Colorful, contemporary, and lively Ibiza (7 Strong Ave., 413-303-0808) has been a great addition to Northampton's drinking and dining scene since it opened a few years ago - it's part of an esteemed group of Spanish restaurants with branches elsewhere in Hamden and New Haven, Connecticut. This cheerful place with a bar as well as tables serves not merely small plates but authentic Spanish tapas, often with modern flourishes (such as the boquerones topped with marinated fresh anchovies pictured here). Other favorites include salmon crudo, roasted vegetables caneloni with Idiazabal cheese sauce, and braised baby lamb with vegetables, white wine, and chickpea puree. There's a long, well-chosen list of Spanish (and other) wines by the glass and bottle.
Part of the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, which includes other local venues like the Calvin Theater, Mountain Park, and Pearl Street, the Iron Horse (20 Center St., 413-586-8686) is an intimate downtown music club that has presented concerts by dozens of LGBT folk, pop, and rock icons: Melissa Ferrick, Dar Williams, Ani DiFranco, and many others. You can find out about upcoming events and buy tickets to them, for the Iron Horse and other venues in town, at Northampton Box Office.
The town's original craft-beer maker, Northampton Brewery (11 Brewster Court, 413-584-9903) has been around since the late '80s, serving tasty brews like Blue Boots IPA, Hoover's Porter, Windbreaker Hefeweizen, as well as quite tasty comfort fare - burgers, salads, slow-cooked chili, poblano-meatleaf sandwiches, and so on. The brewery is part of the family that includes Smuttynose Brewery and Portsmouth Brewery, both in the lively New Hampshire coastal city of Portsmouth.
For fans of vegetarian dining, Paul & Elizabeth's (150 Main St., inside Thornes Marketplace, 413-584-4832) has been a stalwart in town for delicious, healthful vegetarian cooking since it opened in the late '70s. The menu isn't strictly meatless, as seafood appears in the likes of tempura-style shrimp with orange-ginger sauce, and classic fish-and-chips, but veggie fare is the star of the show, from the sea-vegetable salad with marinated tofu to Thai-style seitan with udon noodle saute. While in Thornes Marketplace, by the way, be sure to stop by the LGBT gift and book shop Pride & Joy and the fantastic ice cream shop, Herrell's Ice Cream.
Cheerful and inviting Spoleto (1 Bridge St., 413-586-6313) is part of a local group of trendy, gay-friendly eateries that includes Pizzeria Paradiso, Mama Iguana's, and Spoleto Express, with additional locales in East Longmeadow and Springfield. Spoleto is an attractive place with indoor and sidewalk seating, with a kitchen that serves modern Italian cuisine. It's a favorite in these parts for happy hour, a number of $2 snacks (oysters Florentine, roasted garlic bulbs, house-made meatballs) and slightly pricier treats, from truffled mac-n-cheese to assorted salumi and cheese plates (for $5 to $7 apiece).
Northampton Gay Pride celebration, Sylvester's (111 Pleasant St., 413-586-5343) is a lovely breakfast spot where the odds are strong that you'll see the cute gay and lesbian folks from last night's bar-hopping recovering over weekend brunch. Gorgonzola steak and eggs, lox eggs Benedict, and asparagus omelets are among the favorite treats. Lunch is also served.
Airy and bright Woodstar Cafe (60 Masonic St., 413-585-9777) has developed a popular following for some of the best baked goods, bagel sandwiches, and artisan coffee and teas in the Pioneer Valley. It's an attractive space, open till 8 pm most nights (6 pm on Sundays and Mondays), and the kitchen relies heavily on produce, eggs, and fruit from a nearby farm. Grab on seat on the patio on sunny days. The Wheel of Fortune bagel sandwich, with chevre, capers, and olive-roasted red pepper relish is a winner.