Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

NoHo know how: Great eats and tasty treats

Spoleto (Courtesy

On a whirlwind tour of downtown Northampton eateries, there are five places right on Main Street that simply can’t be missed: Local Burger, Amanouz Café, Spoleto, Fitzwilly’s and Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. Each offers a unique flavor that can’t be found anywhere else. This week the Daily Collegian got a chance to sample these fine places to chow down. In a college town, it’s essential to know where the best places are to take a date out, grab a bite or maybe just hang out and relax. The best may not necessarily be in Amherst  but you can fine haute-cuisine a hop skip and a jump away over the Calvin Coolidge Bridge. Here’s a rundown of five NoHo flavors worth trying out.

Best Burger: Local Burger

Finding a place that will cook a legit rare burger is about as hard as finding a blue diamond in a coal mine – it doesn’t happen often at all, but it does happen. Local Burger is that blue diamond. They’re not afraid to serve their hand-pressed flame-grilled burgers rare (or well-done) to their customers. Additionally, they serve local meat from a family farm in Easthampton on their menu. Couple this with hand cut fries, fresh and crisp veggies on the patties, and maybe a side of their famous fried pickle slices, and that’s a winning formula for the best burger joint in NoHo. The environment is easygoing, relaxed and comfortable. Best of all, it’s BYOB and open until 3 a.m. on Fridays.

 Best Lunch Spot: Amanouz Café 

Amanouz is another laid back eatery that’s affordable and delicious. It offers outdoor dining which creates a perfect Northampton experience, especially in spring and summer. Nothing on the menu, including their dinner specials, is over $10. Their spinach and feta pie on the appetizer menu is crazy good. Fresh spinach and feta cheese baked in flaky phyllo dough only runs $3.25 and will have patrons coming back for more. Their stuffed grape leaves known as Dolma are some of the best one can find in the valley. Moreover, Amanouz Café is the perfect place to grab lunch. Enjoy a cup of their soup du jour and a sandwich at a table on the outdoor patio without breaking the bank. Their shawarma is chock full of marinated lamb and beef slices, broiled tomatoes, parsley, onions and lettuce with tahini sauce in a baguette or pita. Nothing says springtime in NoHo better than a cup of split pea soup and shawarma on a Saturday afternoon at Amanouz.

Best Date Spot: Spoleto

Spoleto is one of the more upscale eateries of NoHo which takes both reservations and walk-ins. Almost everything on the menu is top-notch, and the food quality is excellent. The atmosphere is perfect to bring a significant other out for a night on the town. They offer a $20 nightly special that includes any appetizer, entrée and dessert. Spoleto’s specialty is Italian food, and their pasta dishes are to die for. Most of the time they offer a stuffed artichoke dinner special that can’t be passed up. Top off dinner with one of their famous margaritas that runs around 8 bucks and includes fresh squeezed lime juice and top-shelf tequila. Spoleto is a fantastic place to take a date out.

Best Pub Food: Fitzwilly’s

Fitzwilly’s is a great place to grab a drink and some classic American pub food. Their fare includes burgers, sliders, chicken sandwiches or burritos and fajitas. Sandwiches are served with choice of French fries, cole slaw or potato salad and the price range is around 7-8 bucks. Their “South of the Border” selection includes tacos, enchiladas or burritos, and the blackened chicken burrito is a must try. Ask for the chipotle Tabasco, which compliments the meal perfectly. Fitzwilly’s wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential Irish pub dish, shepherd’s pie. Seasoned ground beef with mashed potatoes and corn is a comfort food that leaves feelings of well-being upon consumption. Other pub favorites include spinach and artichoke dip, nachos, beer can chicken, jambalaya or meat loaf. After dinner, the Toasted Owl is right next door if the mood strikes for a cold glass of beer. Fitzwilly’s is great for American pub food and hard to miss. Look for the huge sign on the right after going under the bridge to enter NoHo.

 Best Candy Shop: Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium

Last on the list of the Main Street Tour of NoHo is Ben and Bill’s. This place serves hand-made, hand-dipped bon bons. Whether it’s truffles, chocolate covered cherries, gummy bears, sour patch kids or anything the sweet tooth can crave, Ben and Bill’s has it all. They serve a wide variety of delicious, premium ice creams as well. It’s near-impossible to walk in for a cone and walk out without a bag of candy. The intoxicating smell of melted chocolate will make patrons feel like Augustus Gloop before he fell into the chocolate river at Willy Wonka’s factory. Their fudge is fantastic as well.

For a winning combination, take a date to Amanouz for lunch or Spoleto for dinner, then hit Ben and Bill’s for dessert. After that kind of wining and dining, she’ll pretty much have to say yes . . . to another date!

Brendan Murphy can be reached at [email protected].

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