Golden Eagle Restaurant serves dinner with a view
CLARKSBURG — Located in the middle of a hairpin turn, the Golden Eagle Restaurant wouldn't be difficult to find by vehicular accident. After all, visibility of oncoming traffic and margins for error are both minimal while making the nearly 180-degree maneuver along the Mohawk Trail.
Yet, collisions and busted bumpers aren't what's driving people to the restaurant lately, according to owner John and Lori Morris. It's tourism.
"I think with Mass MoCA and even the Clark [Art Institute] expanding, business — tourism — has exploded around here, and we can tell," John Morris said while taking a break from the kitchen on a recent Monday night. "The visitors from MoCA? They all wear their name tags."
To be clear, the restaurant was a draw even before those museums' renovations. While viewing other cars attempting the Hairpin Turn is one problem for drivers, stunning views of Mount Greylock and surrounding hills pulling at their peripheral vision are another. As a result, the Golden Eagle has long been a place for locals and passersby to let their eyes indulge — as well as their stomachs. But the recent increase in visitors to the region — in addition to arts-goers, Lori Morris also cited the influx of adventurous tourists zip lining and white-water rafting in Charlemont — has now provided a steady stream of customers from May until Labor Day, according to the couple.
The restaurant's current dinner menu is diverse, offering a lengthy list of appetizers, meats, seafood, pasta, and vegan and vegetarian options, and its lunch menu provides plenty of affordable options, too. The Golden Eagle's most popular dinner item is the black diamond sirloin, which runs $22.95 before tax. The steak has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 1982.
"A couple of times, we thought we could take it off over the years," John Morris said. Customers protested, though, so it stayed. He said it's the red wine-and-herbs marinade that people savor.
"Tender," Lori Morris added.
From this reporter's perspective, the establishment's signature item merits its billing. A bonus is that the steak is served sizzling, perhaps the loudest noise you'll hear in the outdoors seating besides the screech of cars navigating the hairpin.
Just as tourists have boosted summer business, locals keep the restaurant running during the winter, albeit on a reduced schedule; on Nov. 1, the restaurant stops serving lunch and only has dinner hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April. The restaurant used to be closed during the colder months, but locals were vocal in their disapproval.
"We have very loyal local clientele," John Morris said.
Now, they pack the restaurant's downstairs lounge, a more casual pub setting.
"In the wintertime, it's like, everyone knows each other," Morris said.
The owners, who have been married since 1985, appreciate the those quieter months. They need to rest before summer, when the frequent visits of locals and tourists alike keep their establishment open every day.
As for the mountain views, however, John Morris believes the best season is about to be upon us.
"Come in the fall," he said. "You can't beat it."
Did you know ...
As you pull into the parking lot of the Golden Eagle restaurant, note how the building nestles into a niche carved into the cliffs behind it. The building, originally a gift shop owned by Donald and Lewis Canedy, formerly sat on the tip of the U-turn. In the fall of 1958, within a span of 10 weeks, two runaway tractor-trailers missed the turn and crashed through the gift shop. The Canedys rebuilt and had a recess carved into the cliff, and the building has been safe since.
— Margaret Button
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