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A cafe with a Tar Heel accent

Clan makes its mellow mark on Great Barrington

Great Barrington’s Gypsy Joynt Cafe serves up comfort food and a funky vibe. Great Barrington’s Gypsy Joynt Cafe serves up comfort food and a funky vibe. (Jeremy D. Goodwin for The Boston Globe)
By Jeremy D. Goodwin
Globe Correspondent / October 2, 2011

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GREAT BARRINGTON - Not much about the Gypsy Joynt Cafe is subtle. From the flea-market-chic of its decor - an elephant tapestry here, a headless mannequin there - to the potent flavor combinations on its menu of American-style comfort food, everything at this downtown restaurant fairly screams for attention.

But the result is a decidedly down-home destination, where hungry tourists mingle with seasoned townies, teenagers devour pizza while older couples relax over wine, and there is probably someone plopped on the side couch with a newspaper.

The unifying element is the Weller family - a clan 11 strong if you include the youngest - who two years ago went all-in on an unlikely pilgrimage from North Carolina to this hilly corner of Massachusetts, bringing their business with them. You cannot miss them, be it their conspicuous shocks of reddish-brown hair or the women’s penchant for bangles and tattoos.

“We’re not hippies and we’re not gypsies. We’re as square as it gets,’’ said Keith Weller, the big poppa of the group, despite his biker-like appearance. “But we are a clan, and a force to be reckoned with.’’

Their all-for-one ethos is written in indelible ink: Everyone old enough for tattoos has one on an arm that reads “family,’’ each in a different language.

Gypsy Joynt’s menu is heavy on sandwiches, pizza, and salads, almost everything priced below $10. Most dishes are loaded with fistfuls of locally sourced, unexpected ingredients. There’s the shredded pork sandwich topped with avocado and fresh greens, the hamburger complemented with all the ingredients of a Reuben, the caramel pecan-pumpkin pie with a swirl of cheesecake.

In keeping with the funky vibe, just about everything is homemade, from salad dressings to pesto to meat sauce. So on particularly busy afternoons, a handwritten sign may appear on the front door announcing an after-lunch closing so the kitchen can regroup for dinner. There’s even a strict limit of one dozen fresh-baked cookies per customer, to keep the daily supply from getting wiped out too quickly.

The informal, seat-yourself, bus-your-table policy catches some visitors by surprise, particularly those looking for the upscale restaurant that previously occupied this space for years.

“Some guys come in and they look afraid. You can see it on their faces,’’ Lori Weller, the matriarch and recipe author, said. “If you want to be met at the door and seated - well, you’re not going to be. Come in, make yourself at home.’’

It’s good advice.

293 Main St., Great Barrington. Tue-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun 10-3. Closed Mondays. 413-644-8811, www.gypsyjoyntcafe.net.

Jeremy D. Goodwin can be reached at www.jeremydgoodwin.com.