Pittsfield, Mass. (25 minutes to Jiminy Peak, 30-35 minutes to Butternut)
Too bad Dakota lies on an ugly highway strip surrounded by burger chains and car dealerships. It's easy to dismiss it as another marginal eatery, but the always-packed parking lot proves that it's not.
Resist finishing the basket of fragrant homemade multi-grain bread to leave room for thick steaks aged on the premises, grilled seafood (try the fresh local-caught trout) and salad bar.
And spend some time looking around.The eatery is also a stand-out art gallery. Glass cases house museum-quality Native American artifacts and large, dramatic paintings of Indian warriors created by Loren Willis.
Get there early enough to snag a table in front of one of the four fieldstone fireplaces, one each in the bar area and dining "rooms" that make this place feel as cozy as a log cabin.
Information Route 7, Pittsfield, Mass.; (413) 499-7900.
Waitsfield, Vt. (a few miles from Sugarbush and Mad River)
Richard Denby's pizzas aren't your ordinary pepperoni and cheese variety. Richard, of Richard's Special Vermont Pizza (RSVP) in Waitsfield, Vt., makes pizzas with attitude.
The Stormin' Norman, a "desert storm camouflage pizza," is made with feta cheese, olives, smoked turkey and roasted garlic. The Newt, Richard says, "is white, of course, and has mustard because he's full of it, Swiss cheese because all his arguments have holes in them and ham, obviously."
Pizza isn't RSVP's only distinguishing feature. The restaurant is a tribute to the Fifties, with Formica and chrome tables and chairs and authentic soda-fountain stools (great to swivel on).
Richard's pizzas have found their way into natural and specialty food-stores from Texas to New York. Sending pizza by Fed-Ex is standard for RSVP, and two years ago, Richard even delivered a pizza to the Pope.
Miguel's Stowe Away
It's busy Saturday night, the place is packed, and if you're willing to blend, you'll feel welcome. My kind of place. We waited in the front parlor of this Victorian architectural relic. People were in every nook and cranny, and we wound up at the community table next to the fire.
The "table" was once the Stowe Away Lodge's big oak sign, and around it tourists and locals eat and chat the way strangers used to at the old ski lodges. I'm an enchilada freak and my sizzling chicken and cheese combo was terrific. Free billiards, nightly seafood specials and children's meals are all part of the deal; and of course this is Margarita Central. You can get out for around $12 per person, plus or minus. This place is fun.
Information 3148 Mountain Road; Stowe, Vt. 05672; (802) 253-7574; Fax (802) 253-5192.
¿L. Dana Gatlin