PITTSFIELD -- Happy it-officially-feels-like-Spring, dear readers!
‘Tis the season when we now all feel a little more inclined to shed our winter coats and sweatpants and actually venture out to be, like, ya' know, social.
But before I tell you about where I went, a little bit of housekeeping.
In my last dispatch for Berkshires After Dark (http://bit.ly/1lK2nRO), I wrote about places you can go dancing here in the county. Since I am merely human, I missed a few spots.
DJ Galen Wade reminded me that he now mixes music Friday nights, beginning at 9:30 at Fiesta Bar and Grill in Great Barrington. There's a $5 cover for this age 21 and up event. Wade also told me that a "Latin Night" takes place there most Saturdays with DJ Albaro.
Friends Grille in Pittsfield always knows how to get down, and typically has a deejay on Fridays and Saturdays.
Also Mike Pezzo reminded me that I totally left out the hilltowns. He wrote that Milltown Tavern in Dalton "has bands and musicians every weekend and rarely a cover" and that "Wahconah Country Club, the American Legion and the V.F.W. all host bands and benefits on a regular basis," and "of course there's the Hinsdale Performing Arts Center (aka Home Club)."
If I've missed others, keep letting me know, and I'll add them to my list to keep track of. Now, onward.
On Friday, I visited a couple of favorites, The Olde Forge in Lanesborough and Thistle & Mirth in Pittsfield, to catch up with friends I haven't seen in a while, which has been my goal lately. Between winter and work, I haven't been much for going out, with the exception of having to work on this column.
I wanted to catch up with my friends Amanda and Ivan in a low-key, casual setting Sunday night, but the first place we went to check out was closed. So what else was open after 8 p.m. on a Sunday night near Pittsfield?
"How about O'Laughlin's?" I suggested.
"Yeah, they're usually open," Ivan said.
So that's where we went.
It was pretty much dead when we got there, with only one guy sitting at the bar. But the bartender was prompt and welcoming and ready to serve. (In the time it took me to stop at the ATM, my friends had already each gotten a beer.)
We moved over from the bar to a high-top table so we could actually face one another.
I joined Ivan in ordering a 22-ounce Rebel IPA, a newer brew to the Samuel Adams repertoire, which is less-so rebellious but unexpectedly pleasant from a brewery that tends to go a more traditional brewing route. Amanda enjoyed a pint of Yuengling, a popular label which had been missing from Massachusetts tap rotations since 1993, but has been celebrating a proud and strong return.
My friends had already eaten, but I was famished, so I practically jumped across the table when the bartender brought over a menu. Having missed eating one over St. Patrick's Day weekend, I ordered a corned beef Reuben, and instead of chips, upgraded to a side of sweet potato fries.
While we were hanging out and chatting and sipping, I noticed that the pub has spruced up a bit, since I've last been in. There are two things made apparent from the moment you walk in: O'Laughlin's loves anything Irish, and anything ice hockey, which is super A-OK in my book.
The awnings facing Merrill Road and on another side of the pub boast the colors of Ireland's flag. Inside, there's Boston Bruins memorabilia and, as I remembered, a New England sports match always on the televisions located around the restaurant and at the bar.
One thing that's missing is my friend Nikki who used to work behind the bar and was a sheer joy to be served by. Last I heard, she's gone on to The Shamrock in Dalton, so I'll be visiting there soon.
Midway through dinner (it was nice and hot and tasty), we noticed a group of men entering the bar. One of the other servers had put out some sandwich wraps and chips for them. Not sure who they were or where they came from, but at the bartender's cue, they would start singing "For he's a jolly good fellow." Must've been a team, or club or something. They were amusing. Also amusing was a sign on the bar posting a three-shot limit, which means, in my head, there was a night or two when someone must've gotten a little out of control.
Sometime after 9 p.m., a few younger people came in to hang out at the bar. Suddenly the pub went from feeling like a slow Sunday night to a Friday night happy hour.
But it was warm, and well lit and amicable, which we all appreciated. We left around 11 p.m., happy and satiated.
Like some of the other places I visited this weekend, O'Laughlin's remains a small, but solid mainstay for an easy-going place to meet, eat and relax.