Route 7 Grill
Lester Blumenthal claims to have lost all his marbles when he decided to make a go of the restaurant business. But anyone who succumbs to Bessie the fiberglass cow’s beckoning glance and follows the arrows to the Route 7 Grill will see that Lester has not lost anything but instead has found a way to make a restaurant into a celebration of a region, a landscape, and a community.
This welcoming roadhouse on a stretch of Housatonic floodplain, just north of the Sheffield-Great Barrington line, has had only one goal since it opened in 2005: to serve great, simple, honest American food that comes as directly as possible from local farmers. Before anyone had even coined the term “farm-to-table,” Lester was phoning farmers in the area and asking them what was ready, what was ripe, and how much he could buy. At first some farmers were surprised and hesitant, but now, Lester says, “It’s really great—eight years in—having those relationships and working with those people and knowing their strengths.” And now, he adds, “There’s a lot more cohesiveness in this idea of a Berkshire food culture and a greater awareness of what our land brings us and what fun things we can cook up with it.”
The restaurant is about friendships, not ideology, and even though that attitude might come from Lester’s personality, he is quick to give credit to the larger community. He points out that within the restaurant industry in the Berkshires, “there’s a lot of working together, a lot of community around that, and generosity.” “For example, I reached out to Brian Alberg from the Red Lion Inn and said I needed some help in the kitchen, and he said ‘I don’t have anyone, but I’ll come down whenever you want.’ That’s huge!”
Lester sees BerkShares as an opportunity to enhance this community cohesion across sectors of the economy. Not only is it a source of pride for him to use our community’s cash, but he also finds it “a sort of Old World way to make contact with people.” He even says that when farmers take BerkShares, he ends up buying more from them because “it gives us the opportunity to have a whole paragraph of interaction,” instead of rushing through a delivery. And with BerkShares, the farmer will get paid on the spot.
The Route 7 Grill is fired up for summer with a music series featuring local musicians every Friday night of the summer, starting at 5:00. Lester is especially excited about his new chef, Christophe Jalbert, who has rethought the menu since his arrival a month ago. The menu at Route 7 always changed with the seasons, but now it changes every day. Lester explains the thinking this way: “Let’s not have this big menu with everything on it. Let’s just have what’s totally fresh and just came out of the smoker or came in today. Let’s cook that today, sell it all, and cook something else tomorrow.’”
But old fans must not despair—the Route 7 Burger is still there! So make a date and meet some friends at the bar. And don’t forget your BerkShares!
Route 7 Grill
999 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA