Dining around the world (without leaving Amherst)

By Tommy Verdone

Hannah Cohen/Collegian File Photo

You don’t have to search very hard in Amherst for quality dining. You also don’t have to travel very far for a wide spectrum of global flavors. Amherst is host to countless restaurants representing all different sorts of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. From Vietnamese to Mexican, from African to Cajun, finding well-prepared dishes with a vast diversity of origins should prove an easy task in this small town bustling with culinary activity. Below are some notable examples of the authentically international and tasty foods that can be explored in the local sphere.

La Veracruzana

La Veracruzana has become something of a local burrito legend in the Pioneer Valley. The restaurant has two locations – one on 63 South Pleasant Street in Amherst on the same block as the Bank of America on the corner of Amity Street and one on 31 Main Street in Northampton. With a relatively small dining location in Amherst, La Veracruzana’s menu, however, is anything but tiny. It boasts a variety of different Mexicans foods, like enchiladas, tacos, tamales, burritos and more, many of which are stuffed with the customer’s choice of meats and fat free beans. For just $5 you can get a delicious, loaded burrito stuffed with refried beans, rice, lettuce and cheese, and for an additional charge you can add potatoes on top.

Baku’s African Restaurant

Located not too far from campus, Baku’s African Restaurant sits at 197 North Pleasant Street. One of the less common ethnic dishes to find in the Pioneer Valley, Baku’s fills a niche that locals may have a tough time finding elsewhere. At reasonable prices, Baku’s unique menu items, like Nigerian soup, several rice dishes and African stews and delicious plantains, are certain to satisfy..

Chez Albert

Also located on North Pleasant Street, this French restaurant offers a classic romantic atmosphere at a bit of a higher cost than some of the aforementioned eateries. Dinner entrees are in the $20 margin and consist of French variations of beer short ribs, prepared pork cutlets, salmon, chicken breast with creamed spinach and much more. On the lunch menu, where most choices are priced in the $10 range, you can get similar spins on the dinner menu items, as well as some affordable French salads. As Chez Albert says on its website, they are “Good. Simple. Food. Voila.”

Moti

Located at 25 North Pleasant Street, Moti offers Persian Mediterranean cuisine unlike any other in the area. With the exception of a few extravagant dinner platters like the “chicken and beef (Chicken Soltani),” or “steak and beef kabob (Soltani),” most of the entrees can be purchased for around or just over $10. Moti offers inexpensive Persian kabob wraps for beef or chicken lovers, and smaller items, like hummus or falafel wraps, are very affordable. The restaurant’s signature foods include its hummus and shawarma, as well as its specially prepared rice with fava beans and dill polo.

Panda East

Yet another restaurant located on North Pleasant Street, (which has proven to be the Amherst dining circuit) is the Chinese and Japanese dining hybrid Panda East. Located at 103 North Pleasant Street, Panda East has a menu bursting at the seams with special meal combos  complete with soup selections and a choice of white or brown rice. At Panda East, there is a staggering variety of sushi orders, udon noodles and moo shu. More often than most like to admit, college students voraciously order this tasty Asian cuisine food. They often don’t feel too badly eating salty favorites, because the price and location are right at Panda East. For the community and the restaurant, a symbiotic relationship exists that can’t be counted against with calories.

Pasta e Basta

Pasta e Basta is a great choice for an Italian dinner. While slightly more expensive than some of the other restaurants mentioned, its entrees, which range in the $10 to $15 range, are still relatively affordable considering fancy Italian dinner standards. Located on 26 Main Street, this dine-in or to-go restaurant has a traditional Italian aura about it. The aroma of fresh baked bread and its oil and garlic dipping sauce strengthens the idea that the restaurant’s aesthetic designs are traditional and in line with that of a classic Italian restaurant. Plus, the eatery has everything Italian for food choices, with a menu stacked with pizza, salads, soups, subs and a lengthy list of homemade sauces and tasty toppings for various types of pasta dishes that are custom made to order.

Amherst dining allows the casual diner to experience flavors from around the world without having to leave the area.

Thomas Verdone can be reached at [email protected]