Updated: Mar 7, 2019
When me and Chris first started this blog we always talked about finding these hole-in-the-wall type places. One place that always comes to mind in the Berkshires, we think is the gold standard for hole-in-the-wall restaurants: Brava in Lenox, MA. We first heard about Brava when we were working at a restaurant in Stockbridge MA (just a town over from Lenox). At the end of our day, after working 10+ hours we would always be hungry. Serving food and drinks all day, taking orders, talking to people (sometimes for way too long), running from the dining room to the kitchen and back again—when all of a sudden it's 10 o'clock and you're starving since the last time you ate was around three or four o'clock (in the food service world we generally eat our dinner right before we open). So by the time nine or ten rolls around and the restaurant closes, you're famished. And in the quiet Berkshires, there's no place open late for food...except for one.
Brava is probably one of the smallest restaurants I've ever been to. The first time I went, I couldn't believe a whole restaurant could fit in that space, let alone one with an expansive drink menu like Brava's. Although it may be small, Brava is able to make the space feel very intimate and romantic, without it feeling cramped at all. When you walk in, there are dark furnishings and wood accents everywhere. The ceilings hang low, with exposed wooden beams and warm lights poking through. The L-shaped bar is immediately on the left and seats about twelve; a lot more than you'd think in a restaurant this size. Across from the bar along the wall, there are about nine 2-tops on a shared banquette to easily connect tables to accommodate larger groups. They managed to squeeze in a couple more seats on the bar side of the room, at a small counter against the front window. The interior walls are decorated with a variety of old-world European lithograph prints and wide, dusty looking mirrors to help the room seem a little bit larger. Overhead, ceiling-high shelves full of wine bottles drunk long ago, completely encompass the room. The bottles coupled with the off-white plaster walls and dark tiled floor, really have this European wine cellar vibe, that pairs perfectly with good food, good drinks, and good people.
The bar itself is dressed in dark warm wood with shelves upon shelves of wine, beer, liquor, and glassware. They offer eight beers on draft, always a rotating selection, and get this...over 100 different beers in bottles and cans! They seriously have something for everyone, and at plenty of different price points, from a $4 can of lager from NYC, to a $30 bottle of Belguim sour ale. This is one of the few places Chris doesn't order something on draft! Their wine list is just as impressive, again with over 100 bottles of wine. And what I find even more impressive is nearly half of those wines are offered by the glass. Which is awesome when you and your date (or drinking buddy) can't agree on a bottle—or if they don't like wine at all (*cough* Chris *cough*). If literally hundreds of different wine and beer to choose from seems a little daunting, don't worry, Brava's menu is organized in a way to help you find exactly what you're looking for. Beers are grouped by style, like IPAs, Pale Ales, and amber ales in one category, and Belgian Ales, Saisons, Tripels, and Quadruples in another. They do that for the wine list too, breaking it up into categories like sweet fortified wine, bold & rich, earthy & spicy, crisp & clean etc. If you're still not sure (or if you're feeling adventurous), Brava's staff are as knowledgeable as they are welcoming and can help steer you towards something you might like. With such an expansive beer & wine list, Brava is always a great place to try out something new. Believe me, I've spent a good number of nights there, but I haven't been there enough to try everything on their list... but you know what? I'm tryin'!
And now we can get some of our Brava favorites to have at home. A lot of the products Brava carries, our favorite go-to liquor store has on their shelves. The South Egremont Spirit Shoppe recently opened this summer and has all the funky craft beers, local & handcrafted spirits, and truly robust & unique wines from all around the globe. Our good friends, Dan Thomas, a well respected sommelier in the Berkshires (he could literally tell you about every grape, flavor, and vineyard that was used in a bottle of wine), and Tom Morrison, an easy-going veteran of the wine retail world. (I worked with Tom at Prairie Whale, and he was always my go-to guy when it came to wine expertise.) They've joined together and opened the spirit shoppe with one thing in mind--real wine for the people.
Now unlike most late-night eateries, you're not going to find gross greasy burgers or pizza. At Brava, they're serving delicious handmade flatbread pizzas, salads, bruschetta, and other tapas. I got to tell you my favorite things on the menu are the meatballs. These meatballs are so melt-in-your-mouth good....they're almost better than my grandmother's or as I call her, Nanny (I still love you, Nanny!). One of my other favorite tapas is their wings, lightly breaded chicken wings fried to crispy perfection and tossed in a house-made sauce which changes every day. This last time we went we got honey chipotle; such sweet heat! (Chris sweated like a pig) Along with the wings and meatballs, our most recent dinner also included Brava's fried calamari, a bruschetta, and a charcuterie board. The calamari came golden, crispy, and oh so tender; served with a sweet & spicy dipping sauce. They also serve the tentacles! I'm a huge tentacle fan when it comes to calamari, waaay better than the rings. The bruschettas are served as a pair on toasted baguette slices. For our bruschetta, we kept it classic with the mozzarella, tomato jam & pesto bruschetta. And let me tell you I'm glad we did, it was simply delicious (or deliciously simple?) Finally, instead of dessert, we got a charcuterie board, because I freakin' love charcuterie boards. Brava (unsurprisingly) has a wide selection of meat and cheeses to choose from. You can make boards of three or five items, all served with toasted bread, pickled peppers, cornichons, and dried fruit. Brava prides themselves on showcasing meats and cheeses from around the world (as well as locally produced) and so they're always changing their meat and cheese options. Our selection included Purple Haze (yes it was actually purple), a fresh, bright goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen; St. Stephen, an ultra-rich soft triple cream cow's milk cheese; and a spicy Iberico chorizo, imported from Spain. One of my favorite things about Brava (besides the wine selection, cozy atmosphere, great food...) is that they give you tons of bread with the charcuterie board. Nothing's worse than when you only get enough bread for half the amount of cheese you've been given. Little things like this really make Brava that much better, and a reason for me and my coworkers to drive to the next town for drinks, instead of just walking next door.
Brava gets a lot of business from those within the service industry (like us) because it's open so late. To me, Brava is one of those places were you always bump into somebody you know. For example, there's an ongoing joke anytime we go to Brava, more likely than not, we always see this one old coworker of ours—his name is Peter. Everyone that works there knows who Peter is. I bet YOU know him. Me and Chris always make a bet, before we walk in the door, 'I bet we see Peter!" It's one of those places where you know you are going to bump into SOMEONE. I've bumped into my boss, coworkers on a date, even random people from high school (I went to high school at Reading High...about 100 miles away from the Berkshires) It's just one of those
places that's the ideal backdrop for any occasion, from rekindling old friendships or forming new ones, to 'talking shop' with your co-workers after a rough shift. Some of the friendships I made here in the Berkshires, I think were strengthened, in part, because we went to Brava and talked about our night and the ridiculous things that happened to us that shift. It was always so great because the owners and bartenders all knew who we were, sometimes commiserating with us. Not only did Brava help bring my friendships together, but they may have strengthened my relationship with my own mother.
A few years ago one December, my mother came by herself to visit me in the Berkshires. Me and my mom had a rocky relationship while I lived at home, and so I was a bit nervous we wouldn't have anything in common to talk about. Luckily we both have a love of wine (I wonder where I get it from), so if we were going anywhere, it would be a wine bar. So, one night we headed down to Brava. I was a little nervous at first, very nervous. But once the corks came out and the wine started pouring—the rest was history. Fueled by wine and memories, we were there for nearly two hours talking and laughing the night away, tucked into this cozy little hole-in-the-wall. Honestly, Brava may have started the excellent relationship I now have with my mother. Which I got to say, is rather powerful for a restaurant to do.
Whether you're looking for a late night snack, a place to impress your date at, or somewhere to throw back a couple and complain about that rude guy on table 33 (that table has to be cursed, it's just gotta be), Brava is your one-stop-shop. With all the beer and wine you can dream of, and food that'll leave you coming back for more, it is truly a hidden gem in the beautiful place that is the Berkshires.
More Pictures of Brava down below!
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