GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Bell & Anchor isn't an easy place to find, but don't let that dissuade you. The 2-month-old restaurant and bar is located right on Route 7, set back along the west side of the road between the Post Office and Eagle Shoe & Boot Co.
Armed with this information, I still overlooked it on two passes.
The sole hints, I found, were a simple signpost staked in the lawn and muted tones illuminating the windows of what looked to be a family home full of Thanksgiving visitors.
While approaching the entrance, I still had doubts I was about to blunder into someone's living room. They were quelled only by the unmistakable silhouette of a waiter with tray in hand gliding past a row of candles.
Once inside, my eyes adjusted to reveal an unexpected scene that was, in its own way, as inviting as if it had indeed been a family's living room.
I sat atop a bar stool, a central vantage point, and made friends with the spirited young waiters who swung by for laughs during lulls.
The bartender, a personable man named Peter, who enjoys discussing craft beer and proudly extolled the B&A's quality, mixed specialty cocktails and chatted with me about the menu. It changes daily, informed by area farms' freshest offerings. A note at the bottom states, "We buy whole animals locally through out friends at the Meat Market."
Peter reaffirmed that the meat was choice and trustworthy, emboldening me to order steak tartare for the first time. I very much enjoyed the finely minced beef flavored with shallots, cornichons, and capers, topped with a raw quail's egg. Its texture was exactly what I'd hope for.
I also tried grilled Napa cabbage, which was the warmer, greasier, and heartier of the two dishes. I savored both, and the two small plates felt like a full meal.
Appetizers are priced between $8 and $14, and an interesting entrée list ranges from $14 to $34.
While nursing a pint of Thuderbolt IPA, brewed in Pittsfield by Wandering Star Brewing Company, the character and nuance of this establishment came into focus.
Attractive Deco lamps, not much brighter than laptop screens, hung from the ceiling while votive candles glimmered from each tabletop below.
An open wood stove radiated heat throughout as it smoldered and blushed, a subtle, but vital centerpiece.
Those with impaired vision may find this hushed lighting to be an obstacle, but it was adequate for smooth navigation.
The overall atmosphere was made both intimate and convivial by the darkened swaths between seating areas and individual tables. The guests all seemed to be enjoying their company.
Between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., when only the bar is open, I'm told that these tables fill with a cheery, gregarious crowd. Sunday nights often feature live folk music.
It was nearing 9 p.m. and the front door continued to swing open with new faces and the squeak of old hinges.
The cast was unpredictable. A polished husband and wife were followed by five or six bearded young men in flannel shirts and slender pants.
Next came two thirtysomething buddies fresh from the cinema and in a playful mood, and then an already-laughing family of grandparents with late-teens dressed as if plucked from a Lower East Side art opening.
The most obvious factor uniting these cliques was gratitude toward the Bell & Anchor's staff.
Many of them bid kind farewells before stepping out into the chilly evening.
B&A is open for lunch on Monday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunlight surely reveals a different aesthetic, but the nighttime scene is fun, relaxed, and novel enough to earn a glance, even if through a pair of glasses, darkly.
If you go:
Bell & Anchor, 178 Main St. Great Barrington, 01230. (413) 528-5050. www.facebook.com/BellAndchorgb/inf
Style: Candlelit farm-to-table restaurant and bar with a fresh menu daily.
Dress: The atmosphere suits woodsy and sleek styles equally well.
Food: Diverse dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.
Entertainment: Live folk music on some Sunday evenings.
Our rating: 1 mug, Run away; 2 mugs, Yawn; 3 mugs, Cheers; 4 mugs,
"I'll be back"; 5 mugs, "Round's on me!"
Your rating: You can rate Bell & Anchor at www.berkshireeagle.com/The413.
-- Andrew Flint