Even if it has long existed in the shadow of the legendary Herrell's,
Bart's is a local legend in its own right, with a history in the area that goes back to 1976. As The Menu went to press, Bart's had just closed its downtown Northampton branch, which had been a local favorite. The Amherst branch remains, though. It has just one light, airy room with high ceilings. The counter staff are relaxed and friendly, and your day is generally brightened by their presence. There's a big towering menu above the counter, with a cartoony theme featuring the trademark Bart's cows. In this case, one is in preppy clothes and the other in beachwear. The most humorous aspect of the interior is the elaborate surveillance system pointed at customers as they line up at the counter. Smile, you're on camera. Or maybe you should moo.
Although Bart's is primarily an ice cream shop, it offers some terrific homemade pastries-try the rich, moist mocha-flavored chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting. The place also now serves lunch food like simple sandwiches, chili, and cornbread, all of which are fairly satisfactory but not unusual in any way. Bart's is pleasant sitting down, whether for a milkshake, a cup of soup, or a caffeine injection. The formula seems to be working, as Bart's has a steady stream of customers-many of them college students-and does a surprisingly healthy business in coffee.
As for the ice cream itself, it's locally made in the rich super-premium style (less air), and it's generally quite good, even if it doesn't reach the lofty, creamy heights of Herrell's. Chunky chocolate mousse with raspberries is a standout; it's one of the better interpretations of the chocolate-ice-cream-meets-fruit concept that we've experienced. Basics like vanilla are good too. Our only gripe is with the ice-cream cooling system, which has occasionally resulted in ice crystals, disrupting the otherwise creamy texture and making the product less satisfying.