Earlier this year, our readers voted for, among other things, their favorite places to eat as part of our annual Best of the Valley Readers’ Poll. Throughout the year, we will feature a number of the top vote-getters in a range of food-related categories. We begin with some of the most popular categories, including the Best Restaurant and the Best New Restaurant.
Blue Heron Restaurant & Catering
112 N. Main St., Sunderland
(413) 665-2102, blueherondining.com
This Valley favorite opened in Montague in 1997 and moved to Sunderland in 2004, maintaining its status at the top of the list of great Valley restaurants with elegance and great food. “The Blue Heron is an intimate, relaxed upscale restaurant featuring globally inspired cuisine sourced ethically from our Valley and beyond,” says catering manager Kendra Nielsen, who attributes the Blue Heron’s success to the “integrity of our ingredients and the quality and professionalism of our staff.”
325 Russell St. (Rte. 9), Hadley
(413) 584-4227, http://www.wildwoodque.com
Opened in July of 2013, Wildwood has a clear mission, says owner Glenn Brunetti: “We’re known for great smoked meats (ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken), solidly good side dishes, creative, eclectic specials, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu items, a strong rotating selection of regional craft beers, and outrageous house-baked desserts.” What’s new? “On the culinary front, we’re smoking new things all the time, including pastrami, bacon, smoked wings, sausage and salmon. On the events front, we’re hosting craft beer tap takeovers showcasing a different local brewery on the first Wednesday of each month. On the building front, we’re adding a front deck this spring that will increase outdoor seating and give customers an additional option to our lovely picnic area.”
111 Pleasant St., Northampton
People love breakfast, point out owners Peter St. Martin and Mo McGuinness. They also love Sylvester’s, which once again finds itself in the Best Of winner’s circle. Thankfully, not much has changed at Sylvester’s, but devoted patrons will notice a new offering of chocolate-covered Graham (cracker) bites, highlighting the restaurant’s connection to the historical figure for whom they are named.
99 Russell St. (Rte. 9), Hadley
(413) 585-1515, http://www.esselon.com
Since it opened eight years ago, Esselon has been a steady habit for Valley residents looking for a real café fix, offering house-roasted coffee, an extensive tea menu and wide-ranging menus with breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner fare. Right now, Esselon is working on a brand new catering menu that will debut this spring—a time of year when the café opens its outdoor garden dining area. The best part of doing business, say the folks at Esselon, is having “access to amazing local farms.”
16 Main St., Northampton
Local was an instant hit when it opened five years ago, and time tells us it was no flash in the pan. The key to success, says owner Jeff Igneri, is being “passionate about what we do. We make sure only the finest, freshest ingredients are used.” With that bedrock principle as a foundation, Local lets it rip on the creative side: “Every week we have a new special burger, from peanut butter, jelly and sriracha burger to mac and cheese bun burger to Ramen noodle burger.”•