Earlier this year, our readers told us their favorite places to eat as part of the annual Best of the Valley poll. This week, we offer a few of their top picks in cuisines from around the world.
351 Northampton Rd., Amherst (413) 256-6666
“What really sets Ginger Garden apart,” Chef Paul Chen says, “is our authentic Chinese menu, which incorporates traditional dishes and unique Szechuan flavors.” The secret to success, Chen continues, “isn’t a secret: fresh ingredients, experience and a devotion to customer service are common to all great food finds and uncommon anywhere else.”
178 N. Pleasant St., Amherst
(413) 253-3811, www.chezalbert.net
This nine-time winner of the Best French Restaurant category has been praised by every newspaper and magazine across New England, including our sister publication, “Preview Massachusetts,” which declared Chez Albert “a cherished cornerstone of the community.” We stand by our own pronouncement: Chez Albert is “tres delicieux!”
The Student Prince Café/ The Fort
8 Fort St., Springfield, (413) 788-6628
The Valley wouldn’t be the Valley without “The Fort,” without the Student Prince, without owners Rudy Scherff and Barbara Meunier. One of Springfield’s best-loved restaurants since 1935, the Student Prince & The Fort Dining Room has long been a regular dining and drinking spot for local movers and shakers. Besides the excellent food and vast beer selection, the Student Prince, with its amazing beer stein collection, among other treasures, offers a visual and cultural experience more vivid and fun than many museums offer. And no resting on laurels, says Meunier: “Currently, we have a new flyer with such items as Beef Tournedo Florencia and Pig Wings. We try to introduce new items regularly.”
Filo’s Greek Taverna
279 Main St., Northampton
(413) 586-3456, filosgreek.com
Filos Greek Taverna has only been open since December, 2013, but Northampton’s new Greek restaurant has gained popularity quickly. The visually playful dining spot specializes in a variety of Greek specialties, giros and Old World pizza, says co-owner Konstantinos Sierros. Filos offers delivery from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
45 State St., Northampton
One of Northampton’s true culinary gems, India House presents the North Indian cuisine of hosts Alka and Omi Kanoujia, using recipes for dishes they’ve been enjoying since they were children. India House reflects a deep commitment to showcasing Indian food and hospitality at its best.
96 Russell St. (Rte. 9), Hadley
(413) 584-8000, www.myalinas.com
If you haven’t enjoyed something from Martin Amaya’s kitchen, we recommend you fix that as soon as you can. If you have sampled some of Martin’s good food and hospitality, no doubt you’ve become a regular. Alina’s is a Valley gem, and its popularity is reflected throughout this poll with first place honors for, in addition to Italian restaurant, restaurant for desserts, service/waitstaff and wine list, and several second- and third-place finishes in other food and nightlife categories.
7 Old South St., Northampton
A long-time Best Of winner, Osaka sets itself apart in this competitive restaurant category with its top-quality fish, diverse fusion menu and high level of customer service, say co-owners Mark Chen and Paul Zheng. Fans also love Osaka’s fun hibachi tables, which can accommodate large groups.
44 Main St., Northampton
(413) 585-9128, www.amanouz.com
An important and lasting fixture in the Valley’s restaurant scene, Amanouz offers delicious Moroccan and Mediterranean specialties in an informal, lively and colorful setting.
485 West St., Amherst, (413) 230-3580
Even Mission Cantina’s Facebook page makes us hungry. Here are two recent posts: “Grilled Mahi Mahi tonight served with crispy plantains, black beans, mango salsa and tomatillo sauce” and “Crispy whole belly clam tacos with pickled vegetables and avocado mousse; come by and get, they won’t last long.” We’re on our way!
Primavera Café Restaurante
257 East St., Ludlow, (413) 589-0562
Your senses tell you that you’ve come to the right place. The savory scent of Portuguese cuisine tantalizes your nose; the clear-eyed elegance of the décor assures your eyes that the proprietor and his staff are meticulous with every detail; the sound of more people speaking Portuguese than English gives your ears a clue that the food and everything about Primavera will be authentic. You feel the warmth of Chef Jack Nuno’s hospitality in his handshake, in the way his fresh bread tears apart, in the stroke of your knife through his perfectly prepared beef steak. And then you taste his greatest gift, authentic Portuguese cooking, masterfully prepared. A Valley hallmark!
2 Bridge St., Northampton
118 Main St., Keene, (603) 357-4567
“Thai food is known to be chili hot,” says Neena Sopapornamorn, “but traditional Thai dishes must not be predominantly hot. There must always be a harmony in a dish. The sharpness of the chilies and the spice in a curry dish are toned down by the sweetness of the coconut milk, which also enhances the flavors and tastes of other delicate ingredients and herbs.” No wonder it’s delicious! Known for high-quality, healthy food and fast service, Thai Garden has served up Thai delicacies since 2003. New popular items on the menu, Neena tells us, include yum yum noodle soup and mango curry.
96 N.Pleasant St., Amherst
(413) 253-9988, www.amherstpho.com
For fans of Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines, Chef Vincent Tran’s extensive menu of Vietnamese delights will be a rich and wonderful discovery. The Pho is so yummy, it hardly seems to matter that it’s so good for you, and the Vietnamese subs (Bahn Mi) make a great meal to stay or go. Specialties such as Chicken Gra Paw and Vietnam Pad Thai show Tran’s playful side.