Traveling for a food adventure has become the highlight of most weekends but in our #SundayFunday column, we look to expand the gastronomic pleasures of travel to feature some of Massachusetts’ most underrated food destinations.
This untapped market of residential consumers and deprived foodies has had its fair share of restaurant breakups. Over the last five years (Hi, Lago and Legacy Bar & Grill!), restaurants have come and gone leaving behind a new level of challenges for the newcomer. In fact, the address, 242 Mill Street, has become as synonymous with failed restaurants as has 156 Shrewsbury Street. Let’s call it the Madden Curse of the local food industry.
But all hope is not lost as 242 Mill Street is opening its doors once again and this time it’s bringing the heat with Big T’s Mill Street BarbecueCompany. With the tagline, Seriously Smoking Stuff, we anticipate the heat to attract a new crowd of foodies: the BBQ fanatics.
Scott Tefft, owner of Big T’s, is bringing more than just the heat to Mill Street. He is bringing authenticity. With 30 years of meat smoking experience – 25 of those years dedicated to catering and 5 of those years dedicated to his Big T’s food truck (a hit at every year’s food truck festival) – Tefft is separating himself from the local barbecue scene by paying homage to the New England resources that make us so damn great. “They [BT’s and Smokestack] are great places but they focus on very traditional barbecue techniques and while we love traditional barbecue flavors, we also like to include a little bit of the local resources,” said Tefft. “Including applewood, local maple syrups and applying brown sugars in different techniques, it gives Big T’s a distinct flavor.” Using meats from local farms like Lilac Hedge Farm, Tefft seeks to continue providing his famous quality barbecue dishes served from his food truck at a more stable location. “Honestly, I have outgrown my space,” he says. “I am producing 1500 lbs of protein from my driveway and this is the next step.”
Big T’s Mill Street Barbecue Company is hosting an open house on Sunday, March 10th and will officially open its doors for lunch and dinner starting Thursday, the 14th.
Placing an emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, Thai cuisine is famous for its balance of five flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. While some dishes blend all of the flavors into a signature taste, others are served as compliments to the overpowering flavors of spice and bitterness. Thai chef McDang characterizes Thai food as demonstrating “intricacy; attention to detail; texture; color; taste; and the use of ingredients with medicinal benefits, as well as good flavor.” His description fits the mold of which Rice Violet was sculpted from.
Sitting on the corner of Main and Exchange Street in downtown Worcester, Rice Violet breathes cultural life into an area slowly shying away from diversity. From its bright colors that line the exterior of the restaurant – giving itself a pop of personality – to the ethnically hired staff, Rice Violet looks to remain authentic in a time where authenticity is scarce. Its fluid menu caters to a wide range of eating lifestyles including vegetarian and gluten-free dishes – an underserved market in the Worcester culinary scene. The menu, filled with recipes directly from the central part of Thailand – considered the Bangkok Style of Cooking – mix effortlessly with innovative modern Thai dishes, giving Rice Violet a broader audience of food aficionados.
Pork dumplings, chicken satay, edamame – seasoned Japanese snack of steamed soybean pods and seasoned salt, and samosa bag – a crispy wonton wrapper stuffed with potato and curry powder, are only but a few of the a la carte dishes that can be paired with salads like the famous Thai papaya salad (som tum) – a salad with green papaya, tossed with tomatoes, chili lime dressing and tin peanuts served with sticky rice or simply paired with shrimp fried rice – a universal favorite. The eclectic menu serves one purpose: to be the center of any social occasion, if not, the social occasion itself. As we know, American restaurants are about the individual experience – with a recent shift in the restaurant culture to mimic that of European ordering styles – and it focuses on each individual’s starter meal, entree, and dessert – in that order. While in Thailand, much like the European countries, ordering meals is about sharing and enjoying as much food together as a unit. As a general rule, Thai diners order the same number of dishes as people present; however, all dishes are shared and enjoyed together. Watching a table of six order five or six dishes and all serve themselves a portion from each dish is not a rare sight at Rice Violet, but instead, it is the norm. The best part of shared dinners at Rice Violet? They honor the “bring your own beverage” policy which makes them undeniably approved as a #SundayFunday destination.