Five Spots for Cold-Pressed Juice in Worcester

Let me begin by saying there is no shame in pledging your devotion to team-juice or team-smoothie. Both allow you the benefits of consuming raw plants, thereby supplying your body with essential nutrients and fiber. I will warn that certain smoothies can include large doses of peanut butter, frozen yogurt, and even ice cream. Cold-pressed juice on the other hand, is an easy way to get vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in one sitting without the risk of additives.

Where can you get cold-pressed juice in Worcester? Here are a few of my go-to spots.

Bedlam Book Cafe
Bedlam’s juice bar features a wide variety of tasty combinations to get you to the next chapter of your day. The owners believe our bodies and minds are closely linked. Their list is forever changing, but I am partial to “Summer Ginsberg on Green St.” featuring cucumber, spinach, apple, and celery.

Steam Energy Cafe
Steam Energy Cafe cold-presses all of its juices using a Goodnature CT7 Juicer—a hydraulic press that extracts liquid without heat or oxygen in order to harness all of the nutrients often emitted by others. Steam is proud to share that its juices are not pressurized or pasteurized. Treat yourself to a “strawberry patch” made with strawberry, celery, cucumber, lime, ginger, and mint.

NU Kitchen
“Nu” is meant to evoke the French term for “naked.” At NU Kitchen, juices are designed to strip away unnatural ingredients and showcase tall glasses of vibrant fuel for your hardworking body. “Vita C” combines orange, pineapple, ginger, and carrot, while the “sweet beach” refreshes with pineapple, apple, cucumber, and mint.

Fuel America
Fuel is conveniently located on the northeast corner of the Worcester Common. With spectacular wifi and plenty of comfortable seating options, Fuel has quickly become a popular spot for downtown meetings throughout the workday. The “green machine” will get you through your jam-packed afternoon by supplying hits of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A without packing on any extra calories.

Brew on the Grid
On the southwest end of the Common, you’ll find more cold-pressed options at Brew on the Grid including the “green monster” made with Granny Smith apples and fresh lime for a burst of sweet and sour. For something with earth and spice, try the “Mt. Fuji Juice” made with tumeric, Red Fuji apples, and ginger.

Where to Find Fiddleheads and Ramps on the Menu

There are a few things I am forbidden from telling you about my afternoon of foraging with Julia Auger and Jared Forman.

I can tell you that traveling to their secret spot takes two hours roundtrip. I can tell you that Forman sometimes refers to it as “Ramptopia.” I can tell you that I was asked to turn my geotags off. I can tell you that they did not go so far as to blindfold me. But, I cannot tell you where they brought me or how we got there.

As proprietors of deadhorse hill and simjang in Worcester, Auger and Forman practice a modern philosophy of hospitality. This means taking excessive measures to guarantee an optimal guest experience—even if that requires braving the untamed forest in search of wild bounty.

Chefs favor ramps and fiddleheads as the first sign of spring. Ramp season is short, lasting about a month as soon as the weather grows seasonable. Fiddleheads are equally elusive, calling for wet and swampy conditions.

You don’t need to go off the grid to sample these rare treasures of New England. A variety of farm stands west of the Quabbin reservoir have ramps available for purchase and many of your neighborhood chefs have done the hard work for you.

Lock 50
Executive Chef Tim Russo is pickling fiddleheads at Lock 50 to extend their availability over the next two months. He also charred and packed his ramp haul in oil to make chimichurri and salsa verde set to appear in feature dishes all season long.

City Bar and Grille
Chef/Owner Al Soto has fiddleheads and ramps on the menu at his new westside hot spot, City Bar and Grille. Expect a dose of grilled ramp aioli with your first course at CBG’s Mad River cocktail dinner on May 15th.

BirchTree Bread Co.
This week, BirchTree Bread’s specialty toast features roasted fiddleheads along with a fried duck egg and asiago cream sauce served on seeded levain. Keep an eye out for fiddleheads on future Wednesday and Friday pizza nights.

deadhorse hill
If you aren’t lucky enough to enjoy your ramp-stuffed trout over an outdoor grill after hours of manual labor in the pouring rain, enjoy your ramps the civilized way—in the dining room. Forman has a kurobuta pork chop on the menu right now dressed with wild ramps, fiddleheads, and mushrooms.

Armsby Abbey
Armsby Abbey no longer uses foraged ingredients, but you can still find ramps and fiddleheads on the menu for special occasions. Executive Chef Sean Dacey was serving up pickled ramps in his fried vegetables along with a horseradish cream puree, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and a fried egg. The ramps used were a one time purchase from a farm and once gone they are gone (hint: they’re gone). He has also devised a tasty carrot-ramp vinaigrette to properly dress the spring salad for Mother’s Day brunch. Like the ramps, you’ll only be able to get the fiddleheads through Mother’s Day before they are off of the menu!

Whether dining in or enjoying the summer weather with BYOB Rosé is the drink you should be choosing. Pictured: 90+ Cellars Lot 33 Languedoc Rosé is the perfect summer sipper.

Instagram Your Rosé the Worcester Way

There was a short time in my adult life when the mere mention of “pink wine” produced wrinkled noses and piteous stares from my sophisticated friends. A glass of white zinfandel rendered the drinker not only cheap, but also destined for a hangover.

With the rise of Instagram came America’s widespread introduction to a proper rosé. Yes, it was pink, but it could also be dry and delightfully sessionable. Plus, it was attractive and French—like Brigitte Bardot or an Hermès bag.

By 2013, American millennials had developed an unquenchable thirst for rosé.

My yearning for rosé continues to correspond directly to the temperature. When the weather gets warm, I want crisp pink wine, light salads, and fresh seafood. Mesmerizing instagram shots are also a must. Worcester has plenty of spots for sunny day sipping, snacking, and snapping. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Rosé is picture perfect on Instagram
Rosé is picture perfect on Instagram

Bocado Tapas Wine Bar
Pairing: Bocado offers a wide selection of “light reds” or rosados from Spain and Portugal. Pair with tapas frias like the gazpacho or the ensalada de madalena, made with chopped lettuce, red onion, hearts of palm, tomato, avocado, and manchego.
For the Gram: Bocado is located just up the block from one of Worcester’s ghostly manufacturing murals. This hand-painted advertisement for Heywood Boot and Shoe Company features a faded red heart. Murals by street artists Adam Fu and Earth Crusher are also within walking distance, located at the rear of the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center.

The Sole Proprietor
Pairing: The Sole’s selection of rosé sparkles all summer long. Pair with a Buster Roll made with blue crab, apple, avocado, and cucumber then topped with crisp smoked salmon.
For the Gram: Buster the giant inflatable crab was conceived more than 25 years ago when The Sole Proprietor closed for a week’s worth of renovations. Owners knew they would need a boost to make up for the dip in sales. Buster still brings in the crowds year in and year out. Just a short walk from the Sole, you’ll also find the iconic iron bridge at Elm Park and more than a dozen striking Pow! Wow! Worcester murals at Elm Park Community School.

North Main Provisions
Pairing: North Main Provisions offers the makings of a perfect picnic. Ask owners Nate Rossi and Alexis Kelleher to help you pair a bottle of rosé with just the right artisanal cheese. Pick up a loaf of naturally leavened bread next door at their flagship establishment, Crust Bakery.
For the Gram: Take your picnic haul up the hill to Bancroft Tower, Worcester’s breathtaking feudal castle and have at it.

Lock 50
Pairing: Lock 50 has hosted entire evenings dedicated to rosé. As such, the staff is exceptionally knowledgeable when it comes to thinking pink. Pair with the chilled Spanish octopus served with salsa verde and Aleppo pepper.
For the Gram: In many ways, Lock 50 has succeeded in becoming the most Instagrammable restaurant in the city. Aside from the eye catching igloos, Lock 50 is home to a special mural painted by esteemed Native American artist Spencer Keeton Cunningham. Owners are opening a new restaurant called Russo across the street with a camera-ready cave room this spring.

deadhorse hill
Pairing: deadhorse hill has the strongest natural wine program in the city on account of manager, Julia Auger. Her intimate relationship with winemakers from around the world distinguishes deadhorse’s rotating wine list. Visit with a partner or pal on a Tuesday or Wednesday to enjoy their $45 date night experience.
For the Gram: Just a few paces from deadhorse’s front door, you’ll find stunning murals by artists Arlin Graff and O.G. Slick on the Palladium Theater. Owners opened an equally vibrant Korean-American eatery on Shrewsbury Street called simjang, which features another of Graff’s mesmerizing works.

Chorizo Tacos: Housemade chorizo, cotija cheese, pico de gallo and cilantro lime creme from The Civic Kitchen & Drink.

Six Restaurants in Central Mass That Will Transport You…

The Farmer and the Fork Cafe at Tower Hill
Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s two conservatories are lush and aromatic even in the dead of winter. The Limonaia (Lemon House) is brimming with bright camellias and bold citrus fruit. The Farmer and the Fork Cafe offers a seasonal menu that includes healthy grain bowls along with soups and salads. Guests can enjoy the fire place in the Great Hall after working up an appetite in the Orangerie, Tower Hill’s 18th-century-style greenhouse.

The AC Lounge
If I could bring the bar from Crazy, Stupid, Love. to life, it would look like The AC Lounge. The space is bright, posh, and metropolitan. Hotel bars have a certain formality about them and a level of anonymity given the number of out-of-towners. This is not the sort of watering hole where everybody knows your name; enjoy it.

The Civic Kitchen + Drink
The Civic has played host to a series of themed events over the last few months, including a Great Gatsby dinner party straight out of West Egg. Guests partied like it was the summer of 1922. The staff manages to take The Civic’s signature patio vibe indoors during the colder months. This spot is the perfect cure for the winter blues.

Avellino
It’s easy to picture the small Italian village from which Chef Rico’s vision was born when you sit down at Avellino. The menu is rich with handmade specialties including house-cured pancetta and freshly pulled mozzarella. For the full effect, Chef Rico offers monthly cooking classes modeled after his grandmother’s Italian kitchen.

Rose 32 Bread
Rose 32 is a world class operation dressed down in small town clothing. Master baker Glenn Mitchell studied and trained in France before launching a small bakery in California with his wife Cindy that quickly grew into a national conglomerate. Glenn never lost sight of his love of baking, as exhibited by his top honors from Coup du Monde de la Boulangerie, the World Cup of baking held in Paris. The Mitchells may have retired from West coast living, but their little Hardwick bakery will make you feel like you’re in sneezing distance of San Francisco.

simjang
Simjang has tiki drinks, a fluorescent color palate, and an oyster bar that’s straight fire. You can play video games upstairs and mainline rosé froyo downstairs. Remind me again why we aren’t there right now?

The building permit for Crust's expansion as North Main Provisions.

A Complete Listing of the 65 New Food Establishments…

If you want to get technical about it, 2018 brought 65 new food establishments to the city of Worcester. It is important to build some context around this figure. The number is based on 49 new Common Victualer (Food) Licenses awarded this year in addition to 16 new Liquor Licenses. Licensing is only the first step in actualizing an opening. As such, this list serves as a basic preview for what is to come in 2019.

The index includes some familiar entities, like Paris Cafe (now Worcester’s Doughnuts and Drafts), The Hangover Corp (the new parent of Broth and The Hangover Pub), Worcester Baking LLC (North Main Provisions), and Meze (in a new location at 166 Shrewsbury Street). It also lists a few highly anticipated newcomers like Redemption Rock Brewery and Stillman Quality Meats. Juggernauts like Subway and 7 Eleven appear here as well.

2018 Liquor Licenses:

Sanchez & Sons 387 Cambridge Street, Worcester, MA (formerly La Raza)
Matthew Addi LLC 64 Water Street Worcester, MA
Mercado Garcia Enteprises 65 James Street Worcester, MA
Paris Café LLC 255 Main Street
R&D Group LLC 70 James Street Worcester, MA
Worcester Baking LLC 122 Main Street Worcester, MA
The Hangover Corp 102 Green Street Worcester, MA
Petrogas New England 350 Greenwood Street Worcester, MA
Apollonia Restaurant 6 Mercantile Street Worcester, MA
The Axe & Ale House 177 Grafton Street Worcester, MA
Jeet Investment 504 Cambridge Street Worcester, MA
KKAP LLC 244 Main Street Worcester, MA
Baystate Café 175 Harding Street Worcester, MA
Meze LLC 166 Shrewsbury Street Worcester, MA
Rock Bar LLC 81 Water Street Worcester, MA

As reported by Mass Live

Redemption Rock Brewery 333 Shrewsbury Street Worcester, MA

2018 Common Vic (Food) Licenses:

Coffee Time Café 340 Main Street
C&N Vietnamese Cuisine 10 Millbury Street
7 Eleven 973 Main Street
La Pizzaira & More 153 Stafford Street
The Lara No Name Grocery 270 Grafton Street
Golden Tandoori 7 Lamartine Street
Rozmaraino 490 Lincoln Street
Gold Coast Catering 82 Blackstone River Road
Rebeca’s 264 Grafton Street
Debbie’s 48 Coral Street
Debbie’s Pizzeria 974A Main Street
One Fastway Inc 84 W. Boylston Street
City Liner Diner 1420 Main Street
Subway 281 Shrewsbury Street
New Golden Pizza 1137 Grafton Street
Caribbean Flaavor 976A Main Street
Pomodoro’s Pizza 168 Lincoln Street
Millbury Seafood LLC 276 Millbury Street
Crown Fried Chicken 819 Main Street
Go Grande Inc. 1168 Main Street
Subway 545 Southwest Cutoff
Danco African Market 785 Main Street
Holy Poke 2 Oliver Street
North Main Provisions 122 Main Street
Palace Pizza 1032 Southbridge Street
Denny’s 494 Lincoln Street
Golden Pizza 453 Lincoln Street
Adom Market 1073A Main Street
Auntie Anne at WPI 100 Institute Road
Fratelli’s Corner Crust Pizzeria 186 Stafford street
Dunkin Donuts 640 Park Avenue
Hong Kong Island 880 W. Boylston Street
Joyas Grille 120 June Street (Formerly Dianna’s)
El Nuevo Amanecer 534 Pleasant Street
KrafTea Kombucha Company 38 Harlow Street
Stillman Quality Meats 157 Harding Street
7-Eleven 350 Greenwood Street
La Reyna Express 90 Madison Street
Bedlam Book Café 138 Green Street
Victoria Evergreen Kitchen 336 Grafton Street
Long Island Hot Dog 68 Stafford Street
Neo Era 275 Park Avenue (Formerly Sandwich Hut)
Dos Tacos 296 Pleasant Street
Crown Bakery 1393 Grafton Street
Hot Table 49 Park Avenue
Fantastic Pizza 910A Main Street
Centro America Mini Mart 891A Main Street
Kisoro 482 Park Avenue
Idy’s Pizzeria 153 Stafford Street
Mass Foodies Christmas Trolley with Lock 50's Foie Gras.

Which Restaurants Decorate for Christmas? Enjoy The Splendor of…

This December, Mass Foodies took off on an adventure as they brought 70 readers around the city on a snow-white trolley. The journey was to enjoy restaurants that decorate to celebrate the Christmas season and while the two “Santa’s Sleigh Food Tour” sold out within a matter of minutes, this guide is a great way to ensure you can experience the wonder of the holiday season—while eating.

  • Nuovo Restaurant: Nuovo is a prime spot for large groups with expectations of attentive service. The staff values hospitality above all else and manages to make their extensive Shrewsbury Street space feel festive and intimate. For the crawl, the put together the eggplant rollatini and lobster sacchettini, characterized by its zippy dijon sherry sauce.
  • VIA Italian Table: VIA is certainly a long-term staple of Shrewsbury Street. With a flare for Italian, the subtle decorations ensure that the season isn’t lost on any of us. For their portion, VIA prepared crispy pork meatballs with sweet & sour glaze; House made ricotta on grilled crostini with local honey; Italian meat & cheese skewers with tomato red pepper, basil, prosciutto & fresh Mozzarella.
  • 110 Grill: This 240-seat eatery is a new edition to downtown’s thriving neighborhood. The menu features modern-American cuisine and pays special mind to gluten-free and allergy aware dishes. The outdoor firepit is particularly warming this holiday season. You might even catch a glimpse of a movie star along the way; Liam Neeson filmed a scene on the block just last week. Order the firecracker shrimp and share a cheese board with your Christmas crew.
  • Lock 50: There is nowhere else in the city where you can dine outside in an igloo during the dead of winter. Treat your friends to foie gras from the comfort of your toasty glowing orb. You deserve it. And, while eating, you can enjoy what is arguably the most decorated restaurant in the region. With Christmas lights, trees, garlands, and wreaths—both inside and out—you’d be hard pressed to find a more festive wonderland… with great food to back it.
  • simjang: While Christmas may be an American celebration (at least in the commercial extravagance) simjang made the list because its an unexpected place to find Christmas flare paired with its acclaimed menu. Also on Shrewsbury Street, simjang will warm your soul (and stomach) when the weather outside is frightful.
  • The Muse: Nothing says celebration like Italian cocktails. The Muse’s sprawling selection of Amari is only the beginning. Gorge on charcuterie served up by owner John Rinaldo himself and quiz him on top Italian Christmas traditions.
  • The Citizen Wine Bar: It’s last call at The Citizen in more way than one. This month marks the end of a decade-long run for the restaurant and we’re getting our fill. Miracle is taking over between now and December 31st. The Christmas themed pop-up bar has rolled out its yuletide décor and holiday glassware to send The Citizen on its way in style. Enjoy your last chocolate board and a cup of cheer.
Chef Alex Gjonca's dish from Nuovo Restaurant in Worcester, MA (Photograph by Erb Photo)

Great Restaurants That You Haven’t Thought Of In Central…

What does it mean to say these are places you may not have thought of? Not that they aren’t successful. They are, especially with the people whose culture is covered by the cuisine. They aren’t best kept secrets either. Unlike places like Mare e Monti (tucked into Grafton Hill) or Belmont Vegetarian (which just missed our list but seems like an impossible place to stop for even if you do spot it on the Belmont Street hill), most of these places are in plain sight. What makes them special is they offer different – even unique – food on their menus for the region and do it great. Plenty of places turn out decent grub (even pizza!) in Central Mass these days. But we demand more to explore, and these places deliver.

Addie Lee’s Soul Food

The Sly & The Family Stone’s song “It’s a Family Affair” has the right groove for the food and the title describes exactly what Rob Evans’ southern restaurant is about: family, cooking authentically southern cuisine, together. This love fills the space and the menu – a touch of Mississippi in Massachusetts – especially when that menu option is on the sweet side. Which is why Addie Lee’s is on this list. Sure, the food is good overall and no Southern restaurant matches it. But while that Sly Stone song ends with everyone broke down at the end, Addie Lee’s will leave you lifted up if you leave room for dessert. Every one we have had there from banana pudding to peach cobbler to the cheesecake flavor of the moment has been great. And those yams. You could order a large portion of those delicious chunky yams and smile all day long. After a nap. Lean cuisine this ain’t. Nor would you ever want it to be.

Bay State Shawarma & Shawarma Palace

Perhaps all you know of shawarma is the end of The Avengers when, having saved New York from nuclear destruction, a resuscitated Iron Man says, “Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to try it.” The Avengers did. So should you. Shawarma is a spit-grilled Levantine or Eastern Mediterranean meat dish (chicken, beef, veal, beef, or some mixture of them) sliced and served fresh with Middle Eastern sides. And you don’t need to wait for the next alien attack or even go to New York to find it: There are two great shawarma joints in Worcester: Shawarma Palace at the base of Pleasant Street and Bay State Shawarma in Kelly Square. Is one greater than the other? Each has its passionate fans and we have found ourselves switching sides more than once. What is undoubtedly great about both is the pride each takes in their food and the quality/quantity/price value.

Fatima’s Café

The awning outside says pizza and pasta, but the menu inside has neither of those things. What it does have is … Somali Anjero? Rice with Sugoo? Ugali with Sukuma? An Ethiopian Anjero Platter? Two words: Yes. Please. All the things. You will never be more grateful for not having another mediocre pizza: This is great African comfort food that serves both the African community and anyone who wants a break from the usual. Then watch how fast Fatima’s becomes your new normal. The spongy ugali made from cornmeal that sits next to sautéed veggies more than fills you up, especially if you want to add one of the excellent meat stews (including goat!). Anjero is a sourdough flatbread and it is a perfect vehicle for three Somali vegetable stews. Fatima even serves up eggplant chapatti and samosas that hit their mark in your stomach like a bindi between the eyes. Yup, better than any pizza or pasta that could possibly come from a storefront here. Much better.

Mezé Greek Tapas

How Greeks ended up owning pizza shops in Massachusetts and diners in New Jersey is a topic for the “Curiosity Desk” on WGBH radio. A more curious question for this list is why there aren’t more restaurants like Mezé in Massachusetts doing real Greek food? The cuisine is accessible, diverse, and – My Big Fat Greek Wedding not withstanding – not all about meat. What is true in that movie is the Greeks are welcoming to the table and Mezé is a family affair: owner Sam Georgiadis hired his cousins Yiana and Niko to turn out authentic Greek fare you just don’t find anywhere else and presents it as “meze.” What the Spanish call tapas, most of the Mediterranean world calls meze: small plates designed to be shared to make a meal. It’s an authentic way of eating and no place does the Greek way better than Mezé from creamy taramasolata to a gooey Bou-you-rdi to meaty Loukaniko to the greatest octapodi/octopus in the state.

Nuovo Restaurant

One of the best Italian chefs in Worcester is . . . Albanian? Chef Alex Gjonca serves up some of the finest Italian food in a city that hardly lacks Italian options. You won’t go wrong with any of his dishes, and he has a particularly deft touch with herbs, truffles, and desserts. What Worcester does not have, despite its representation in the city’s population, is a true Albanian restaurant. Nuovo isn’t Albanian but Gjonca’s menu slips Albanian accents in his dishes and offers a fabulous “Albanian Appetizer” (oven braised liver, garlic, feta cheese, hot peppers). But book the private room for a small group or larger, and he will go full-frontal Albanian for you, making you kick yourself for not inviting your Albanian neighbors over for a potluck.

Red Pepper

There are eight modern Chinese cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. None of them look much like the Americanized Chinese food you get at places that have words like dragon, wok, panda, and golden in their names. Nothing against a tasty lo mien and General Tao’s but that’s more Mellencamp than Mandarin. Until recently, if you wanted to find anything close to authentic Chinese cuisines near here you had to drive to Framingham to Sichuan Gourmet or Red Pepper. Then Red Pepper opened a location in Worcester’s Webster Square (and closed the one in Framingham) and life got a whole lot spicier for the city. Red Pepper is not where you order egg rolls. This is where you sample dandan noodles, cumin lamb, spicy fish and silken tofu in chili sauce, pork joint, hot pots, and, yes, innards like tripe. Not everything is hot – tea smoked duck and soothing stir-fried pea shoots are nice counterbalances to the heat – but everything on the white board by the entrance listing the specials leans that way. Give yourself up to them and prepare to understand there is life beyond the usual Chinese takeout.

Restaurants With A Great Beer List With A Point…

Come to think of it, we won’t have a Heineken. But what will we have? That’s what we asked ourselves over and over as we surveyed the tap (and can/bottle but heavily weighting draft) selection at restaurants all around town. In the end, we fully expect people to come to blows over our list. Because, really, we did. But if you’re going to throw down, choose pilsner over politics. Truth is there are lots of great places to get your draft on – some at the actual source of the suds like Wormtown, 3Cross, and Cold Harbor, which (like Dive Bar) miss this list because they aren’t restaurants. The ones we did finally settle on we felt had a stronger point of view (meaning attitude) than the others – a curated list rather than just a great selection. Which isn’t a dig at all the runners-up. Those that missed didn’t fall short by much more than a matter of taste and a need to choose. What no one can dispute is our beer game is strong these days. The expectation is that can will find a great selection of craft and select national/mass brews by tap or can or bottle anywhere you find great food. Just don’t have your heart set in anything: What’s perhaps most amazing is how few brews and brewers repeat on each of these and ever-evolving and changing lists. Which is only a drop in the U.S. bucket these days: There are now 6,000 breweries in the country and the vast majority (98%) are designated as “craft” or small, traditional and independent.

Armsby Abbey

Anyone who makes a list like this and doesn’t include Armsby is either wrong or claustrophobic, because Armsby deservedly continues to pack them in for drink and food a solid decade after changing the face of Worcester dining by putting its stake down on Main Street. The list is a regional, national, and global education either through a range of choices from a single brewer like Hill Farmstead (six options on one February night) or single choices like Ayinger Bavarian Pilsner, Finback Split the Night, or Kyritzer Mord Und Totschlag (which we put in not only because it’s delicious but we like to make people try and pronounce it). Special props recently for the Trillium trio on tap recently: Day & Night, Puny Partridge, and Six. For the uninitiated, flights are always the way to go or you’re going to deprive yourself.

 

BirchTree Bread Company

The smallest selection on this list gets extra props for its clear devotion to Worcester and Massachusetts brewers and for the fact that there is no brighter more family friendly place to sip suds in the Woo. The big, open space is bookended by big bright windows that make drinking by day a salute to sunshine and a toast to tippling. (BirchTree is only open after 6 on Wednesday and Friday pizza nights and for its fabulous first Thursday of the month beer dinners like 3Cross and Flying Dreams.) Beer is really like Forrest Gump’s a box of chocolates here: You never know what you’re gonna get – even if it is on the board (taps get tapped frequently). But trust us: Something good is waiting in the back. Special props recently for Rapscallion Brewery’s Honey American Pale Ale and a nice non-beer choice: KrafTea Ginger Hibiscus Kombucha from Worcester.

 

Civic Kitchen + Drink

Civic Kitchen seemingly has two strikes against it: It’s located in Westborough where, aside from Korean, foodies rarely default to, and it’s on a golf course, where food usually goes to die. Nope. Even if you never tend to tee off and the mere idea tees you off, Civic Kitchen can be your exception to the rule. Decent even good grub with local sourcing is made all the better by a great rotating list of local and unusual brews worth putting on madras pants for. Special props to the huge and warming SingleCut Beersmiths’ Heavy Boots of Lead Imperial Stout (11.2% ABV), Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Sip of Sunshine IPA, and local brewer Cold Harbor’s Indian Summer.

 

Smokestack Urban Barbecue

Beer and barbecue. I mean just say that and we challenge you not to smile. Two things that make the world better and better together. The list is enough to make you Google “How to Get a Wooden Leg,” because you’ll need stomach space for the food (especially the outstanding wings). Seeing as The Cana District space is always hopping, it seems perfectly apt the tap list should be too. This is a nicely curated list designed to complement the food and stand on its own, which is really NOT what you expect from a joint like this. Too many places we’ve been similar to Smokestack, populate taps with the usual suspects. Not here. Come to think of it, I won’t have a Heineken. I’ll have an Equilibrium Brewery MC2 IPA imperial double when the weather is cold and damp and a Cold Harbor Indian Summer IPA when it’s not. Special props for Fiddlehead Brewing’s Second Fiddle IPA and for always having a couple of great sours, including last we were there Deciduous Brewing Company’s The Light.

 

The Rail Trail Flatbread Company

Let’s hear it for the rebirth of Hudson! Five years ago Karim El-Gamal did for that town what Alec Lopez did years before for Worcester: put a stake down where no one else dared. What followed was everything from a cheese shop to an ice cream parlor and Rail Trail anchored it all. Quite frankly, that MetroWest I-495 corridor was a drag before that. Now, it’s just not a place for a desperate stop when Worcester or Boston are miles away but a destination. Spend the day working your way through the town and the list. Watch for Tap Takeovers by brewers like Jack’s Abby and Reserve. Special props for the Ommegang Smoked Porter, Kent Falls Shoots, and WOW: Founders Backwoods Bastard wonderful scotch ale that smells smoky and scotchy and makes an argument that Rail Trail should open a nap room in the back for afterwards.

deadhorse hill's plate from Worcester's Best Chef Competition in Worcester, MA (Photograph by Erb Photography)

Great Places For Lunch In Central Massachusetts

Let’s talk about lunch. Not brunch– often just an excuse to charge more for eggs on weekends by making them sound pretentious. Not breakfastfor lunch, which is fine – good even – but if you want it, go any of the great diners the area offers that are open ‘til 2. And not grab and go – that’s another ever-growing list of choices (from Ed Hyder’s to Living Earth); this isfor lunch, meaning sit down. No, to make this great lunch list, places must offer true lunch menus, be they filled sandwiches, soup, salads, burgers, an entrée or three … whatever floats their creative boats. Oh and it must not just be good but uniquely theirs in some way. This is not the time for Boar’s Head pastrami and bread you can buy at Big Y. Lunch must have a point of view and made to order. It must serve us by serving something that makes you understand why you are there and not just some nameless place that charges half as much. That’s NOT to denigrate any of the good lunch places out there – or the really terrific ones that just missed this list and are alwaysworth a visit like BirtchTree Bread, Lock 50, and simjang – but to elevate the great ones to understand why you might want to bring a client, host a meeting, have a serious discussion, play hooky, or just escape deliciously for a bit on a weekday.

Armsby Abbey

Reveling in the current Worcester restaurant Renaissance and the remarkable rise of the Canal District, it’s easy to forget the place that started it all on Main Street, especially when it comes to lunch. Don’t. When Alec Lopez and Sheri Sadowski and put their stakes down the north end of Main Street, they were rewarded with our praise and love. They have honored that by remaining great for more than ten years and while the menu has evolved and changed, its core and soul remain. Those things are on fine display at lunch without the drinking crowds: Slates of cheese and charcuterie that can feature anything from the unusual (beef heart pastrami) to the easily accessible (serrano ham) or be vegetarian. There’s the legendary Mac n’ Cheese (tip: mix in smoky blue cheese and caramelized onions) and adult grilled cheese, flatbread, and smash burger options that change seasonally. Wash them down with an amazing craft beer on the list that day and you’ll realize the only downside is that when you’re done you feel like curling up like a cat in the sunny windows instead of heading back to work.

Bahnan’s International Marketplace and Café

Most people treat Bahnan’s as a counter for take-out, but it has enough seats to claim a spot on this list. And really we would find a way to include it even if it didn’t have those seats. The beef and chicken shawarma rivals that at the shawarma joints in town. The smoky, silky baba ganoush is the rival of any we have ever had. If you’re lucky enough to be in when they serve eggplant as a dish and there is some still available, don’t hesitate. You need not be a vegetarian to thank us. You’re welcome. Kibbeh, grape leaves, kabobs, falafel, and any of the meat or veggie triangle pies are delectable and expertly prepared. And don’t miss the sides: cucumber salad (with or without feta but go with), rice, pickled veggies, unpickled veggies… what’s not to like? Nothing from the food to the incredible staff and family working the kitchen to the portions, which are simply make a great meal and a great value.

Dacosta’s Pizza Bakery

When Dacosta’s opened, its innocuous section of Millbrook Street was more a cut through road than anything else. There was no Greater Good Imperial Brewing across the street or a Chick-fil-A just down the other. The area was as much a food wasteland as Main Street was when Armsby opened, but the stake was just as important for a section of Worcester that gets little love from foodies. Owner, creator, and chief provocateur Marc Felicio has defied the odds and made Dacosta’s among the best, if not the best pizza in town. The chewy Neapolitan crust loaded with original toppings has its ardent fans and Felicio keeps rotating in new ones. Go for the Uncle Tony’s Roni’s, Mushroom Sally, or Go Fig Yourself – or really try them all, especially his version of the Detroit pizza on Wednesdays. What’s even more surprising is not that Detroit has a pizza history, but that Dacosta’s non-pizza menu rivals its pizza one, including outstanding wood-fired brussels sprouts, delicious Italian wings, and an Italian sandwich that would make Tony Soprano happy. Bonus points for the best game room in town!

deadhorse hill

Are we tired of talking about deadhorse hill yet? Nope. And with good reason. Jared Forman, Robin Clark, Nathan Sanden, and the rest of the team at deadhorse could have just sat back and let the accolades carry them along. They didn’t NEED to keep impressing and evolving. But they did and do for us, which makes this place feel as alive and important as it did when it opened. For lunch, the buzz of the bar and din of the dining room are replaced with a lightness and brightness in the room that makes you feel happy. The list of eight or so sandwiches alone, which have changed on and off since we can remember, are worth eating your way through. One summer visit, a fried green tomato sandwich made you think Worcester was in the south. The fried chicken sandwich is the best in town, and you will never want a regular French Dip again after diving into the open-faced roast beef one here. You can also find versions of dinner mainstays like spätzle. But besides those exceptions, deadhorse is completely different at lunch and that is not just a good thing – it’s a great thing.

Kummerspeck

With Weintraub’s on the verge of closing, you should know that next door is a pastrami sandwich so good it will make you plotz. And not the lean bullshit pastrami that supermarkets offer from plastic packages but delicious mouth-melting FAT pastrami as G-d intended. God bless you Matt Mahoney and Rachel Coit for making this pastrami love and all your lunch creations available a few days a week. The bahn mi with its Thai-chili bologna and schmear of your chicken liver pate is unexpected and hardly screams Vietnam yet it works. That grief burger may be the best in town. The shrimp and grits definitely is. If we are leaning hard on the meat until that last option, remember Kummerspeck translates to “grief bacon” and the restaurant has a butcher shop in the back with selections of meats (fresh and cured), sausages, and prepared stuff, some of which is on the menu and available to take home so you can do their lunch at home too.

House milled 4 Star Farms wharthog wheat & baby carrot pappardelle, roasted baby carrots, kale & green garlic, carrot top salsa, aged goat cheese, carrot crumb and Honest Weight Branch Bridge.

Five Destinations Fit for a Knowledgeable Beer Pairing

Armsby Abbey

Four Star Farms was built and passed down through fourteen generations of the L’Etoile family. You’ve likely enjoyed the fruits of their labor in brews from Wormtown, Medusa, Honest Weight, and Brick and Feather. Armsby Abbey’s menu changes daily, but Four Star Farms’ grains seem to have a consistent hold on the kitchen’s heartstrings. We are still dreaming of a baby carrot pappardelle they served last summer, made with juiced carrot and a house milled whole grain from Four Star Farms called Warthog Wheat. The dish was served with roasted baby carrots, kale and green garlic, carrot top salsa, aged goat cheese, and carrot crumb. At the time, Liz L’Etoile explained, “The warthog is used by lots of bakers for sourdough loaves and has a very strong wheat flavor; it can also be used in strong pastas.” Keep an eye on the rotating draft list for selections like ‘Kitten with a Whip’ – Brick and Feather’s Munich Helles Lager, or ‘Lightworks’ – Honest Weight’s American Blonde. Both brews are light and crushable, ideal for easy drinking.

BirchTree Bread Company

Honest Weight’s unfiltered pilsner, Prescott, is a bright, dry lager named for one of the four towns flooded in 1938 to form the Quabbin Reservoir. Honest Weight is located in the north Quabbin region of Massachusetts, and many of their beers honor the brewery’s storied surroundings. Pair Prescott with BirchTree’s grilled cheese, assembled from homemade country bread and Robinson Farm’s own tribute to Prescott – a nutty alpine artisanal cheese made from raw milk.

Civic Kitchen & Drink

Pair the Be Hoppy fish and chips with a variation on its namesake brew, Wormtown‘s African Queen Be Hoppy IPA. Wormtown’s Brand Ambassador Kyle Sherwood says, “Just like grapes, when you grow a hop, you get unique flavors. This hop from South Africa called African Queen has a really unique earthy, honey, tea flavor to it.” Wormtown has opted to pair the unique hops with local honey to accent the African Queen along with the beautifully executed citrus notes in their Be Hoppy. “One of our brew staff, Chris keeps bees for local honey. With increased production, we obtained additional honey from Boston Honey Company to secure enough local honey to brew this beer on a large scale,” Sherwood explained. Just remember: like goes with like.

Kummerspeck Restaurant

You will be hard pressed to find a better deal than fried chicken Mondays at Kummerspeck on Water Street. Half a bird “with fixins” is just $14, not to mention their $20 all you can eat rate. Mondays also mean $5 cans of Medusa including their mid-strength American IPA, Prosperous. Kummerspeck’s fried chicken is juicy on its own, so the sharp, clean bittering of Apollo hops makes a can of Medusa Prosperous the perfect pair. The addition of Zythos casts off aromas of grapefruit and pine from your glass along with high acidity to refresh the palate after each crunchy, caramelized bite. This combination is sure to bring you the balance and fulfilment that you need to start your week. (Or give it up, and order a rootbeer float. You deserve it.)

Rail Trail Flatbread Co.

One would be remiss to visit Rail Trail without ordering a flatbread pizza and a brew from Kent Falls. Bewilderment is Kent Falls’ Imperial Brett IPA; it pours the color of daffodils and finishes with pungent bursts of overripe fruit. Rail Trail’s Chicken Parm flatbread is made with a sweet crushed tomato base that stands up to the bitterness of any Imperial IPA. It’s topped with ditalini pasta, breaded chicken, basil and a garlic-Parmesan blend lovingly referred to as the house “funk.” Nothing measures up to the barnyard blast of Brettanomyces yeast like a pungent parmesan and no one knows that better than Rail Trail.