The (New) Church Street Café
An American Bistro
An Anne & Steve review
There’s money yet to be made in them Berkshire Hills! The Lenox Restaurant Group, Inc., which also owns Frankie’s and Alta, has reopened this venerable dining destination under the same name. This is great news for those who have witnessed not only the usual openings and closings of many beloved restaurants over the years (see Dead Restaurants tab) but the closing of two powerhouse promoters of local culture and dining this year: Berkshire Living Magazine and the Rural Intelligence website.
First impression of the décor is country comfort meets city slickness that goes well with one of the best people watching porches in the county if not the country. Natural wood offset by ultra-clean beige and grey tones are complimented nicely by unusual B&W photo enlargements emphasizing the local feel including one of the locals who goes by just his initials, JT. This cozy yet sophisticated setting is perfect for pre-concert/post-museum dining and also for a long leisurely lunch when you don’t know where you’re going which is our favorite way to enjoy the areas' many attractions.
Anne had her usual lunch, a fresh local greens salad with grilled chicken on top and loved it, nothing out of the ordinary but very good, healthy and nourishing. She stole one of my three strips of bacon on my Best Bacon Cheese Burger in the Berkshires if there still was a Berkshire Living Best Burgers issue to be in, and should get a mention eventually in the Berkshires Best magazine which is still thankfully around and well worth reading. The meat was crispy juicy and tasty the cheese cheddar naturally the bacon thick cut and I believe that the chef intended for me to have the full three slices but two was enough. The bun, fries, coleslaw and pickle all top notch my mouth is watering while I’m writing so I have to stop.
For desert we had probably for the first time in our history of eating out together a properly made apple tarte tatin with a scoop of delicious vanilla ice cream on the side. Finally a French desert that is made in the genuinely French way which pleased us as much as surprised us because it has been such a very long time since we’ve began our voyage through a sea of disappointing apple deserts claiming to be the real thing but either not caramelized enough or just plain burnt.
We spied on others eating well made lunch fare but truthfully we’ll need to have dinner here to really inform you of your choice to dine here but if lunch is any indication of what’s in store for dinner you are in for good eating treats.
The first night we ventured into Church Street we had already eaten but it was a simply memorable event nonetheless so I’ll recount it for your reading pleasure. We were walking through the gravel parking areas between Main Street and Church Street where there are many other retail treasures to be found nestled in between the two streets. "Hark, I hear someone calling my name" near the restaurant entrance which is on the side of the building which also houses three other businesses Weaver’s Fancy; Concepts of Art; and Past and Future Antiques. ."Steve come in come in!" Who is it? Who could it be? I’m not that famous but I do know a few people. What do you know? It’s our favorite waitress, Tanya, who just starred in our most recently scuttled even before we’ve had to relegate it to the Dead Restaurants page video, a new record for us video taping and the restaurant then closing just two days later. The restaurant was the short lived Shabu 297 in Pittsfield which was one of the best restaurants we’ve ever eaten at in our five years of taping our eating adventures for this website and I was in my full Tony Clifton mode wearing a purple velvet sports coat with white fluffy shirt unbuttoned to my navel attire. Tanya was instructing us how to eat Shabu Shabu and Korean BBQ. We fumbled around and made fish stew out of the Shabu but the BBQ was phenomenal and then poof gone no video and we felt bad for her because she was really helping make that place something special patiently showing novices the right way to eat this incredibly interesting cuisine. This was all the more distressing by them having stunningly fresh ingredients, which was our big reservation to going there in the first place, an omen we were no longer going to be doing this enterprise. Our lives were changing. What we once knew as home away from home was going to become a distant memory.
But there was that friendly and familiar voice beckoning us inside the newly reopened Church Street holding court behind the bar Tanya who had landed on her feet after such a shocking closing of both Jae’s Spice (our most popular video) and Shabu 297 where we had met her so many times waitressing as we held court at the sushi bar, our favorite spot. We were chatting up a storm at the newly polished natural wood bar at Church Street where a friendly famished Kripalu refugee and patron was sopping up the last of her pesto pasta dish as if it was manna from heaven when she mentioned that Alec Baldwin was eating on the porch with his new girlfriend. Anne was thrilled because she’s a big fan of his Jack Donaghy character on 30 Rock. I made a comment about how when I saw him years ago playing Stanley Kowalski on Broadway with Jessica Lange in Streetcar and how I had written about it on Steve’s Blog when I had won the Barrington Stage Company Stella Shouting contest when they did Streetcar in 2009. (see related story) I was jawing away at the bar not 30 feet from him about how it must have been his "A-Ha" or "Ha-Ha" moment because when Alec yelled "Stella!" everyone in the theater laughed and he probably then realized how damn funny he really is even though before that he was only really considered a serious actor. If you’re good you’re good at both let’s face it Alec Baldwin is amazing in any role Glengarry or Beetlejuice brilliant and always getting better.
So where is the big payoff you’ve been waiting for? It was my turn to shine to show some guts gumption whatever you call it. We said goodbye to Tanya and the formerly famished now satiated star struck Kripalu escapee and we left. I walked right up to Alec who had finished dining al fresco on the porch and was just standing up. I said "Hi Alec" and he stuck out his hand to shake mine and said "Hi" as if he knew me. I said I’m Steve and my wife and I video tape ourselves having dinner in the Berkshires for our website." He said "How cool is that? We’re going to see James Taylor at Tanglewood tonight." I said "How cool is that? I’d like to introduce you to my wife Anne." Anne shook his hand, leaned in and said "I think you’re hilarious!" not knowing at the time that his new girlfriend’s name he was dining with was unbelievably indeed named Hilaria! I gave him our Berkshiresnow.com postcard which he kept and he was then whisked away by his chaperone/operative to the concert. Everyone was left dumbfounded how I had just walked up to him and engaged him in this casual conversation. Meanwhile all the women had been chatting about how slim he looked oooing and ahhing. I don’t quite get that. To me he looked like my good friend Alec
This would be one of Anne and Steve’s very last stands in the Berkshires. Milking it for all we got, wondering where the last five years went culminating in this glorious moment of so many great moments. There are a few more last postings of our adventures in this magical place to come. Maybe we’ll sell the site, maybe give it away? Maybe we’ll just keep coming and post our findings. For alas we’ve sold our house and moved to good old New Jersey. All good things must pass into new good things. I’ve since actually met Judah Friedlander coming off the stage at Gotham Comedy Club this past August right before I went on at new talent night standup being one of my post website performance endeavors and we chatted a nice bit too. Which 30 Rock star will I meet next? Stay tuned! So we’ve moved on but the memory lingers. We love the Berkshires and all the magic that happens here. Bravo to those hearty folks that keep it going for the pleasure of all to come and visit year after glorious year.
Long live Church Street Café.
Church Street Café