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The Hub Restaurant Celebrates 5 Years on Friday

By John DurkaniBerkshires Staff
Matt and Kate Schilling pose outside of their restaurant, The Hub, on the eve of its fifth birthday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Thursday afternoon at The Hub seemed typical.

The lunch rush has passed. Matt Schilling checks over slider supplies and gets his line staff ready for the next rush. Kate Schilling goes over adjustments in the restaurant's computer with waitress Jennifer Tatro.

Tomorrow's a different story. After all, the popular Main Street establishment will celebrate its fifth birthday on May 3.
"We're really proud of it, and mostly I'm proud of Matt," Kate Schilling said. "He deserved this. It was always his dream to have his own place and he worked his way up to it and he's really the backbone, he holds it all together."
Friday's already usually busy. But it will be busier than usual in celebration, as the Schilling family has birthday plans.
Every table will receive mystery envelopes, which at random hold a discounts from 10 to 50 percent or a free meal or desserts, Hub T-shirts, bumper stickers and more. In addition, they'll have a big cake that everyone will get a slice of, $5 appetizers all day long and $5 drink specials.
Matt and Kate Schilling both have been in the restaurant business for awhile. Matt Schilling has about 25 years of experience, and even ran the Mangrove Mamas, located in Key West, Fla., for 14 years. Kate Schilling started her restaurant experience at 16 and worked in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she met and worked with Matt.
"I was as far north as you can go and he was far south as you can go on the same seaboard," said Kate, a North Adams native.
They made a good team, and as Kate put it, "decided to get married even after working together in a restaurant," which if you have ever worked at a restaurant, you would understand.
They eventually moved to North Adams to get married and then they saw the old Milan at 55 restaurant for sale and decided to make a move.
"We were like, 'would this be a good opportunity?' And it was a good spot, right on Main Street," said Kate. "Me being from North Adams, I felt like there was so many things missing restaurantwise. Even since we opened in five years, so much has happened. The town has really improved, there's a lot more here."
Kate felt her connection to North Adams also helped her decide on the menu.
"I felt like I knew what North Adams needed," she said. "I knew that most people don't want the fancy-schmancy escargot ... People just want good food, good honest food ... It doesn't need to be that complicated."
Matt joked that the expectation was to "become millionaires and retire" but quickly retracted that statement. They just want to make a living, offer the city a restaurant to "be here for the long haul."
"We hoped that the town would keep us going and they have," Kate said.
The Schillings, as well as their staff, credited the local residents for their success.
"We have such a good local following, and that's the most important thing ever," Kate said, noting that they are also thankful for the added business from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts, the Porches and other venues.
They also credited their staff, the "Hub Family," for keeping the place successful.
"We have the best staff, and you know who says that? The customers say that all the time," Kate said.
Tatro, a waitress at The Hub, echoed Kate's feelings.
"I love all the staff, we're like family," Tatro said.
The Schillings hope for the next five years to treat them as well as the first, and hope to expand to offer entertainment. 
The Hub is located at 55 Main St. and is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 9:30.

Joe's Diner Throwback to Old Days

By Stephanie FarringtonBerkshire Food

The landmark Joe's Diner offers old-fashioned diner food and great coconut cream pie just like Grandma use to make.

LEE, Mass. — It's not exactly good. Not exactly charming either, not really anything but what it is.

If you go to Joe’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner it won't take you long to figure it out.

Joe's is a diner, that is to say, Joe's is a throwback to the old days, the very old days, before many of us were even born, before microwaves or even TV dinners when single working folks, men especially, would routinely take their meals at little roadside spots every day. Eventually many of these men settled down, raised a family and ate their meals at home but until they did, they went to places like Joe's to get their daily nourishment.

Norman Rockwell knew this when he painted "The Runaway" using Joe's as a model. Naturally, the little boy, thinking he's big enough to go his own way, went where the grown-up working men went, to a diner.

Joe's is still that kind of restaurant. It hasn't changed a bit. Seriously — except that now, you can buy a T-shirt or a cream soda with Joe's name on it.

At Joe's, you can still have liver and onions for supper, you can get your roast beef with green beans or boiled carrots and a boiled potato on Fridays. Your milkshake comes in a glass with the metal container on the side. Portions are reasonable, satisfying, not mammoth. You can have breakfast whenever you want (or need) to but what you get is going to be plain, mom-style food.

We went on Thursday, which is corned beef night. For $7.95 you can have the traditional New England boiled dinner; corned beef, cabbage, carrots and a boiled potato, served with hot mustard and/or vinegar. Just like your grandfather would have eaten after his shift on the railroad or at the mill. You can choose to have a sandwich instead but the boiled dinner is the real deal — plain as gingham and just as all-American.

Young working men, newly living on their own, love dessert of course. After all, back in the day they weren't much more than boys. And this is where Joe's really shines.

You'd swear your grandmother made their pies. The night we went, we had two classic diner choices, actually, we planned to share one but it was so good there wasn't enough to go around. The coconut cream pie is among the best I've ever had. Great crust, perfect custard filling, just a plate full of yum. If you prefer chocolate cream, that's even better. The tapioca pudding (yes, someone still serves tapioca pudding) is light and creamy and redolent of sweet vanilla, topped with cinnamon and a dollop of whipped cream, I could eat it all day.

But the real reason to go to Joe's isn't the food, it's the people. Maybe they're remembering their early days alone, I didn't ask, but the night we went the place was full of local guys chatting and joking with the waitresses, telling all the local gossip and laughing out loud.

Within minutes we felt like part of the gang, talking about the "adult entertainment" shop down the road, the wedding announcements in the local paper, who was going where and buying what — all of it. We learned a lot about Lee in a dinner hour and I'm pretty sure you would, too.

Breakfast at Joe’s is pretty famous, it routinely gets great reviews online and Jan and Michael Stern's road food website says it's worth a detour. Late-night host Jimmy Fallon made sure to stop in a couple years ago. I didn't find it to be much different from any other diner breakfast, but I would definitely pull over for a slice of that pie and a hot cup of Joe.

Postscript: Rumor has it Joe's will be closing their doors for good in January 2013 so if you want to get your own piece of Americana for the memory book, best do it now. First opened in 1939, the Lee landmark was operated for more than 45 years by the now legendary Joe Sorrentino, until being sold in 2000.


Where Everybody Knows Your Name — In The Morning

Stephanie FarringtonBerkshire Food

You can get a cold brew at Corner Lunch — they'll know your name, too.
Does anybody remember "Cheers?"
It was a TV show set in Boston where everyone at a local pub knew everyone else. People don't expect that kind of treatment anymore but if you live in the Berkshires and eat out for breakfast, there are plenty of places where it's true, "everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came."
Two of those places are Linda's Cafe at 178 Union St., North Adams, and The Corner Cafe at 50 Summer St., Adams.

Linda's is busy every day; they are an old-school diner doing a booming business in basic breakfasts. Pancakes are their specialty but they'll make you just about anything you can think of for breakfast.
The cafe has been a North Adams institution for the last 17 years.
Both places are open early — really early. They close early, too. If you want breakfast or lunch at Linda's you can eat at 6 a.m. but you'd better be done by 1 'cause that's when they close. On weekends, if you sleep in, forget it. Linda's closes at 11 a.m.
Linda's makes pancakes, big, huge, fluffy, moist pancakes. They make them with bananas or blueberries, lots of them or with strawberries and whipped cream if you prefer. Ask for them dry with butter on the side or you get margarine. They are not trying to wow anyone with the quality of their ingredients here. It's plain, homestyle food. But it is good and Linda's has my number for sure, because they make great corned beef hash

Corned beef hash is an American thing. I've never seen it on a menu in Canada or England, granted, my experience in England is limited, but I'm pretty sure it's strictly an American standby. If you like corned beef hash and eggs Linda's is your place.

For the benefit of the team, however, I had the pancakes that were excellent. They come served with extra crispy, not burnt, bacon. Absolutely yummy if you're not busy being envious over your tablemate's home fries, hash browns (Linda's has both) or corned beef hash, and reasonably priced.

Breakfast for two with bottomless coffee served to you at a table by the owner, comes in under $15 at its most extravagant. A bargain.

Clockwise from right: Linda's blueberry pancakes; diners; english muffin sandwich at Corner Lunch; Dick & Joan's menu; western on rye.
We went to the Corner Lunch on a Saturday morning during the annual Adams Community Tag Sale. The Corner Cafe's menu is not as large as Linda's but the place is just as down-home friendly.
My husband ordered their special, an english muffin topped with sausage, egg and cheese, served with home fries, coffee or tea for $5.75. From our seat at the counter, we could see Dick making our breakfast, using a spatula to flip the home fries until they were all an even golden brown.
Everything arrived hot, fresh and well seasoned. I chose a western sandwich, a personal favorite. It arrived as ordered on two buttery slices of rye toast. I would have added more onion but we're all different in our tastes and this was clearly a very respectable western with all the right things in all the right places. The home fries were delicious.
As we sat and ate, owners Dick and Joan Carrigan were happy to answer our questions about the fish on the walls and their trips to Canada. Working alongside Joan was our waitress, (whose name I did not get). She greeted everyone, most of them by name and everyone seemed very glad to see her. One customer went so far as to lean out over the counter and take her hand. While she served, Joan was busy washing dishes in a sink behind the counter.
The atmosphere is plain. The service is great. The food is like home cooking, fresh, hot, and unpretentious. And I'm pretty sure, the next time we go to either place, they'll remember our names — pretty great way to start your day.
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Stephanie Farrington of Berkshire Food is contributing to our Eats blog — all about food, all the time. 


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