DAVID SHAKIROV/THE WILLIAMS RECORDAt Renee’s, the corned beef hash was too much for a football player.
Nestled among North Adams’ backroads behind Route 2, Renee’s Diner offers unpretentious breakfast staples in a snug dining room. The diner is a small, one-story building that stands alone, surrounded by a large gravel lot.
Inside, it sports no more than 12 tables, all of which are set with a squeeze bottle of ketchup and pancake syrup, along with small plastic containers of butter — all necessary ingredients of a stellar diner. In the back of the dining room is a sign that reads “Country Kitchen,” next to handwritten specials and what appears to be a barnstar, a lucky charm popular in farming communities. The menu has two pages of dishes — all some combination of eggs, meat, and bread. Last Saturday, I trekked to Renee’s with friends for a high-calorie breakfast.
Just a seven-minute drive from campus, Renee’s sits behind Greylock Bowl by the Norad Mill. Renee’s is cash-only, a significant inconvenience for restaurant-goers of 2020. Sampling dishes from across the menu, we tried the chili, corned beef hash, pancakes, French toast and omelet.
We were immediately surprised by the varied quantities of food per order. The hash, for instance, comes in an iron skillet with two eggs, potatoes and toast. It was even too much for some of my 200-pound football friends. The chili, though, came in a mini teacup — an unexpectedly small portion of satisfactory stew. My friends were equally satisfied by the pancakes and French toast. With no frills in sight, Renee’s serves runny eggs if you ask them for “over easy,” which is reassuring.
The rest of the food embodied Renee’s humble competence in making wholesome diner food. This ethos naturally permeated into the comfortable service. One of the owners came up behind my friend and quickly fixed the collar of his shirt. This is an example of “Berkshire-friendly” service — a mantra that many service workers in the county seem to live by, and one that is, unfortunately, an exotic concept to those from more urban areas. We came across a real challenge when we were handed a handwritten check and had to make do with Renee’s headache-inducing cash-only policy.
The purpose of restaurants is two-fold. First, it is to satisfy your hunger. Second, it’s to make the guests feel more whole than before they entered the premises. It’s difficult, and some would argue impossible, to impress guests with three-dollar eggs or a cup of drip coffee. Renee’s, however, served a very good breakfast that, taking into account its inexpensive price and consistency, some may consider splendid.
Unlike other establishments, Renee’s doesn’t reinvent the wheel. You won’t find sublime cauliflower-infused cacao e pepe or a stunning pork chop. But Renee’s makes up for it with chili that costs less than a glass of coke at the new Williams Inn, friendly service and great hash browns.