Autumn Juice. Are you curious? Would you choose a restaurant based on one drink? Maybe I’m strange, but I couldn’t resist. So, of course I chose the Roost in Northampton purely because it offers Autumn Juice, the simple but excellent combination of ginger beer and hard cider.
It all began with guano and a group project last fall. It was mid-season and I not in the mood to rush over to Smith after a long field hockey practice on a Tuesday night. My stomach grumbled as I sped down Route 9, finger combing my dripping hair and wishing I could ice my back. Of course I had the luck to be paired with the one Smith student in our class, so I found myself across town on a weeknight, creating a presentation on guano, or dried bird poop that serves marvelously as fertilizer with its high levels of nitrogen. Needless to say, I was not entirely enthusiastic about visiting Smith, but (unsurprisingly) I did at least anticipate eating somewhere new in Northampton. Looking back on my favorite nights of the fall semester, I would list that one among my top five and as one that reminded me to be more open-minded.
By the time I arrived on campus and located my partner, all I wanted was food. This was also the one chance I had to eat with someone who actually lived in Northampton. I had to take advantage of her superior knowledge. We ran through names, checking off ones I had visited and those too expensive for a casual meal, until she mentioned this wonderful drink she loved at the Roost, Autumn Juice, and asked if I was 21. She needed no more than my confirmation that I could drink, and before I knew it we were striding into town, entering Northampton from a back alley I never knew existed, chattering about various restaurants and stores I might explore in town.
Suddenly we stepped into a restaurant I had seen while driving to and from Northampton but had never visited. I had always eyed the distinctive wood paneling above the brick walls, wondering what the funky exterior said about the restaurant within. As we approached the counter, I noticed that wine bottles encased the hanging light bulbs, round mirrors peppered the walls and black pipes, like those new water pipes in the Socials, functioned as railings. The bathrooms are not gendered, but instead named “Number 1” and “Number 2” and the entire café is packed with seating. There are tables for two, round tables for four and many lengths of bar, facing the windows and along the interior, allows customers to sit almost anywhere within the space.
At this point, however, I could only consider food and ogle the chalkboards that brimmed with options. The Roost offered exactly what I craved: the chance to create a meal of small dishes and taste a range of items. I eyed the Market St. Salad — avocado, mesclun greens, carrots, cucumbers, shredded beets, red onions and sprouts ($6.95), as well as the Hot ‘Roost’ Beef sandwich — a baguette stuffed with pasture raised beef that is roasted in house, beer braised peppers and onions and local cheddar topped with horseradish aioli. I deliberated.
After paying for my order, my partner and I walked towards the main sitting area, where the narrow restaurant opened into a larger space. We immediately dumped our bags at a round table before heading back to the counter to fill mason jars with water, retrieve our Autumn Juice ($5.00), and procure the necessary silverware. Soon we sat down and took our first sips, relishing the bite of the ginger mixing with the tangy cider. As we cracked our books, I strained to hear my name, jumping each time the servers called, only to settle back into discussing guano. Although my hunger made it feel like forever, we must have only waited ten to fifteen minutes.
Soon, I was devouring those first bites, appeasing my hunger before I could truly taste my grilled cheese with tomato, avocado, whole grain Dijon mustard, and local Cabot cheddar ($7.25) that I had paired with a cup of tomato soup ($3.25) and a mini spread of pesto with a hunk of bread ($5.00). Finally, I reigned in my appetite and took stock of the flavors, enjoying how the mellow, buttery avocado eased the spice of the cheddar and whole grain mustard while the nutty, salty pesto soaked into the bread and mingled with the refreshingly light tomato soup. The Roost had done me right. It was the perfect pick.
After a few moments’ dedication to our meals, my partner and I resumed our conversation, finally able to pull ourselves away from the food and think about guano. As I left later that night, having spent the second half of the night at her co-op house at Smith, making brownies and meeting a variety of women, each sparkling with her own interests and activities, I realized that I could not have had a better evening. I regretted my misgivings and found that I suddenly did feel lucky to have been paired with the one Smith student in my class.
The Roost is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. with free Wi-Fi Sunday through Monday, unfortunately no outlets, and a rotation of evening events, too.