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The Student Prince (Springfield, MA)

A recent trip down for the weekend to New York City had us driving again through Western Massachusetts, stopping off for dinner in Springfield. Western MA has quite a few pockets of different immigrant heritage cuisines, including Italian, Polish, and German. Indeed, there’s one German place that’s been on my radar for a long time, and that’s The Student Prince, which has been serving up German and German-American food in Springfield for over 80 years. Our trip through at dinner time was a perfect excuse to finally stop in and check them out.

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Travel Guide Review: Only in Boston

From time to time, I do review travel guides, and as you can read from my review of Only in Edinburg, I’ve become quite a fan of the Only In Guides by Duncan J. D. Smith, primarily since he isn’t trying to provide a general purpose travel guide geared to the basics of how to use the bus, where to stay, and which museums to visit, but instead focuses on the unique and hidden attractions of a city. This makes it a particularly good travel guide if you find yourself visiting a city that you already know well (for example, I got his London guide after a solid decade of touring about London myself, and still found a lot of good recommendations). So, with that in mind, I was pleased that Duncan recently published a new guide, Only in Boston. Yes, I bought a travel guide for a city that only 2.5 hours away and that I’ve visited probably a hundred times.

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The Copperline (Chicopee, MA)

You know, I’ve found Western Massachusetts really has a lot to offer, especially on the food and drink scene. The “Pioneer Valley” between roughly Greenfield on the North and Springfield in the south is a wonderful combination of small college towns, rural villages, and post-industrial mills towns (much like my own Upper Valley of VT/NH). Amongst these towns, a plethora of small breweries, bars, restaurants, and food provisioners have popped up, and there are even a few nice ethnic regions like Chicopee (Polish) and Springfield (German). So I always love heading down there. So, when a recent event had us heading down to Chicopee, it was also a chance to explore more of the town. Sure, being a weekend day, several of my Chicopee favorites like Millie’s Pierogi (handmade pierogi sold out of a building behind a car dealer) and Chicopee Provisions (horseradish kielbasa) were closed, but being around at breakfast time gave me a good chance to check out a place that’s been on my hit list a while: The Copperline.

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Smithsonian Chowder House (Northampton, MA)

We all have them, those little hole-in-the-wall places that we’ve driven or walked by a million times thinking, “I should go in there,” but for some reason we never get around to it? I’ve discovered several great places that way (and a few marginal ones as well, to be honest), but one of our more frequent day trip destinations in Northampton, MA. It’s a nice little college town, with a yarn shop that Carol likes (Webs), a great tea shop, and a lot of little restaurants. Almost every time we go there, we end up parking in the municipal lot next to the bus station, and every time that means we walk by the small and simply decorated Smithsonian Chowder House. There’s also a location in Hatfield that we’ve driven by a few times, but we’re never seeming to do it at lunch time. But a recent trip down to Chicopee (to the most unusual Hu Ke Lau that’s still doing Polynesian dinner shows, and worthy of it’s own review at some point) ended up with us being in Northampton right around lunch, and we finally go to duck in.

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Saffron Indian Grill (Tewksbury, MA)

After a fairly pleasant recent trip to Boston, we decided to take some back roads to get over to Route 3 to go home through Nashua, and decided it would be a good opportunity to stop for lunch, taking us right down Main Street in Tewksbury, MA. This isn’t completely terra incognita for me (you can read my review of the rather nice Vic’s Waffle House from a previous trip through), but I’m not all that familiar with the area, and mostly found myself staring at typical “North of Boston” fare: a lot of chain restaurants with the occasional roast beef or seafood place. But not far down the road from Vic’s we saw a promising place: Saffron Indian Grill.

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Snappy Kitchen (Somerville, MA)

Of all the food trends that have caught on in the last few years, one of the ones I’ve rather enjoyed is the marked increase in Japanese-style Ramen joints, serving up rich bowls of broth with noodles, meats, and various other toppings (note that good Ramen is every bit as much about the broth as the noodles). Indeed, between Porter Square in Cambridge (home of Hokkaido and Yume Wo Katare, both of which sport excellent ramen and long lines) and Davis Square in Somerville, there are a good half dozen ramen shops that cater to slight variations on the Ramen theme. But since our visit was primarily focused on Davis Square (heading to an excellent mixology class at the nearby Boston Shaker) we decided that this would be a great time to check out Snappy Ramen, one of the newer Ramen shops.

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Nancy’s Airfield Cafe (Stow, MA)

One of the more unusual recurring destinations I have with my day job is National Technical Systems (NTS) in Boxborough, MA. It’s an engineering service place that does all sorts of engineering testing: shaker tables (exactly that: they shake something really hard to see if it breaks), temperature testing, etc. But the Boxborough area is surprisingly rural for being relatively close to Boston, and basically I can count the number of places to eat during the relatively short lunch break on one hand (and that’s including the Massachusetts-mandatory mini-Dunkin Donuts at the gas station). But during a recent visit, an equipment change gave me and my coworker Eric a larger-than-expected lunch window, so I was finally able to drive just a bit further for lunch and check out a quirky nearby place: Nancy’s Airfield Cafe.

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The Brass Buckle (Greenfield, MA)

Like always, a trip down to the NYC area almost always involves a pit-stop in either southern VT or western MA for breakfast. Luckily, both Brattleboro, VT and Greenfield, MA have quite a good selection of places. In Greenfield, one places has been calling our attention for a while; The Brass Buckle. Located on Main Street just west of the main corner of downtown (Rte 10 and Main), the place itself is quite simple: it’s a quiet little breakfast coffee shop. But since it consistently gets good online reviews, and often has a line out the door when we come by, on this visit, we got there early enough to avoid a rush (and being a weekday, avoiding the weekend crowd).

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The Hungry Ghost Bread Company (Northampton, MA)

We actually rather enjoy going to Northampton, MA. Located in the west of Massachusetts in the Pioneer Valley, it’s a rather pleasant college town, with a really nice rail trail (the primary reason for our visit), several nice art galleries, a nice downtown, and even an outpost of Dobra Tea. But after a day of biking around, we were looking for a nice, substantial dinner, and that’s when we found Hungry Ghost.

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The Owl Diner (Lowell, MA)

A recent work trip down to Billerica, MA left me passing through Lowell around breakfast time, and a quick trip through the Lowell area quickly led me to The Owl Diner. I’ll fully admit to having a weakness for classic Worcester Diners, and the relatively busy parking lot showed that the Owl was definitely popular with the locals. So I decided it was indeed time for breakfast, and headed inside.

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