LENOX -- Mazcots Sports Bar and Grill opened about two weeks ago in the renovated interior of the building that until recently housed Halpin's Grub ‘n Grog. Before that it was the beloved Sophia's Restaurant & Pizza.
You can't see the inside of Mazcots from the road. This is an important fact because the front door faces the floodlit, fume-filled, beeping and screeching intersection where Rt. 7 separates Burger King and now Mazcots from the galactic parking lot surrounded by Lenox's largest shape-shifting buildings; Price Chopper, CVS and the Marshall's/Radio Shack complex.
My friend Ralph and I drove into the restaurant's sizeable, yet crowded, parking lot at 9 p.m. Monday not knowing what sort of atmosphere or crowd to expect.
Only after Ralph and I stepped through the front door did Mazcots reveal itself to contain a thriving social scene in an environment visually and aurally secluded from the fray of Route 7's turning lanes just paces away. A waiter greeted us promptly and offered stools at the gorgeous stone-topped bar, various tall tables in the center of the main room (there's a second, smaller dining room with several pool tables to the left of the bar), and booth seating that hugs one wall with what looked like very comfortable leather upholstery.
In the moment before we gave an answer some unexpected turn of events must have unfolded in the baseball game playing on the bar's many TVs, jolting the room with a clamor of synchronized vocalizations that resonated quite potently in the mostly windowless chamber.
The room's vocal surges of athletic enthusiasm caught me off guard again and again because there was no mass of chattering people, no mobbed bar, no clusters of fans. The place looked and felt like a family restaurant; people dined at tables of four, couples abounded, a few larger groups occupied lengths of the booth seating and some solo fliers bent the bartender's ear.
Baseline conversational volume was higher here than most TV-less restaurants, but came across as jovial and wasn't a bother. And the crowd skewed significantly more toward 50 than 20. Yet every few minutes, timed to trigger just after I'd forgotten I was in a shout-friendly zone, the smack of all those grown voices barking together in that confined space proved too jarring for my temperament.
This isn't to knock the establishment of a vocal rapport with one's television, public or private. Not at all.
Mazcots seems tailor-made for this sort of participatory relationship with televised entertainment; I'm guessing their target customer is a sports fan who wants to enjoy the game in an social setting with relatively lax social restrictions (though not so lax that it becomes more bar than grill) while sitting at a comfortable private table where tasty food is served quickly and generously.
The menu is broken into five sections -- appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, salads -- that contain six to 12 options each, and a list of sides. Nothing is more than $10, and I have a hunch that those dollars can buy an eclectic selection of satisfying meals large and small. They're open seven days a week and serve food from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with the bar staying open a bit later.
My Mazcots Tacos with "fried fish, sliced tenderloin or pulled pork with cabbage slaw, pico de gallo & crema" overflowed with just the right ingredients, especially the tart and tender pork. The chef must have given thought to the texture of this dish and to that of the Wally Burger, Ralph's choice, "topped with Vermont Cheddar, fried onion rings & house BBQ." We agreed the burger was the better of the two, juicy beef cooked and spiced well enough to warrant a return visit, topped with the amount of bacon you'd use if you made the burger yourself.
Regardless of your relationship to sports and television, it's worth peeking into Mazcots to see the latest incarnation of this storied location. It has a vintage ambiance and large menu that begs to be sampled. And if they ever start showing "Breaking Bad" reruns you'll find me perched at the bar starting at 11 a.m.