If you've already discovered the newest addition to Great Barrington's abundance of restaurants, Gypsy Joynt, hiding behind Cafe Adam on the Stockbridge Road, you will know what I mean when I quote my dining partner: "I feel like I've entered a time zone and am in a place I've never ever been to before."
You will not find two matching chairs, nor a plain white table cloth, nor a bare spot on the wall. Vinyl covers a unique tie- dye designed table cloth reminiscent of the the wardrobe of Janis Joplin. Plastic salt and pepper shakers and a roll of paper towels are the decorations 'du jour.' A bathtub lined with tapestry provides a comfortable bed if one of the grandkids needs a nap.
There is no doubt that this is a family-run business, from chef to wait staff to host to entertainment. Lori and Keith Weller moved their family to the Berkshires after closing a successful restaurant, Ya'lls Joynt, in Goldsboro, N. C., in October of last year.
In a way, we can thank Arlo Guthrie for luring this family of seven north. Jordan Weller, now 20 years old, was 16 when he started to listen to popular music that didn't please his mother. A local bulletin board poster in Goldsboro told her about an Arlo Guthrie Legacy Tour concert that was coming to Boone, a small town about three hours away. Lori and Jordan drove to Boone and that, as they say, was the beginning of the next phase of their life, although they didn't know it at the time.
Jordan was 'smitten' and not only became a Guthrie fan but started learning guitar and writing his own music. Today he has grown into a talented song- writer and performer who can sometimes be persuaded to play at the restaurant.
For three years, like rock-star groupies, the Wellers followed Guthrie around North Carolina and then to the Berkshires. Each time they traveled north, they came with different members of their family, and quietly they all fell in love with the Berkshires.
Starting a new life wasn't easy, they said. With little money they renovated the old Bike & Board bicycle shop. In a surprisingly short time, eight months, they were able to open. They moved their old restaurant, lock, stock and vinyl covered tables, from "Ya'lls" to their new home, Gypsy Joynt, now open six days a week.
The double- sided 14x17 inch menu slows you down. Many choices, many styles and small sized fonts, lots of decorations makes quick choices impossible. One of the Wellers, at the counter where you first place your order, will explain it.
Oven- baked Manzo focaccia sandwiches are really hamburgers, chicken or veggie patties. There are about 12 different choices. One, the 'Andre's Ruephy,' offers corned beef, pastrami, kraut, swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing, mixed greens, tomato and lettuce - over a hamburger! I can't imagine what that would taste like, but I'm told that it's delicious and quite popular.
Oven-baked focaccia sandwiches on homemade bread, wedgies, cold wraps, Gypsy sandwiches, pizza's (dozens of choices), nibbles and snacks and pasta dishes are all available, not to mention the special of the day. Everything is homemade and baked on the premises, including a fantastic assortment of pastries and desserts.
"Almost all our food is created from fresh organic or natural vegetables, chicken, beef and sausages," their menu boasts.
Right now, they buy from Guido's, Equinox farms, the Berkshire Coop and other local places. When more familiar with the community, they said, they will buy wholly locally.
Baked tilapia was the special a few friday night's ago. It is moist, flavorful and served with a delicious, slightly burned (the way I like it) baked sweet potato. A side of broccoli rabe was expectantly sharp but perfectly prepared, and the meal included a very tasty . The accompanying roll was my only complaint - it was neither crusty nor soft nor very interesting.
Pizza is a popular choice. Mozzarella, artichoke hearts, spinach, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic and feta blanketed the Mediterranean Pizza; the crust was well-baked and the toppings, all fresh. Staying with the Mediterranean theme, we ordered a Michelangelo Wedgie (ham, salami, pepperoni, onions, provolone, tomato, pesto, greens, cukes and of course, Italian dressing.) Portions are generous, prices are reasonable, and whatever you order is flavorful and well-prepared.
Saturday night is Open Mike and that's always fun. If Jordan is there, ask him to play. Bring the family.
"We love food, we're family and we want to be part of the community," said co-owner Lori Weller.
Hopefully, Arlo won't go anywhere and neither will the Wellers.
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