternoon after months of preparation.

The new location of the popular Italian eatery is in the former Asters; the original building on Winter Street will continue to be used for banquets and will house the Mazzeo family's catering business.

We're told the new Mazzeo's is beautiful inside and offers the same authentic Italian cusine its been known for for years.

Hours at the new location are Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9; Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 and Sundays from 4 to 9.

Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant Pho

In North Adams, an Italian restaurant  has been transformed into Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant Pho. The restaurant, owned by Nancy Nguyen of North Adams, opened last week at Valley Park Lanes.

The kitchen's been revamped and the decor changed to evoke more of a Southeast Aisan feel. The menu is limited for now with 11 items, including the namesake dish Pho Tai Bo Van, a beef noodle soup.

Prices range from $4.25 for two spring rolls with dipping sauce to $12.50 for steak dishes. Pho is open daily from 11 to 10 and offers takeout. The number is 413-664-6667.

Izzy's Pizza

In Adams, Izzy's Pizza and Deli opened recently at 85 Commercial St. with a full menu of specialty pizzas (including the artery-clogging "Heart Attack"), calzones, stromboli, pastas, sandwiches, grinders, burgers and appetizers. It offers 10 different wing flavors and BBQ ribs.

The location was vacated by Jim's Pizza, which moved to Howland Avenue.

Delivery from Izzy's is available in Adams and to the Viking Pub next door. It also offers catering off the menu.

Operated by AnnMarie Belmonte and Rick "Izzy" Solomon, the eatery is open from 11 to 9 Tuesday through Thursday; 11 to midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 to 9 on Sunday.

Call 413-743-0445 or check out the Facebook page.

Have restaurant news? Send it info@iberkshires.com.

Tags: Mazzeo's, Pho, Izzy      

Mazzeo's Preparing to Move South

Staff Reports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's popular Mazzeo's Ristorante is readying to open a new location on South Street in the former Aster's restaurant.

The Mazzeo purchased the building from owner and chef Joseph Toole for $460,000 in October 2009, several months after Toole closed the 4-year-old Asters because of declining clientele and rising costs.

The new Mazzeo's at 1015 South St. was expected to open this spring. The current location at 7 Winter St. will remain open for banquets and weddings.

Mazzeo's posted the pictures above and others on its Facebook page with the message "coming soon."

Tags: Mazzeo's, Pittsfield      
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