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#SundayFunday: Traditional Thai at Rice Violet

Rice Violet on Main Street in Worcester, MA

Placing an emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, Thai cuisine is famous for its balance of five flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. While some dishes blend all of the flavors into a signature taste, others are served as compliments to the overpowering flavors of spice and bitterness. Thai chef McDang characterizes Thai food as demonstrating “intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor.” His description fits the mold of which Rice Violet was sculpted from.

Shrimp fried rice, chicken satay and crab ragoons from Rice Violet on Main Street in Worcester, MA
Shrimp fried rice, chicken satay and crab ragoons from Rice Violet on Main Street in Worcester, MA

Sitting on the corner of Main and Exchange Street in downtown Worcester, Rice Violet breathes cultural life into an area slowly shying away from diversity. From its bright colors that line the exterior of the restaurant – giving itself a pop of personality – to the ethnically hired staff, Rice Violet looks to remain authentic in a time where authenticity is scarce. Its fluid menu caters to a wide range of eating lifestyles including vegetarian and gluten-free dishes – an underserved market in the Worcester culinary scene. The menu, filled with recipes directly from the central part of Thailand – considered the Bangkok Style of Cooking – mix effortlessly with innovative modern Thai dishes, giving Rice Violet a broader audience of food aficionados.

Pork dumplings, chicken satay, edamame – seasoned Japanese snack of steamed soybean pods and seasoned salt, and samosa bag – a crispy wonton wrapper stuffed with potato and curry powder, are only but a few of the a la carte dishes that can be paired with salads like the famous Thai papaya salad (som tum) – a salad with green papaya, tossed with tomatoes, chili lime dressing and tin peanuts served with sticky rice or simply paired with shrimp fried rice – a universal favorite. The eclectic menu serves one purpose: to be the center of any social occasion, if not, the social occasion itself. As we know, American restaurants are about the individual experience – with a recent shift in the restaurant culture to mimic that of European ordering styles – and it focuses on each individual’s starter meal, entree, and dessert – in that order. While in Thailand, much like the European countries, ordering meals is about sharing and enjoying as much food together as a unit. As a general rule, Thai diners order the same number of dishes as people present; however, all dishes are shared and enjoyed together. Watching a table of six order five or six dishes and all serve themselves a portion from each dish is not a rare sight at Rice Violet, but instead, it is the norm. The best part of shared dinners at Rice Violet? They honor the “bring your own beverage” policy which makes them undeniably approved as a #SundayFunday destination.

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#FamilyEats: It’s All About Family at Legacy

The facade of Legacy Bar & Grill at Coe's Pond on Mill Street in Worcester, MA.

We’ve debunked the theory that chicken fingers are the essential elements in building a family-friendly menu with our growing list of #FamilyEats restaurants like the short-lived 2 Ovens, the delicate and sophisticated Fancy That and the quick and ready Antonio’s Pizza. But, at the end of the day, we are on the hunt for restaurants that give us all a piece of mind when dining out with our little ones. Often times, the best kids menu is one that is tailored to simplistic palettes with adult-approved quality ingredients. While that combination is not as rare as it used to be, it is still hard to find. Except at Legacy Bar & Grill.

Tuna Melt from Legacy Bar and GrilleLocated in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Worcester, Legacy speaks to the welcoming vibes needed to calm the chaos of a “family night out.” The tables are equipped with drawing menus and crayons to keep your kiddos busy while the adults are drawn to waterfront views of Coe’s Pond through a bank of windows that lines an entire wall of the restaurant. Although the reservoir views are always a motivator to get to the restaurant early and snag a window table, it is the extensive bar and food options that are the biggest draw – for good reason. Michael Sobel, executive chef, and co-owner wanted to create a restaurant that provided the family neighborhood a place to go after a long day at work or in celebration of days off on the weekend and he has succeeded. In the short eight months since opening, Legacy Bar & Grill has become the neighborhood “go-to” restaurant because of its menu celebrating American classics.

For adults, dining at Legacy means ordering classic comfort foods like fish and chips, deep fried beer battered haddock served with fries and slaw; meatloaf, a mixture of ground chuck, wrapped in bacon and topped with mushroom gravy and onion strings over garlic mashed potatoes and your choice of veggies; and classic tuna melts. Legacy recommends accompanying each dish with a great cocktail from the signature drink menu. Whether it is the passion mojito or the Moscow mule, a great drink has the ability to heighten the experience and if the kiddos are eating and drawing on their colorful menus without attempting to crawl under the table, then the parents are more than deserving of one of Legacy’s signature cocktails. When parents dine in at the beginning of the week, they will be particularly satisfied by Legacy’s family-focused fun meals like Mac and Cheese Mondays and Twin Dog Tuesdays.

To be clear, these fun and interactive nights allow families to create and indulge in their favorite pastas, fun toppings, and various styles of hot dogs. While mom and dad can order a bowl of linguini tossed in Legacy’s homemade mac and cheese sauce and topped with shrimp, goat cheese, spinach and tomato – the kids can order a bowl of cavatappi tossed in the same mac and cheese sauce but topped with kid-friendly ingredients like chicken tenders and hot dog bites. The same rules apply on Twin Dog Tuesdays. Parents might order high-end dogs topped with avocados and pulled pork or even indulge in a Reuben dog with corned beef, sauerkraut, and swiss cheese while the little foodies stick to plain hot dogs with ketchup on the side.

There comes a point in the family dining experience where parents look at each other and question their decision to bring the kiddos to dine out, but at Legacy Bar & Grill, the concept of family dining is embedded in the very existence of the restaurant. From the owners – a family with a long history in the restaurant industry – to the menu, Legacy instills the importance of family dining in a setting that appeals to both children and adults.