Mac and Cheese at the Oak Barrel Tavern

Mac and Cheese at the Oak Barrel Tavern

When I walked in I was surprised at how great the place looked. What a wonderful overhaul to the old Tweed’s space. Nice bar space, great high tops off the bar, nice warm colors, great table sizes…And the hostess was very, very nice. The menu design looked updated and hip as well. I had high hopes for this new Oak Barrel Tavern. Especially since our waitress was on top of it. I had a drink in my hand within 5 mins of being there. NICE.

I looked over the menu. There were no surprises there. It was a very typical pub style menu with all the basics. So, I decided to go comfort food – it was a rainy night and I could use some warming up. Mac and Cheese sounded perfect. For 14.00 bucks I could order up a plate of Cavatappi pasta mixed with their own cheese blend and truffle oil. Topped with panko bread crumbs and baked golden brown. I could even add on some Buffalo Chicken or some shrimp or some veggies…Sounds yummy to me! But I stuck with tradition.

Let’s face it folks, I am a spoiled brat of a foodie. I have had some amazing mac and cheeses over the years. Including several mac and cheese’s made by some of the folks in this very foodies group that were down right stunningly delicious. So when my hot gooey plate of mac and cheese arrived I had high expectations. And they were quickly dashed. This was just nothing special. I plate of pasta from a bag tossed with some average tasting cheese, and lightly dusted with those panko crumbs. The portion was big- I’ll give them that, but if there was any truffle oil in there to add some flavor it was certainly hidden by a too small dose. After adding salt and some parmesan cheese from a shaker, I got enough flavor to have a decent meal.

Our server was great! She was always available to order more drinks and quick at getting our food out. The service here was excellent and sometimes that is enough to make me want to try a place again.

So, if you want a place to play trivia on a Tuesday night with some pals and grab a drink or two, this is a nice place to do that. If you’re looking for some typical pub foods, check out the Oak Barrel Tavern. The service is great.

Barely Legal Blackberry Moonshiner Burger from Bootlegger's Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

Barely Legal Blackberry Moonshiner Burger

It seems the Maykel family has bootlegged their own property. One of Worcester’s first gluten-free and vegan-friendly restaurants (EVO) is survived by a completely redefined destination- Bootleggers Prohibition Pub. With far more than just a menu makeover, the entire space has been redesigned into a throwback saloon that would make the 1920’s jealous. Reclaimed wood beams and tables (literally reclaimed from his father’s decking according to Chef Albert Maykel) adorn the space accompanied by a big center bar and a chalkboard proudly displaying a wide variety of specialty moonshine.

My night begins and ends with a French 77- a concoction of cucumber gin, champagne, lemon juice and St. Germain. I was pleased to see some lemon pulp in the drink- ensuring me that the bartenders are using all fresh ingredients. I was peer-pressured into ordering an appetizer (much to my delight) and landed on the Southern Fried Lollypop Wings. It was the perfect size- 3 fried chicken pops served on a bed of coleslaw and bourbon infused maple syrup. I hate when appetizers are so big that they ruin your meal. The menu is what I expected – burgers, pressed sandwiches and flatbread pizza all appropriately named for the decade. However, a couple of sections stood out as different- Street Tacos and Prohibition (Hot) Dogs. I was tempted by the dogs but as many of you know, I spend much of my summer watching the Worcester Bravehearts at Hanover Insurance Park… eating hot dogs and drinking beer, so I decided to order the Blackberry Moonshiner Burger. This half-pound burger came covered in blackberry moonshine barbecue sauce topped with blue cheese, apple cider fromage, bacon, lettuce and onion. The combination of the cheese and BBQ sauce did make this a messy burger, albeit delicious. I just wouldn’t recommend ordering it on a first date. One of my dinner companions ordered the same thing so I felt completely justified in my general attack on this Angus beef patty. The litany of sides you can choose from is impressive- french fries, sweet potato fries, green beans and on and on. I must admit, I was jealous when my burger buddy’s meal came with a side of golden plantains that looked incredible. My fries weren’t great but you know that feeling… food guilt from what you wish you had ordered.

Service here was great, from friendly smiles at the entrance to attentive barmaids. The prices are very reasonable and the bar looks like a great place to belly-up at for Sunday football.

I think Bootleggers will make it’s mark on the Chandler St./Park Ave neighborhood. I asked Chef Maykel if there are any plans to add a password protected room or some kind of menu item that only appears by request… he smiled and said “maybe someday”. I guess I’ll have to just keep checking in to see how things shape up.

New England Clam Chowder & Veggie Sandwich from Bootleggers Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

Chowda and Sandwich for Dinner at Bootlegger’s Prohibition Pub

My first thought was that Bootleggers Prohibition Pub had a nice looking makeover and could I get some moonshine at the huge bar. Turns out you can! So let the drinks flow…

I looked over the menu and found a few things I wouldn’t mind trying out. I settled on the chowder and a veggie sandwich. The chowder was excellent, creamy and full of clams and flavor. Great portion size and quite filling. The sandwich was a disappointment. It was described as having fresh avocado, sweet onion, tomato, garlic oil, balsamic vinegar served in a pressed Italian roll. There was very little avocado, maybe two small slices and the sweet onion was scarce as well. I had to ask for more of the balsamic vinegar because I think they forgot to even add it to the bread. I was pretty disappointed. Huge shrug. I am not sure I would get back there anytime soon, but the drinks were worth a trip to hang at the very cool bar.

Excellent servers at the Bootlegger. Everyone from the front desk host to the waiter we had all evening- were super friendly and helpful. Great staff makes a place worth going back to…

Overall, the evening at Bootlegger was a fun night. I’d try some other kinds of food if I go back, and I hope they step up their veggie options. I’d certain say keep the moonshine flowing and keep that delicious chowder!

from Bootleggers Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

Keeping it simple at Bootleggers Prohibition Pub With Their…

For a few years I had been going to EVO but with its closing I was curious to see how they might transform the same space into a different concept—Bootleggers Prohibition Pub. Well, they did by not only changing the entrance (which is deemed “secret entrance” for those not in-the-know) to the making a large bar the center of the focus. I like the new design better and it feels more like a pub where you might angle up to the bar for a cocktail. Speaking of which, they have numerous unique cocktails moonshine included—Where else can you try different moonshines?

Tonight, I decided to keep things simple and ordered small bites – Italian meatballs from the Bluenose bites (a.k.a., appetizers) and a Speakeasy Wedge Salad. I loved the Italian meatballs – small portion (3 of them) but good for me but with a larger party you might need to order more than one order to get a fill. They had a little kick to them due to the hot italian sausage combined with ground beef and was over a (assuming) house made tomato sauce. Keeping it light, the wedge salad was not what I expected and maybe should have paid more attention to the menu. It was a traditional wedge with iceberg lettuce, crumbled bacon (though light on the bacon), tomatoes but what was different was the crumbled apple fromage and the dressing – creamy honey blue cheese dressing. I don’t normally enjoy sweet foods and the sweetness of the cheese and dressing threw me as it was too sweet. If you like sweet then you might enjoy this different spin on the classic wedge.

It was great to meet the owner/chef who took some time out to chat briefly with many of us. Always great to see the passion there. Overall, service was fine – it is always hard with a large group. Politely greeted at the door to a waitress who asked numerous times if I needed anything else.

Now that I have told you where the “secret” door is you have no reason not to try it yourself. If I venture back I may focus more on grabbing a seat at the bar and trying one of their moonshine cocktails – so many to choose from. I always feel I need to give a place more than try.

The Topless Floozie at the Bootleggers Prohibition Pub in Worcester, MA

Have a Topless Floozie at the Bootleggers Prohibition Pub…

Once you find the entrance for Bootlegger’s Probation Pub, the inside has a slightly modern take on the old speakeasy. It’s a little dark, a little loud and the bar is quite large. The wait staff dressed the part as well, and the overall vibe is fun and interesting.

First thing you do in a speakeasy is get a drink right? I had the Rough Old Fashioned and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m an Old Fashioned snob and this was made right and delicious. This is a bartender who knows his stuff.

For an appetizer, we had the Coney Island Fries, basically chili cheese fries with hot peppers server in a cast iron skillet. These were amazing, maybe some of the best chili cheese fries I’ve ever had. The fries still had plenty of body/texture (read, not too soggy) and the banana peppers gave the whole thing that little pop of spice that was quite enjoyable. Overall, an excellent appetizer.

For dinner, how could I not order up a Topless Floozie? This is a spicy buffalo dry rubbed burger with cheddar cheese, cole slaw topped with a fried egg over medium. The burger was cooked perfectly and quite enjoyable. The egg gave it a nice pop of flavor and the grilled roll was a great vehicle for the burger. While not the best burger I’ve ever had, it was enjoyable and good sized. The accompanying fries were seasoned lightly and also quite good. Overall, a good dinner.

The wait staff was attentive but also seemed quite busy. While we did have to wait to find her at times, she was quick to respond to any requests and friendly enough.

Overall, I’d say this is a great bar with decent food. Everyone I spoke to enjoyed their drinks and the mixed drink menu had some interesting new twists as well as the basic standbys. The food was good enough that I wasn’t disappointed, but I’d say this is a definite go to just for the bar.

Fried Clam street tacos from Bootleggers Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

Feed Me Tacos and Tell Me I’m Beautiful

In a hidden and modestly marked entry on the backside of the building where EVO was formerly located, you will find the faux-bolted door for Bootleggers Prohibition Pub. Bootleggers is one of the newest dining and drinking establishments to find it’s home in Worcester and our spot for the dreary November foodies meeting.

A bit flustered after driving to Bootleggers from work, I found myself anxious to meet up with my foodie friends and dive into our next adventure. I had known where Evo was previously and that Bootleggers had moved in to their former spot so getting there was not a problem for me, but the parking on the other hand was a challenge. The small front lot was already occupied when I arrived so I made my way to the back of the building, which had limited space, but luckily one lone spot for my car. I walked around to the front of the building only to find that there was no entrance there. And no entrance where I thought the door was for Evo either.

Finally I made my way back around to where I had parked. Behind a glass slider, that I must have missed the first time around, was the entry for Bootleggers and I looked up to see a sign as well. I immediately thought about how there should be better signage or directions on how to find the place, but the more I considered this, the more I realized that a watering-hole as such would be frowned upon during the Prohibition, and likely led to this detail.

As difficult as it was to find, once I did make my way in to Bootleggers, I felt like I was a member of a small group or secret society that was brought here to break some rules. A place where men come and clink glasses after a hard day’s work or enjoy a cigar and ladies laugh and dance on tables.

Music from another time buzzed through the space, but was hummed by the chatter of patrons at every table. Smaller pub tables provided a more intimate feel and the rustic, wood and metal décor, along with dim, but yellow lighting, provided country warmth that made me like I was in a western saloon.

In consideration of the atmosphere and its simplicity, I thought I would find a correlation with the food. And though there were some signature favorites, Baked Mac and Cheese, Burgers, Chili and even a number of hot dog options, with various toppings, there were also plenty of options for a more adventurous crowd.

It is well known by my close friends and family that I have a hard time veering from a few designated favorites when it comes to dining out. I am often picked on for always getting the same thing, which is frequently mac and cheese or chicken tenders. Normally I would see Baked Mac and Cheese on the menu and not look back, but tonight was different. I was in a new place with good company, so I opted for a change. I ordered the Fried Clam street tacos, playfully named “Naked Clam,” and giggled a bit as I spoke the words to the waitress.

The dish included 2 of my other favorite foods- seafood and tacos! The grilled soft tortilla shells were served on a metal stand and were filled nicely with fried clams and crisp iceberg lettuce. Each bite was fresh and flavorful! The sweet onions and tomatoes really were the biggest surprise, provided a cooling sensation to the spicy and tangy, Sriracha lime and agave drizzle. Normally I am not one to eat anything too spicy, but this dish was absolutely delightful and bursting with flavor! I will definitely be coming back for these again sometime!

The service was good, but I wouldn’t say it was great. Our waitress was friendly enough, but not very outgoing. The pace of the service was great, but a little bit slower than expected since it was a Tuesday night. Given Bootleggers is still a newer spot and trying to establish their flow though, this isn’t anything I would be too concerned about.

I was pleased to see the menu had some very decent prices. I must admit, that I was a bit nervous about the bill. Considering Bootleggers replaced Evo, I figured Bootleggers would have a similar fare. My libation of choice for the evening was a Blackberry Lemonade (Midnight Moon Blackberry Moonshine, and Bootleggers Lemonade) as a light and sweet cocktail and only $6.50 and served in a decent sized mason jar. The Naked Clam street tacos (2 grilled soft flour tortillas stuffed with fried Cajun claim strips over shredded lettuce, sweet onion and tomato with a Sriracha lime agave drizzle) were only $6.95 and definitely enough to fulfill all my taco fantasties! The smaller portions and plates were ideal for sharing and I could see myself and some friends coming here and ordering a few items to sample!

Overall, I think Bootleggers will fit nicely into their spot. The folks of Worcester always seem to be on board with trying new places and their unique menu and cocktails will surely gather a crowd. I look forward to hearing how they grow to be more well-known in the Worcester scene.

Goodfella pressed sandwich from Bootleggers Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

Go for the Goodfella that won’t leave you swimming…

If you ever visited EVO before, you know that although it was in a confined area, it always had that air of sophistication about it, in it’s décor to the food. Bootleggers takes all of those notions and throws them out the window; From the seamless blending of their entry way into the industrial building, they did seem to make it hard to find, much like an actual speakeasy might be back in the day. The bar has been relocated to a central rectangle, and elements of wood beams and metal adorns most of the surfaces. All of this gives the diner a very old-time feel, with a hint of nostalgia with the music and movies playing on the various TVs, while still being chic and modern.

While reviewing the menu, I was surprised to find that there were so many items that I could potentially order that I was having a hard time deciding. Trying to steer clear of the staples that I tend to gravitate towards, I chose against the burgers and the seafood. I wanted something a little bit out of the box and out of my comfort zone. I ended up choosing the Goodfella pressed sandwich ($11.99). The sandwich consisted of capicola, pepperoni, provolone cheese, banana peppers, sweet onion with garlic oil and balsamic vinegar served in a pressed Italian roll. My best description would be this is a jazzed up Italian sub. The spicy meat of the capicola and pepperoni made for a lingering heat that stayed on your palate. The balsamic vinegar gave a nice tang, much like it would on an antipasto. The vinegar helped cut through the richness of the meat and the softness of the bread. The best part of the sandwich in my mind though were the banana peppers. They were actually cooler than the meats, which gave it great texture contrast to everything else in the sandwich, while adding to that heat mentioned earlier, in the most delightful way possible. The sandwich was served with a side of perfectly golden brown French fries, while there were additional sides your could choose from such as tortilla chips, coleslaw, or Yukon gold whipped potatoes and sweet fries, plantains, sautéed green beans, Sidecar salad, or small soup.

The wait staff that we had between our Foodie’s tables seemed very polite and attentive to our needs as diners. It still seemed like they were adjusting to the changes that they were inevitable used to at Evo for so long, between the new menu, new drinks, new décor and dress code, there seemed to be some disconnect with everything. Given that it was a Tuesday night, I figured that there would have been more attention paid to our group. Overall, our waitress did a great job though and seemed to enjoy herself.

Given that this was the former location of EVO and maintained a large amount of the same moving pieces, I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. I do believe that they could use some fine tuning on the cocktails and on getting the front and back of the house on the same page, but that comes with the territory. They will have that ironed out in no time. The menu was diverse and offered different options for the adventurous diners, while remaining comforting and familiar enough at the same time. With so many delicious looking/sounding dishes and all at a very reasonable price, I will be sure to head back to the Bootleggers Prohibition Pub…except this time, I will know where to get in.

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub-On the Wagon Grilled Veggie Burger

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub-On the Wagon Grilled Veggie Burger

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub replaces EVO, located on Chandler Street in Worcester. You enter through their “Secret Entrance” in the rear of the building, how fun! The restaurant interior has completely changed. It has a old, rustic feel with large wood beams dividing the restaurant and they added a large mahogany bar. The decor takes you back to an old 1930’s Speakeasy, complete with a glass of moonshine!

The menu has a collection from soup/salads, pasta to salmon, with great names like the “Gatsby.” I decided on, On the Wagon, Grilled Veggie Burger, fresh avocado, sweet onion, sunflower sprouts, Havarti cheese and Sriracha lime agave aioli, with a side of sautéed green beans. The veggie burger arrived and it was huge, I had to cut it in half just to pick it up because of all the generous toppings. The veggie burger seemed frozen not homemade which was disappointing, I was thankful for the delicious toppings that made up for the lack of flavor in the frozen patty. The green beans were fresh and plentiful and not overcooked.

Our waitstaff was friendly and quick with refilling our drinks. Our food came out fast as well considering the amount of people we had in our group.

I really enjoy the idea of a restaurant with a Speakeasy theme, from the secret entrance, wall decor and names of the beverages and food, it all came together. I will be returning to try some other food options and sit at the bar and enjoy some of their innovative cocktails.

The Cohiba Street Taco from Bootlegger Prohibition Pub on Chandler Street in Worcester, MA

The Cohiba Street Taco from Bootlegger Prohibition Pub

I have always been a big fan of EVO, miss it actually. Therefore, I was without a doubt very interested to try The Bootlegger Prohibition Pub. I was very impressed with the renovated space, which other than some of the stone walls from Evo (left near the open window kitchen, the place is entirely different. I was really digging the wood and beam vibe, the bar is fantastic.

We ordered a couple of appetizers to start – Still-Potstickers (three steamed and seared pork and kimchee-filled dumplings), accompanied by a spicy Korean BBQ sauce. First off, I am not a fan of giving three appetizers, however these were tasty. We also tried the Southern Fried Lollypop Wings  (three spicy Southern fried chicken lollypop wings served with coleslaw and bourbon infused maple syrup). These were decent, I really enjoyed the coleslaw. For my meal, I kept in mind that it was “taco Tuesday” so I went with one of the Street Taco selections, The Cohiba (slow roasted tomatillo seasoned pork shoulder over shredded lettuce, sweet plantain, roasted sweet corn, and drizzled with smoked sour cream) and I added a side of plantains. Sad to say the plantains were the star on my dish, the tacos for me were great, because they were bland; I do not love tacos with too much stuff on them so these were basic and for me were very good. I suspect someone that loves tacos with all the fixings will not appreciate these. They also were stuffed, in my opinion, with way too much lettuce, from the pork I did have it was very good so it would have been nice to have a little more pork. For libations, I tried the Park & Chandler Ginger Swizzle as well as the Moonshine Mule, the ginger swizzle was very good, however the Moonshine Mule was fantastic!

The service was fantastic! Everyone was welcoming, friendly, attentive, and our food arrived in a timely manner.

Overall, I will definitely return to sit at the bar and have some libations. Most of the menu included items I do not really care for; but I might give it another try. I do love the renovated space and vibe.

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub's Seafood fra Diablo

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub’s Seafood fra Diablo

Bootleggers Prohibition Pub has taken over the old EVO spot on Chandler Street, and be ready for an entire transformation in layout and atmosphere. Though I had my preconceived ideas of what a prohibition bar/restaurant should look like, their design of “Industrial/contemporary” was nothing of the like, but was pretty cool nonetheless. The bar is the anchor of the dining room, positioned in the middle of the floor, with tables and high tops around the parameter. The space was lively and energetic for a Tuesday night. And the wait staff was very attentive to our party. Always a good way to start out the evening.

My entree, Seafood fra Diablo was average at best, unfortunately. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the table next to me ordered it, and the waitress told him they were out of scallops, then told him they could make it anyway. When I ordered it, I was not told they were out of scallops, and was served the dish incomplete to what is advertised. The shrimp were tiny rock shrimp. The muscles were good and the calamari was average. The sauce and linguini was the best part of the dish, and even that was not extraordinary.

Our server did a fantastic job tending to our table, except for not informing me that my dish would be missing one of the key ingredients. Otherwise, friendly, attentive and knowledgeable with the drink menu.

Unfortunately I have to prohibit the Prohibition Bar from my regular dining list. The bar and building layout is very cool and would be a great place for a drink, but I am in no rush to go back for the food.