PITTSFIELD -- Over the past two and a half weeks, I've been hosting a couple of journalists visiting from Pakistan so they can experience not only the newsroom and work of local reporters, but also get a feel for the Berkshire community itself.
We've been to a lot of mainstay cultural attractions, like the Norman Rockwell Museum, Jacob's Pillow and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, but I also wanted them to see a more typical gathering place where people simply go to eat, drink and relax.
So Tuesday night, I brought Samina and Jahanzaib to PortSmitt's Lakeway Restaurant on Pecks Road. I also invited my friends Amanda and Ivan, who live nearby but had never been to the place before, to join us.
I've been to PortSmitt's about a half-dozen times or so, and, in addition to being centrally located, I find it to be a spacious, laid-back, friendly place where the service is good and so is the food.
There were about a dozen or so people there when we walked in around 7:30. One of the two waitresses I saw working was in the middle of serving food but was quick to acknowledge us and told us she'd be right with us.
When she returned, she had us pick out a table (we sat near the bar), gave us menus and took our drink order while we waited for my friends to arrive.
I explained to the visitors that PortSmitt's is what I'd call a typical American pub or tavern. People here dress casually, in jeans, shorts, T-shirts and the like.
The restaurant has three seating areas: An outdoor patio, a dining room with low tables and a lake mural, and the tavern room with bar and high-top table seating.
The menu offers a nice range of steaks, seafood, chicken, veal, pasta, sandwiches and burgers, some salads, appetizers, drinks and desserts.
The waitress (Michelle, according to my receipt) was super patient and pleasant throughout the night as it took us a few extra minutes to ponder our orders. We also added an extra person to our table when I spotted my colleague Josh walking through the door. And later, we all got separate checks.
We ordered a range of things: Chicken wings with a dry rub Cajun seasoning (hot, crisp and more savory than spicy); a side of fries, a plain Smitty's burger and chips, chicken piccata with mashed potatoes; a pasta primavera loaded with sauteed veggies; a tuna panini with regular fries and the cranberry turkey wrap with sweet potato fries. We also had a variety of drinks: a Bud Light, a Guinness, a Steel Rail Extra Pale Ale, a Sam Adams Summer Ale, a Pepsi and an apple juice.
Very little food was left when it came time to clear our plates. Though I didn't get it this time around, Tina's homemade bread pudding with whiskey sauce is one of the best I've ever had.
The atmosphere, even for a Tuesday night, was relaxed and social. The bartender seemed to take time to chat with everyone. Around 9 p.m., a half-dozen or so patrons came in for drinks.
Music in duos and small groups can often be heard there. In the corner, a couple of Tuesday night regulars, using a guitar and accordion, played a range of tunes, from the Celtic classic "The Black Velvet Band" to songs by The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the like. It was a little loud, but they were super nice guys (whose names I forgot to ask), and seemed to be having a blast.
Before we knew it, it was just past 10 p.m., and we closed the place with the band. All in all, it was a really enjoyable night.
As the Labor Day weekend rolls around, I'd highly recommend PortSmitt's as a good place to kick back and relax with friends and to get your fill at an affordable price.
Wherever you go and whatever you do this holiday, keep safe, have fun and have a great rest of the summer season!