Route 7 Grill sits deep within the farm country of the Berkshires, with a cornfield across the street and a garden adjacent to the property. The building is clean and spacious, with plenty of tables, wood floors, an outdoor deck and a giant stone fireplace that separates the main dining room from the bar. The décor is minimal in an inviting sort of way.
The barbecue menu at Route 7 is varied, with two kinds of pork ribs (babybacks and spares), a beef short rib, beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken and barbecued chicken. Appetizers include fried calamari, smoked wings, nachos with smoked meats, and skewers with grilled shrimp, chicken or sausage. Non-BBQ entrees include a half-pound burger, two steaks, daily pasta and fish specials, and pot roast braised in Guinness. Sandwiches (lunchtime only) include chicken salad, grilled cheese, grilled chicken breast, sausage grinders, tuna and BLTs. There are two daily soups (one vegetable) and four salads.
My wife and I visited Route 7 on a Saturday night, arriving somewhat early and watching the place fill by the time we left. We started with a pair of skewer appetizers. Sausages were slightly spicy and slightly juicy, served atop vinegar slaw. The shrimp, served the same way, smelled a little fishy when it hit the table, then tasted bland. Both appetizers were fairly plain and might have benefited from a dipping sauce.
Our high expectations dropped during the appetizer course, but things picked up quickly with the main course. Between the two of us, we tried 3 meats and 6 appetizers.
I had to try the beef rib ($20), highly recommended by a barbecue acquaintance who said it was the best she’d ever tasted. The short rib was a sight to behold, a giant portion of beef, with the slice creating a perfectly flat plane of meat that demanded to be eaten with a fork and knife. It was very good, with perfect tenderness and a natural beef flavor augmented by light smoke and noticeable spice. Inside, the meat was well marbled and pink. There were spots that were a little cold or a little fatty, and the sauce it was served with hurt more than helped, but overall I really enjoyed the beef rib. Best ever? No, but up there.
Barbecued chicken ($14), ordered without sauce, was crisp on the outside and moist inside. The rub was very liberally applied and very good, and the meat inside had an enjoyably strong chicken flavor.
The spare ribs ($18) were a generous portion with a similar rub treatment that made the outsides nice and crisp. Inside, the meat was pink and as juicy as you can get without getting fatty or greasy. Of the three meats we tried, the ribs had the strongest level of sweet smoke, and it really complemented the intense natural pork flavor. We ordered these without sauce and I’m glad we did, because they were moist enough and flavorful enough as is. I’d also rank these pork ribs right up there with some of the best I’ve had lately.
Sides were mostly good. I’m a cole slaw freak, so I tried both the vinegar and mayo varieties. Both were decent but a little soggy; the vinegar version reminded me of kim chee. Beans were okay, with pieces of meat mixed in and a nice firmness under the thick sauce. Fries were excellent, with a wonderful texture and a natural potato flavor. Collard greens, prepared simply, arrived in large, crisp leaves that also had a nice, natural flavor. A side special of tomato and cucumber salad was very fresh.
There’s one barbecue sauce on the table, and I thought it was generic and bland. The habanero sauce (used with one of the chicken wing options) is available on request, and it’s a chunkier sauce that’s more like a salsa.
I wish the dinner menu included some of the lunch items. There are no sandwiches, nor the chili that’s available as a burger topping. I also wish the dinner menu had some combinations other than their dinners for two ($32) and three people ($50). On the night we were there, the “chef’s whim” dinner for two consisted of pork ribs and pulled chicken. Since we could have ordered separate pork ribs and pulled chicken dinners for the same price, I’d expect the chef’s whim to offer a little more variety. That said, I think the pricing, at least on the barbecue entrees, is more than fair for the level of quality.
The bottom line: I wasn’t enamored with the appetizers, sauces and menu structure, but Route 7 Grill has some of the best barbecued meats New England has to offer, with good, farm-fresh sides. I’m looking forward to returning to sample more of their menu. If you're travelling the James Taylor route from Stockbridge to Boston, it's well worth a detour.