The Dream Away Lodge: A Boho Berkshire Dream Come True
Dream Away Lodge owner Daniel Osman in the main dining room.
You could call the Dream Away Lodge a living landmark. Surrounded by October Mountain State Forest in Becket, MA, the former roadhouse is a time capsule of Berkshire bohemia, the place where Bob Dylan (photo below), Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie and Sam Shephard made a movie, Renaldo and Clara, in 1975 during their Rolling Thunder Revue tour. (There are black-and-white Ken Regan photos framed on the walls as evidence.) For the past 14 years, the Dream Away has been owned and operated as a restaurant and music club by Daniel Osman, an irrepressible and ebullient actor who came to the Berkshires from California in 1979 to be part of Shakespeare & Company when it was at The Mount.
Osman readily admits that his first decade running the Dream Away had more than its share of nightmarish moments. “It’s been a long learning curve,” he says sheepishly. “When I bought it, I was an actor with no money. In many ways, the first ten years were a waste of time,” says Osman, citing his stubbornness and perspicacity as the reasons why he didn’t give up the dream of making the Dream Away thrive. “But the last three years have been entirely different.” When Osman partnered three years ago with chef Amy Loveless (who was well known in the Berkshires when she ran the Suchele Bakery in Lenox), “everything changed,” says Osman, who previously hadn’t thought that food was the main point of the Dream Away. He had always thought of the Dream Away as dinner theater—with an emphasis on the kitschy set and rotating cast of characters playing music and hanging out in the bar. “Now people come here for the food!” he says triumphantly. “Amy is the original locavore. She knows so many farmers and she is always willing to change the menu. She can do Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican as well as American comfort food.”
Its out-of-the-way location (four miles from a main road) is actually an asset. “Where else can you take a walk in the woods after a really good meal, then go back inside and listen to music, and then go back outside and sit by a firepit?” he asks. “We’re lucky to be in the middle of nowhere, but in the center of a cultural universe—fifteen minutes to Jacob’s Pillow, twenty minutes to Tanglewood and forty-five minutes to Williamstown and MASS MoCA.”
In the summer, the Dream Away is the place where many performers go to unwind after their shows because Osman keeps the bar open every night until 2 a.m. He is justly proud of the care with which his cocktails are made (the Ruby Gimlet is extraordinary.) “We only use fresh lime and lemon juice and we are very picky about the glasses. Our drinks are expensive but they are worth it.”
Live music is an essential part of the Dream Away’s DNA. Every Wednesday is an open accoustical music night in the listening room that is a cross between a 1930s hunting cabin and a hippie crash pad. Other nights feature young bands that play original music. “They play for dinner and tips, and I seed the tip jar and encourage the audience to give generously,” says Osman. “A lot of bands get a kick out of playing where Dylan played. It’s the George Washington-slept-here phenomenon.” Osman is careful to protect the Dream Away’s legacy and mystique, noting that about 50 percent of the furniture he inherited when he bought it, and the rest is junk-store finds he’s layered in over the years. “It’s a museum of what it was,” he says.
Despite the recession, the Dream Away has seen its business grow steadily in the past three years, and Osman is expecting a record summer. He finally started accepting credit cards in April, and that’s boosted sales. “I think people like coming here because it’s real and you feel connected to each other. You can have a burger and two beers for under $20.” Osman does not let diners eat in stony silence. “I’m from the theater and I like people to participate,” he says, which explains why you have to get up to get your own coffee or tea at the end of a meal as if you are at summer camp. “It encourages people to mill about and talk to strangers.”
The Dream Away excels at special occasions—St. Patrick’s Day, Passover, Cinco de Mayo. “We love to put on a party!” he says. Weddings are challenging but joyful: Osman has groomed a clearing in the woods that is perfect for a ceremony with an accessible path so older relatives don’t feel threatened by the walk. “I always say a wedding is a Broadway show you stage for one night only with a cast of amateurs and no rehearsal and all the investors want a full return on their investment.” Osman prides himself on being the impressario who can pull it off.
As he wanders his 50 acres (nestled among 18,000 acres of state land) and shows off his herb garden and meditative labrinthe, he happily swats away the flies from his face. “Do you know why there are so many bugs in Becket?” he say, grinning at his good fortune. “They’re here to remind you that Becket is not actually heaven.”
Dinner: Wednesday - Sunday 5 - 9 p.m.
Bar: 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.