City Bar & Grille Brings Comfortable Neighborhood Feel to…

Al Soto has worked for different restaurant owners all over the world. Now it’s his turn to call the shots at City Bar & Grille!

Located at 395 Chandler Street, Worcester, City Bar & Grille hopes to be “the local neighborhood spot where friends and family can enjoy simple, good, fresh food” Soto told MassFoodies during an interview before he opened the restaurant. Soto even handmade many of the tables in his dining room.

So it just made sense the Foodies Group would venture to taste one of Worcester’s newest spots! Located in the former Caffe Espresso Trattoria space, City Bar & Grille features a seasonal menu that they say “offers a refined approach to American Classics.” All menu items are made in-house from scratch. The bar area is intimate but inviting, with some neighborhood couples enjoying apps and drinks the evening we were there.

Aaron used the word “diverse” to describe the menu and Lynn thought “many of the choices were very unique.”

To Start

New England Baked Cod at City Bar & Grille

For starters the City Bar & Grille menu offers some interesting options such as Chicken Liver Mousse Toast and Grilled Octopus to name a few. I saw the Beet Salad, which Robyn said was “a very large portion and very tasty.” Aaron thought the meat plate was “good and interesting,” and at our end of the table, we shared the Spicy Tuna Tartare which “was as good a Tuna as I’ve ever tasted.”

After another round of drinks, dinner was served.

Dinner is Served

“I ordered the burger and it was cooked beautifully,” said Evan. “I ordered it medium and it came to the table warm and pink on the inside…quite difficult to achieve consistently on burgers. The fries were not quite shoestring but also not steak fries. They were seasoned nicely and paired well with a seemingly house made ketchup.”

Robyn thought her New England Baked Cod was very good. “It came in a light curry sauce, topped with buttery cracker crumb topping, spinach and wild rice pilaf and was cooked perfectly.”

Aaron had the Braised Chicken Bowl which he thought was very flavorful but a little salty.”

“I got the Mixed Lettuce Salad topped with Salmon,” said Julie. She added “the salad was delicious especially with the large chunks of gruyere cheese which you don’t see often in a salad, the salmon was a large portion cooked like I have never had it before, they seared in on the grill, giving the salmon a delicious flavor without overcooking it, typically I ask for it Cajun style but I am glad I didn’t this time because it was so good the way it was cooked.”

David and Stephanie both had the Cavatelli with Wild Mushrooms with David adding it “was good” and Stephanie thought “it was cooked perfectly and the braised greens and mushrooms were amazing” – although the dish was a bit salty for both of them.

I had the Smoked Cheddar Stuffed Meatloaf and found the flavors to be extremely rich and flavorful, exactly what is needed in a quintessential comfort food dish.

The Double Burger at City Bar & Grille

With any group, not every dish is perfect. Steve thought the “meatloaf was overdone and dry” and Drew thought his meal was “average.”

Unlike its predecessor, City Bar & Grille has a full liquor license with Stephanie adding the “beer and cocktail list was also quite extensive.”

Definitely Going Back

Our large table might have been a bit overwhelming for our server, but she did a great job getting us our food and keeping up with drink orders. Food out of the kitchen at City Bar & Grille was a bit on the slow side, but we understand our group is large and the restaurant is still getting its’ legs underneath itself.

Overall we were pleased and think the City Bar & Grille is exactly what they want it to be… a comfortable neighborhood spot for great food, at a good price. Many added they will be back! City Bar & Grille is located 395 Chandler Street in Worcester. They have a large off-street parking lot making it convenient to get in and out.

Reunion Tap & Table Brings New Dining Options to…

Worcester’s restaurant renaissance has received a lot of media attention the past few years, and rightfully so, as we have always noted. But let’s face it, Worcester isn’t the only area taking their restaurant game to the next level. And as a group, the Worcester Foodies are always up for a new adventure.

The Reunion Tap & Table in Grafton, MA opened a few months back to many rave reviews. Newly built, it is the brainchild of the Briggs brothers, Josh and Shawn and their business partner Sargon Hanna. If the Briggs name sounds familiar, it may be through their other business, Wicked Twisted Pretzels. Wicked Twisted Pretzels are distributed to many local and national grocery stores, restaurants and breweries. For good measure the team brought on food veteran Gary Benacquista, to run operations.

So, what are two pretzel-making brothers doing opening a full-service restaurant? As Josh explained, “We thought the area was a bit underserved and we could bring a new experience to the area. And we thought it would be fun…,” he added.

The experience, as described by the owners “is a place to relax, enjoy great American comfort food that is prepared fresh every day, with a menu of “elevated American Fare”. We were anxious to give it a try!

Walking into Reunion Tap & Table, the first thing you notice is the design and décor with warm rich wood, distressed metals, and exceptional tile work. The contemporary design is open and provides clean lines throughout with lots of attention to detail that really catches your eye. As Stephanie commented, “The interior was really beautiful, rustic yet refined with the coziness of a log cabin”. Evan found it “comfortable…a modern rustic chic that makes you feel at home”.

Entering the restaurant, the dining area is set to the left and lounge area to the right. These spaces are separated by a service walkway that creates two distinct spaces to enjoy.

The menu is subdued offering a variety of choices but not so many options that it is overwhelming. There are choices to satisfy any mood, from light and casual salads, burgers, comfort classics such as Bratwurst and Fish & Chips, to a Roasted Red Pepper Cavatelli or all out with a NY Prime Sirloin or Maple Brined Pork Chop.

We all arrived and were seated immediately as our server began the process of taking drink and app orders. Shawn, one of the owners came over and introduced himself. He chatted about how the restaurant came to be, told us a bit about Wicked Twisted Pretzel and thanked us for coming.

Soon drinks and apps arrived. As a table we shared the Fried Calamari, a well-appointed Cheese Board, a warm, soft Wicked Twisted Pretzel and the Pork Belly Poutine. The tartar aioli on the calamari was a big hit that Steph commented was “amazing, tangy, with a bit of heat that was very enjoyable” Evan was particularly fond of the Pork Belly Poutine announcing “the large chunks of juicy pork belly helped throw this dish over the top. I was actually so captivated by the pork belly that I ordered the Jumbo Mac and Cheese with an addition of pork belly for my meal”. Wine, beer and cider came to the table to help round out the beginning portion of our meal.

The table ordered a variety of main courses, all looking impressive and well plated when arriving at the table. David said, “The Lamb Gyro was made with freshly marinated lamb which came in a large pita with a generous portion of Mea and toppings.  As a side, I opted for the salad which was a nice accompaniment to the Gyro”.

Stephanie enthusiastically offered “For my entree I settle on the Prime Sirloin. While it was the priciest option on the menu ($27), it was well worth it. The 10 oz steak was cooked perfectly and paired great with the heaping pile of mashed potatoes and mushrooms. This was no small meal! I will say for me personally, this was a tougher cut of steak than I’d like as I normally prefer something a little fattier like a ribeye, but that being said, it was seasoned great and very hearty”.

Julie ordered the Caesar Salad topped with Grilled Salmon. “The salad was large and fresh accompanied with an authentic dressing. The thick cut salmon was cooked perfectly, you could tell the fish was fresh.”

Personally, I had the Reunion Burger which was am 8oz. chuck patty topped with Tillamook cheddar, bacon and pickles. It was perfectly cooked and served with house-made chips that added the perfect amount of salt to compliment the cheddar and pickles of the burger. This was one of the best burgers I have had in a while.

For dessert, we shared the Black & White Chocolate cake and the Citrus Cheesecake. Both were plentiful and the perfect ending to a great meal.

Overall our experience at the Reunion Tap & Table was excellent with many of us making plans to revisit! Reunion Tap & Table is located at 198 Worcester Street (Rte 122) in Grafton MA.

Maddi’s Cookery + TapHouse Adds to Canal District Dining…

Maddi’s Cookery + TapHouse has been on the Worcester Foodies’ radar since opening, with some of our members having tried it and others waiting to have their first visit with our group.

Adam Hicks, owner of the Depot St Tavern in Milford, MA felt Worcester’s busy new food scene would be the perfect place to open what he described as “a classic neighborhood pub” to the Canal District.

With that in mind, Hicks persuaded award-winning chef Chris O’Hara (2018 Worcester’s Best Chef, Worcester’s Chili & Chowder Fest winner) to leave the Flying Rhino and join him on his adventure. O’Hara, who has been part of the Worcester dining scene for over 20 years, is leaning on that experience to build a creative but approachable menu ranging from Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and Stick E. Bacon starters, to ½ pound burgers, to Shrimp and Grits and Bloody Mary Steak Frites.

Located at 64 Water Street (old Perfect Game space) in the ever-changing Canal District, Maddi’s interior uses exposed brick, reclaimed wood and hand-built furniture to create a semi-industrial neighborhood pub atmosphere that is welcoming and relaxing. As Lynn described it “I loved the décor and vibe”. Take the creative menu, the décor and add 20 beers on tap, a nice selection of whiskeys and an outdoor patio that seats 100 and Maddi’s has something for everyone.

Once we all arrived we sat at a large table in the back dining room of the restaurant. This room, complete with a bar, huge TVs and lots of Worcester-related décor is a nice, comfortable space to enjoy dinner. Popular appetizers were the Buffalo Chicken Meatballs (chicken meatballs, fennel apple slaw, poblano ranch dressing, topped with home-made buffalo sauce) and the Stick E. Bacon (thick cut Applewood-smoked bacon,srirachaa, brown sugar).

Our initial service was prompt, with our table being assigned a few different servers. Drink and app orders were taken as our group reviewed the extensive menu. With only a few items on the menu approaching $20, the choices were plenty for an affordable dinner.

Steve started his night with the aforementioned Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, as well as sharing the BBQ Chicken Poutine which he described as “amazing”.

Robyn enjoyed the “Wings your Way” to start, offering, “the dry rubbed wings were a great combination of spicy and sweet (and had quite a zing to them).”

A variety of drinks were served during as we enjoyed the appetizers. Lynn found the Fall Drink Special – a caramel apple sangria – to be “spot on and very tasty.”

Meals were served and interestingly enough, the Fried Chicken and Waffle was the choice for many of the Foodies.

Evan told us, “It was a perfect balance of spicy and sweet in each bite. Plenty spicy but not over the top. The cheddar bacon waffle is homemade and was flavorful and moist. The best part was the jalepeno infused maple syrup that added the sweetness and subtle lingering heat after each bite. To top it all off, literally, was a sunny side up egg. The yolk added a creamy texture of richness of the meal”. Robyn echoed most sentiments saying her Chicken and Waffles were “crisp and spicy, with a nice jalepeno syrup.”

Dana thought the Chicken and Waffles were “excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed it”. The syrup added heat and cut the sweet of the syrup perfectly and balanced the overall flavor very well”.

Stephanie had a mixed take on her meal. “For my meal,” she explained, “I ordered the Scallops and Grits. The meal itself was average and a bit pricey. The scallops are charred to the point of being overdone and the polenta was more of a cement like texture than I would like.” But she added, “The buffalo wing appetizer was large and the wings were drenched in a nice spicy sauce. The flavor was delicious…I also had bites of the Stick E. Bacon and Poutine, which were fabulous.”

“We started with the Red Pepper Hummus which had lots of flavor and was delicious. For my meal, I had a huge beet salad with plump enormous shrimp, very tasty, plenty of food. The herbed goat cheese was smooth and creamy and added very unique texture to the salad,” said Julie.

For the author’s meal, I had the Teriyaki Turkey Tips and found them to be outstanding. They were plentiful and served over a coconut black rice that was moist and delicious. The broccolini and mango salsa added some additional flavors and textures that made the meal complete.

Lynn and Julie felt like their experience was good with “attentive service and good food at a reasonable price.”

As with so many places our group visits, there were lots of good and a few that just missed the mark. Overall the Foodies thought Maddi’s Cookery and TapHouse delivered an above average meal, with great service.

Julie summed it up well, “Maddi’s is a comfortable, neighborhood pub in the Canal District that serves good food with a twist at reasonable prices.”

The Worcester Foodies group meeting for their 86th consecutive month, this time at 110 Grill in Worcester, MA.

Worcester Foodies Adds 110 Grill To Their List For…

Worcester’s downtown renaissance has garnered a lot of well-deserved media attention lately. A few years back the Galleria Shopping Mall was torn down and Front Street was reconnected to the downtown area making room for the City Square revitalization project. New upscale hotels like the AC Marriott have opened, 145 Front Street built 230 brand new luxury apartments, new retail outlets have opened and yes…a new restaurant has moved in!

Chef’s Plate at Worcester's 110 Grill (A MEDLEY OF ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS, TZATZIKI SAUCE, FIG JAM, CANDIED WALNUTS, RED GRAPES, ARTICHOKES, OLIVES, ROASTED RED PEPPERS AND CUCUMBERS, ACCOMPANIED BY GRILLED CIABATTA AND WARMED NAAN BREAD.)
Chef’s Plate at Worcester’s 110 Grill (A MEDLEY OF ROASTED RED PEPPER HUMMUS, TZATZIKI SAUCE, FIG JAM, CANDIED WALNUTS, RED GRAPES, ARTICHOKES, OLIVES, ROASTED RED PEPPERS AND CUCUMBERS, ACCOMPANIED BY GRILLED CIABATTA AND WARMED NAAN BREAD.)

Right smack in the middle of downtown – right beside the aforementioned AC Marriott – sits the 110 Grill. This brand new, 7,000 square-foot restaurant opened in May 2018 and the Foodies recently made it the location of their latest gathering.

The Foodies have stayed away from chain restaurants, but the 110 Grill is a bit different. It is a smaller, localized chain, having opened their first restaurant in Chelmsford, MA in 2015. Since then they have added 13 other locations with Worcester being the latest addition. Everyone was excited to try their take on Modern American Cuisine.

The restaurant has a large, bright lounge area with a nice 30 seat U-shaped bar, a great selection of craft beers and an impressive wine list. The open kitchen overlooks the dining area and there is a small function room that can be utilized for larger parties, meetings and special events. Outside there is a very cool outdoor patio and fire pit that was bustling on the beautiful summer evening we visited.

The Worcester Foodies group meeting for their 86th consecutive month, this time at 110 Grill in Worcester, MA.
The Worcester Foodies group meeting for their 86th consecutive month, this time at 110 Grill in Worcester, MA.

The overall feel of the restaurant is one of casual elegance. Warm rich wood, contemporary details, open and clean visual lines. When you walk in, you immediately feel comfortable and welcome. As Lindsay put it, “Big windows along the front of the restaurant allow you to overlook some of downtown Worcester’s new sights. I can’t wait to spend and evening on the patio trying some options from the cocktail menu”. Stephanie added, “I was born and raised in Worcester and I really enjoy seeing my City grow and thrive.

Evan described the menu at the 110 Grill as “fresh takes on some American Classics.” Both the lunch and dinner menus are extensive, with lots of choices to satisfy any mood, from light and casual salads, burgers, comfort classics such as Meatloaf or Mac & Cheese, to pasta and fish dishes or all out with a NY Sirloin or Rib Eye Steak.

Crispy Fried Pickle Chips from 110 Grill in Worcester, MA (CRISPY DILL PICKLE CHIPS, SERVED WITH HONEY MUSTARD AND SRIRACHA AIOLI DIPPING SAUCES.)
Crispy Fried Pickle Chips from 110 Grill in Worcester, MA (CRISPY DILL PICKLE CHIPS, SERVED WITH HONEY MUSTARD AND SRIRACHA AIOLI DIPPING SAUCES.)

We all arrived and were seated immediately as our server began the process of taking drink and app orders. The restaurant’s GM Patrick McClelland was kind enough to send over some chef’s tastings before our meals. The large plates, made up of a medley of roasted red pepper hummus, tzatziki sauce, fig jam, candied walnuts, grapes, artichokes, olives and grilled naan, set the bar very high. Looking down the long high-top table it seemed everyone enjoyed these starters as a variety of drinks including bourbons, draught beers, wines and more were brought to the table.

The table also ordered a number of other appetizers. Robyn thought “the apps were excellent. The Deep-fried Pickles were cooked perfectly and came with two unique dipping sauces. The Calamari was crispy outside and tender and hot inside. But her favorite app was the Hot Crab Dip, something she said, “I will order again when I return.”

On to the main courses…

Chicken Pesto Pasta from 110 Grill in Worcester, MA (PAN-SEARED CHICKEN, ROASTED TOMATOES, ARTICHOKES AND CAVATAPPI PASTA, TOSSED IN A CREAMY PESTO SAUCE AND FINISHED WITH SHAVED REGGIANO.)
Chicken Pesto Pasta from 110 Grill in Worcester, MA (PAN-SEARED CHICKEN, ROASTED TOMATOES, ARTICHOKES AND CAVATAPPI PASTA, TOSSED IN A CREAMY PESTO SAUCE AND FINISHED WITH SHAVED REGGIANO.)

The Pesto Pasta, either with chicken or without, was a popular choice. Evan said, “The Chicken Pesto Pasta was seasoned beautifully, with the pesto fresh and large shavings of cheese abundant on top.” Julie thought it was “delicious and huge, plenty big enough to serve two people.”

Amanda had the Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad along with The Grilled Salmon. She thought “the salmon was cooked perfectly, very tender and flaky. The salad was colorful and crisp, and the variety of ingredients really complemented each other well.” She also tried a taste of the BBQ Pork Mac & Cheese and added “it was amazing.”

Steve reiterated Amanda’s thoughts on the BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese saying, “it was very tasty and something I would absolutely order again.”

“The Cuban Swordfish was fantastic,” said Dana. The blackened swordfish was well seasoned and grilled perfectly with a nice char. The black bean, corn and rice salad came with sour cream and refreshing citrus flavors that countered the blackened fish nicely,” he added.

Anna had Salmon dish as well saying, “the food was tasty – my 110 Salmon was substantial in size, cooked perfectly and served over a bed of chilled noodles making it the perfect dish for a hot summer night.”

110 Sesame Ginger Salmon at 110 Grill in downtown Worcester, MA (PAN-SEARED SALMON OVER MARINATED CHILLED SOBA NOODLES, TOSSED WITH ASIAN SLAW AND SESAME GINGER DRESSING, TOPPED WITH SESAME SEEDS AND FINISHED WITH SRIRACHA AIOLI.)
110 Sesame Ginger Salmon at 110 Grill in downtown Worcester, MA (PAN-SEARED SALMON OVER MARINATED CHILLED SOBA NOODLES, TOSSED WITH ASIAN SLAW AND SESAME GINGER DRESSING, TOPPED WITH SESAME SEEDS AND FINISHED WITH SRIRACHA AIOLI.)

Personally, I had one of 110 Grill’s “signature dishes” – the 110 Meatloaf. The beef, pork and veal combination was tender, moist and flavorful. Crispy onion strings were added on top to add texture and the Sriracha sauce gave the dish a spicy kick that completed the dish.

Stephanie had the meatloaf also, we exchanged notes and both felt the dish was outstanding. She added, “the meatloaf was tender and the Sriracha sauce added a nice sweet & spicy heat. The accompanying potatoes were creamy and well-seasoned as well.”

The 110 Grill staff was outstanding. As noted previously, the restaurant’s GM was highly attentive and personable, and not just at our table. I watched him great guests, deliver food and in general, lend a hand wherever needed. The support staff and servers were always close by, food service was outstanding and food quality was very high.

Drew re-capped what most everyone was saying when we finished our meals by adding, “I liked everything about the 110 Grill. The ambience, service and food were all very good. A step up from the usual chain restaurant and a solid anchor for the revitalized downtown area.”

Overall our experience at the 110 Grill was excellent with many of us making plans to revisit, especially during the warmer months to enjoy the patio!

Simjang – American-Korean Flavors in the Heart of Worcester

One of Worcester’s most anticipated restaurant openings was this past spring as simjang opened their doors in March on Shrewsbury Street, in the space that once housed Sweet Kitchen + Bar.

The name simjang comes from combining a few Korean words – Sim for “heart” and Jang for the concept of the “world around us.” Executive Chef and Co-owner Jared Forman (deadhorse hill) and Chef de Cuisine Mike Wenc have led the team since the opening and the Foodies were anxious to try the latest addition to the always changing Worcester restaurant scene.

Simjang has been well received by the community at large. Having spoken to many about their experience, most people have found the menu to be a bit intimidating at first but after some explanation by a well-trained staff, feel comfortable enough to go outside their comfort zone and enjoy some traditional Korean ingredients, flavors, and dishes.

The layout of the space itself hasn’t changed since Sweet was there, the big industrial-styled dining room and the open view of the kitchen are basically the same. The décor has been updated to fit the contemporary theme of the restaurant and our Foodie sister Amy tells us, the brightly colored painted mural behind the bar (by POW! WOW! Worcester muralist Arlin Graff) is meant to reflect the meaning behind the name simjang. The mural is beautifully vibrant and sets the tone for what to expect from the food!

Once we all arrived we were seated immediately and our server (Joy) began the process of taking drink and app orders. To start, we were served a delightful plate of kimchi-style pickled small tastes which were well received by the group. Looking down the long table I saw a variety of drinks from bourbons to fanciful, tall sweet drinks with a few Narragansett Tall Boys mixed in for good measure.

The shareable chicken wings and thighs seemed to be a popular way to start the evening’s activities. “The miso-soy garlic chicken thighs were some of the most delicious “wings” I’ve ever tasted. The sauce made you want to take another bite, and the skin was super crispy, while the tender chicken on the interior was moist and flavorful. This item alone is enough to bring me back for more,” said Evan.

Apps complete, the main dishes began to arrive. Amy offered, “I ordered the Kimchijeon (scallion kimchi pancake) and was not disappointed. The size was substantial and offered hearty pieces of pickled muscle giving the pancake a true level of distinction and robust flavor! Scott ordered the same meal and thought it was “delicious” as well!

Robyn ordered the Mulgogi (whole fish) which was served with green empress, daikon, apple, fried shallot and cashews and she described “…it was amazing and something I would go back and order again. It was flavorful and cooked to flaky perfection.

Evan offered that simjang was “innovative Korean-American fusion with menu items that are unique in their own right but familiar enough to take a chance and order something delicious. For my meal, I ordered the Bibimbap with Pork Belly which was a delightfully bright dish with fresh veggies, a fabulous textured creation with the crispy rice, and a fried egg to top it all off. The pork belly was rich and fatty, like the best bacon on steroids you could eat. All in all, one of my best restaurant experiences from start to finish in a long time”.

Julie was very enthusiastic, “The Nuri buttered rice was uniquely delicious and really a meal unto itself. I also had the haemul jjigae (spicy seafood stew) which was served piping-hot and full of flavorful fish, scallops, and shrimp. The spice brought the dish to a different level”.

Stephanie added, “I went way out of my comfort zone and the staff and chef made every accommodation possible because of my food allergies. The Pineapple Fried Rice is a must try and absolutely fabulous”.

“The food was fantastic, a delicious mix of flavors with great tastes. I do think the portion sizes of my meal were on the small side. I had the pork rib special and thought it was appetizer sized for the main dish,” said Dana.

Personally, I had the Nori rice and the Bibimbap and found both to be tremendous. The fatty, melt in your mouth pork belly, combined with the crispy fried rice and fried egg made a flavor-packed, fulfilling comfort-food meal that left me wanting to return.

To the person, we all felt the service was outstanding. Our server Joy was very attentive, knew the menu very well and had great input about choices. As it happens with our larger group, some meals arrived very late to the table but we will chalk that up to the size of our group.

Overall we were incredibly pleased with our experience at simjang and many of us made a point to say we will definitely return to try some new items.

Dacosta’s Pizza – Neapolitan-style pizza, Pasta and …. Ping…

Since Dacosta’s Pizza Bakery opened it’s made a big impact on the food scene in Worcester. Best known for their pizza made in a Neapolitan style wood fired oven, the menu has continually evolved and now includes more appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, a long list of entrees and desserts. It’s BYOB. Everything is scratch made (you can look into the dough room and watch the pizza dough being made). The pizzas have funny names (Go Fig Yourself and Uncle Toney’s Roni’s just to name a few). The Dacosta’s Facebook page is slightly off kilter. And now they have added a huge game room filled with ping pong tables, wall murals, vintage video games, stadium seating and places to enjoy your food while you play a few games. Rumor has it bubble hockey is on the way too.

With all that, the Foodies were excited to visit Dacosta’s in January to taste, laugh and even play some ping pong.

Located discreetly on Millbrook Street, when you walk into this BYOB restaurant you might be surprised by the sheer size of the place. It’s a wide open industrial space with a cool vibe, high ceilings and big open kitchen which displays the main attraction – the brightly tiled, wood-fired, 850-degree pizza oven.

Speaking of the oven, Marc Felicio, the owner of Dacosta’s Pizza Bakery explained it weighs 6,000lbs, was built by acclaimed oven maker Stefano Ferara in Naples, Italy and can cook a pizza in around two minutes. It’s also used to cook up some of the other items included on the menu.

The evening started with some apps being ordered and passed around our group including the Arancini risotto balls, fried artichokes and a spicy, R.I.-styled Calamari. Julie commented “We started by sharing a huge order of the fried artichokes which came lightly fried, tender and served with a slightly spicy, cilantro/fresno aioli dipping sauce. Everyone really enjoyed this dish.”

From there the entrees began to arrive. Dana offered. “I had the Chicken Picatta with broccolini. The portion size was good, two large chicken breasts with a ton of capers, and the sauce was excellent. Overall, a very tasty dish I’d have again.”

“As the waitress was walking out with my Mushroom Sally pizza, I could smell the white truffle oil and my mouth instantly started watering,” said Kelsey. “This pie was topped with Fontina cheese, wood-fired mushrooms, roasted garlic and fresh oregano. I’m not lying it was the best pizza I’ve ever had,” she exclaimed.

Robyn ordered the Chicken Marsala and seemed to be very happy with her choice. “The chicken was pounded flat and very tender and was served with a very rich mushroom gravy. They easily swapped out the potatoes for the roasted Brussel sprouts and bacon for me. Excellent meal and can’t wait to go back.”

“The wood-fired chicken wings are my favorite dish on the menu. Some people order them as an appetizer, I order them for my meal,” said Joe. “They are marinated in lemon, olive oil, garlic and rosemary, then cooked crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, outstanding!”

Stephanie’s Buffalo Chicken pizza was topped with celery, an ingredient she is allergic to and something not listed on the menu. Frustrated she picked it off and thought “the pizza was OK, not the best. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t go to Dacosta’s again’” she added.

Lynn was impressed. “I love the unique options of pizza Dacosta’s offers, they have a gluten free crust which I tried out of curiosity and to my surprise it was delicious! The wings have great flavor and are some of the best in Worcester,” she added.

Evan enjoyed his pizza adding “With handmade pizza adorning the menu from top to bottom, you will have a hard time choosing which pie to get. The pizza was delicious as the sweet red sauce seeped from each bite. The crust was thin and crispy and the toppings were fresh and plentiful.” He also commented “Dacosta’s provides a vibrant and entertaining space that can accommodate anyone from the businessman to a college student and anyone in between.”

The “build your own” pizza menu offers a Red base (hand crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella), a White base (herb-infused olive oil, fresh mozzarella) or a Green base (pesto spread, fresh mozzarella). Then add more cheese, protein and veggies to finish off your custom-built pie. Another interesting twist to the pizza menu is each quarter Dacosta’s will feature 20 specialty pies. The top 15 sellers will remain on the menu, the bottom 5 will be replaced keeping the menu updated with some new options each quarter.

Let’s talk ping pong. Felicio had a vision to create something at Dacosta’s that would engage people beyond just the food. A place you could hang out, enjoy the food and have a real fun experience. So in January, he opened the game room – another huge open space, with freshly painted, colorful wall murals, ping pong tables and vintage 1980’s video games. The evening we visited we were told there will be more additions to the game room. Some of our group went in and played. One Foodie seemed to get the better of everyone at ping pong…. And another set a high total at one of the video games!

Overall Dacosta’s Pizza Bakery was well received by our group and we definitely enjoyed our time there. Many diners that night talked about coming back to try new items on the menu! Dacosta’s is located on Millbrook Street in Worcester. It is BYOB and always busy. They do take out and offer delivery. Give it a try, we think you will like it.

Worcester Foodies group at Tatnuck Grille in Worcester, MA

Tatnuck Bar & Grille – A Few Surprises in…

Jamie and Aaron are two of the newest members of our Foodies group, and on their recommendation, we ventured into the Tatnuck Bar & Grille to taste what they have called their “go to spot for a casual meal”.

Located in Tatnuck Plaza, in the heart of Tatnuck Square, the Tatnuck Grille advertises itself as….“A neighborhood bar and grille that offers the best in American Cuisine”. The tables, booths and large bar area make it feel very much like a neighborhood pub. It also seemed like many at the bar knew each other making it feel very comfortable. The menu is big, with lots of choices including a variety of appetizers, soups, pasta dishes, burgers, salads, seafood and more. The night we visited they had a number of dinner specials as well.

Once we all arrived we sat at a large table towards the front of the restaurant. As Stephanie recalled “…One of the nicest things, despite our large group, was the large square table they set for us that allowed everyone to converse freely.”

Our initial service was prompt, with our table being assigned a few different servers. Drink and app orders were taken as our group perused the large menu. With only a few items on the menu approaching $20, the choices were plenty for an affordable dinner. Our end of the table was intrigued by the “Build Your Own Pasta” option that allowed for six different types of sauces to mix with six different proteins.

Julie started her night with a shrimp cocktail which she said had “large, fresh shrimp, with a nice spicy cocktail sauce.” Since she didn’t finish them all, they were passed around to be gobbled up the others!

“I ordered the Pollo alla Marsala from a section of the menu curiously titled, “The Chicken Farm.” The dish featured a flavorful sauce made with real Marsala and carefully browned mushrooms,” commented Sarah who seemed pleased with her choice!

David was impressed and offered “Having never been to the Tatnuck Grille I was pleasantly surprised with the menu, friendly staff and food selections. I opted for a seafood combo that included stuffed shrimp, large scallops, and a nice-sized piece of haddock. All of the seafood was fresh and tasty and served with homemade butternut squash and a baked potato.”

“The Chicken Marsala was very flavorful and the chicken was cooked perfectly. The portion size was enough for two meals! Definitely worth the price,” said Amanda.

Both Aaron and Will commented on the superb homemade Sangria saying “…it was some of the best Sangria they had ever had.”

Lynn and Drew felt like their experience was good with “attentive service and good food at a reasonable price.”

Along with the positives came a few negatives that couldn’t be overlooked. Donna was “super disappointed in my meal. I ordered the special “bruschetta steak” which was a steak with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and balsamic glaze. The best thing about this dish was the balsamic glaze because the steak was overcooked and that was the only flavor that came through.”

And Stephanie added “I was bit disappointed when they told me (15 minutes after ordering) that they “were out of haddock”. Because of certain dietary restrictions, I carefully plan my meal in advance. The way this was handled was a bit rude in my opinion, but once I was able to calm down and take a second look at the menu, I opted for the Baked Stuff Sole. It was excellent and perfect for something lighter. The fish was baked perfectly and the stuffing was filling and delicious. I opted for a side salad, which was beautiful! There were so many different colors and vegetables, it was more than your average side salad and the vegetables were fresh and crisp! Despite the original hiccup with my order, I was pleasantly surprised overall.”

So as with many places our group visits, there were good and not so good experiences.

Lynn summed it up well saying “Tatnuck is a great place to go when you get home after a long day and don’t feel like cooking.” I think most would agree, Tatnuck Grille is a good choice for casual, affordable, pub-style food in the Tatnuck neighborhood.

La Terraza Brings Authentic Mexican to Park Avenue in…

November brought the Foodies to La Terraza on the recommendation of Stephanie – our resident Mexican food and Taco expert! And what a great choice it ended up being as we found out what so many people had already discovered…. authentic Mexican food on Park Ave. in Worcester.

With no disrespect to the other fine Mexican restaurants in Central Massachusetts, La Terraza says what makes them different is the style of food they offer and the way they grill the meats on the cast iron grill. A bit of a language barrier prevented me from getting more information from the chef, plus I was preventing her from preparing the many orders she had in front of her. After getting in her way long enough, some of my Foodie friends told me to sit and order (which I did happily)!

We sat at a big communal table, our drink order was taken and the servers brought over baskets of tortilla chips, a bean dip and a salsa verde with nice kick! Looking down the table at our group it seemed like everyone’s dinner had gotten off to a great start.

The menu offered pretty much everything you would expect a Mexican restaurant to have, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, mole and more plus a nice selection of grilled steaks and chicken served in a variety of ways. ,Our server was quick to point out that everything is hand made from fresh ingredients, using some “old school” recipes that add a few twists to some of the traditional menu items.

Amanda and Julie started their night by sharing the Queso Fundido which they described as “….more like a meal than an appetizer, prepared more traditionally than what is usually found in Worcester.

Joe thought the “fish tacos were great, so good in fact I got a second order! The tortillas were nice and fresh, plenty of perfectly cooked, tender white fish and the sauces added such a nice flavor and kick. And you couldn’t beat the price,” he said.

Stephanie commented “Despite not being able to enjoy the tortillas or rice (this time because of some dietary restrictions), the shrimp fajitas I had were delicious! The vegetables specifically were the highlight of the meal because they were seasoned very well and cooked perfectly.”

“La Terrazza offers you a sneak peek into authentic Mexican cuisine. The service was extremely welcoming and made you feel right at home. The burrito was massive, the ingredients were flavorful and seasoned perfectly. The freshly made rice and beans were a nice side dish to make the dinner complete,” said Evan.

Amy offered this…. “The complimentary bean dip before dinner was amazing and a nice change of pace from traditional salsa or guacamole. La Terraza had a homey feel to it, and my Carnitas were tender and full of flavor.”

“I had the vegetarian burrito, which was by far the most flavorful and fresh burrito I have had in the city,” said Julie. “The variety of veggies was surprising, mushrooms, peppers and broccoli to name a few. And the salsa was the flavorful and spicy, delicious,” she added.

When the weather allows, there is a big covered patio and although it sits right on Park Avenue it looks like a spot that would be a great place for some chips, guacamole and an ice cold margaritas.

From what we could see, everyone at La Terraza is filled with passion for what they do, from the servers to chef, and it really shows in the final product. If you didn’t know the restaurant was there, you might drive right by it, but don’t. It is certainly no frills, but if you like Mexican food, you will really enjoy La Terraza!

Kummerspeck Brings Comfort Food to New Level

Throughout most of 2017, the food scene in Worcester anxiously awaited the opening of a new restaurant called Kummerspeck. No one really knew how to pronounce the name, or what it meant. Word on the street was the place would also have a retail delicatessen, as well as being home to a full-service butcher shop.

Well….Kummerspeck finally did open, we learned how to pronounce the name (koo-mir-speck) and what the name meant – “Grief-Bacon” in German (although the restaurant does not feature German food). In more cultural terms, the name means “the weight gained from emotional eating” as their website so aptly tells us.

And in October the Foodies visited to sample from the eclectic, ever changing menu of comfort food and understand what this restaurant was all about.

Located at 118 Water Street in Worcester’s revitalized Canal District, Kummerspeck offers a tribute to traditional European dishes, accompanied by many American classics, all delivered with a Kummerspeck twist. And because they rely heavily on locally-sourced ingredients, it allows them to create new dishes every day, based on what is available, keeping the menu fresh.

“The menu choices were so unique,” said Lynn. “My choice for dinner was a sophisticated, elevated version of chicken pot pie that had Brussels sprouts in it and was one of the best I’ve ever had,” she added.

Amy commented “The Steak Frites were tender and seasoned perfectly- not overly seasoned or salty- and drizzled with a wonderful horseradish sauce that was balanced with a little bit of sweetness and heat”.

“My duck dinner was one of the best duck dishes I have ever had, said Evan. “The skin was rich, fatty and crispy on the edges. The duck was cooked perfectly medium and well-seasoned. The crispy fried kale gave a sense of health to the meal, minus the fried part. While the duck was on the pricier end of the scale ($32), there is something to say about the old adage ‘of you get what you pay for’. This amazing meal was worth every cent”.

Robyn ordered the Rib Eye and was not disappointed. “The rib eye was cooked exactly how I had ordered it. Tender and flavorful and the perfect accompaniment to the butter-roasted Brussels sprouts”. She also enjoyed the access to the butcher adding, “I loved talking to the head butcher, she was very informative and willing to share her knowledge of the meats from the shop and restaurant”.

During this Foodies’ visit the Shrimp and Grits, Steak Frites and Duck seemed popular choices but everyone felt the diverse menu offered something for everyone.

“For dinner, I ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which was incredible! The grits were prepared perfectly and were spicy and cheesy. The shrimp was tender and paired well with the grits. I felt as though I had been transported down south. It was a meal I would absolutely get again”, offered Stephanie.

The staff at Kummerspeck renovated the space to their liking, right down to the height of the butcher’s countertop, and the build out, butcher shop and bar area did not go unnoticed to the Foodies.

“The aroma of the space was intoxicating as the meat is all prepared and cooked there,” said Stephanie.

“Kummerspeck is brand new to Worcester, so the deep sense of familiarity I felt during my visit was surprising in many respects. Uncanny two-tone soup crocks and nostalgic dishes of my youth instantly transported me back to my grandmother’s kitchen,” said Sarah.

“The bar is easily going to become a great local hangout and the deli case was stocked with fresh items for carry-out”, said Amy.

Kummerspeck is a hybrid concept offering a butcher shop, delicatessen, restaurant and bar. The beverage program features local craft beer, cider and spirit offerings. In speaking with everyone that night you get the sense the team really wants to educate, serve and create a unique and outstanding experience. We think they are well on their way!

This writer thinks Drew summed up most of the Foodies experience with his comments…. “Food was excellent.  Service was attentive.  Ambiance was f&*!-ing ridiculous. I would go again…”

Finding Sushi that Hits the Spot at Yama Zakura

You can’t talk about sushi in this area without somebody bringing up Yama Zakura. This month, the Foodies visited and found that Yama lives up to all of that hype.

Tucked in an unassuming strip mall in Northborough (369 W Main St), Yama delivers….and delivers big on the promise of beautiful, creative and delicious sushi and other Asian Fusion cuisine.

“Yama’s presentation was literally of work of edible art,” Evan said. When the sushi was served, there was a moment of awe during which the foodies found it almost too pretty to eat. But, in true foodie style, the group dove in and tried a little bit of everything.

“Sure, you can get traditional standards like sashimi and lots of sushi rolls, but Yama’s menu includes so many other mouthwatering offerings,” said Evan. “The tempura shrimp of the Rock-n-Roll roll had a wonderful texture to it, while the sauce and flavors of the Blondie roll made me wish I had gotten a second one,” he added.

Joe enjoyed a variety of Sashimi including the Sake, Hotatega and Hamachi, and noted it was very fresh. “I tasted a few other items on our table including the buttery smooth Hamachi Kama. Very well done,” he said.

David, not new to Yama Zakura, noted the restaurant “never disappoints and as always the sushi rolls were fresh, creative, and offer a complexity that are masterful creations with the freshest ingredients,” he said.

Patrick tried different sushi rolls and sashimi also noting “The rolls were delicious, especially the Belichick Roll, and the maguro sashimi was fantastic!”

Julie noted the large portion size of the roll left her so much, she was giving some away. “I got the Jaxson Maxi in a soy wrap, it was spicy tuna and cucumber topped with seared shrimp, baked crab meat, panko and spicy Zakura sauce. The shrimp and crab topping was delicious, I just wish they had put a little more crab meat, I was trying hard to find any but the shrimp was great!” Julie said.

Others tried some different appetizers and entrees also on Yama Zakura’s menu.

“I had the fried gyoza to start and they were cooked nicely, with a nice balance of dumpling and pork filling,” Dana said. “For dinner I had the Bourbon Beef Tips, with mixed vegetables and ginger. Everything was cooked nicely and the ginger was a nice counter to the slightly sweet beef tips.”

Robyn found her order of Chilean Sea Bass a bit small for the 10 ounces it was advertised as on the menu. “While the sea bass was cooked to perfection with a nice char along the top, I thought the quantity was no were near 10 ounces, more on the lines of 4 ounces. It was a pretty small amount of fish for a dinner meal I thought,” Robyn said. She did say she’d recommend the place for sushi, though.

Overall, the Foodies found Yama Zakura definitely lived up to the hype as one of the best sushi spots around.

Importantly, Patrick noted that Yama’s take-out menu is on par with their dine-in experience. Good to know!