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Uncommon Sense


By Martha Howard · June 16, 2016

Carl’s Guide to Worcester’s Restaurants and Bars

conferences 10 min read

Here it is, uncut and uncensored… Carl Keyes’ guide to where to eat in Worcester. Carl has hosted us before and we can confirm that he is very, very good at picking restaurants. And cocktails.

A work in progress compiled by Carl Robert Keyes, Assumption College

Worcester is an acquired taste, but I’ve grown to love it over the past eight years, in part due to the array of bars and restaurants around town.  This is not an exhaustive list of local places to eat and drink.  Instead, it is a list of my favorites, places that I have visited regularly.  This is also not a list of bars and restaurants within walking distance of the American Antiquarian Society (though many of them are).  You should be able to reach everything on this list in ten minutes or so, but you’ll need a car to get to many of them.

If you’re in town for a short time, you may appreciate these highlights: artisanal cocktails and sandwiches at The Citizen Wine Bar, locally sourced slow food and craft beers at Armsby Abbey, warm gingerbread and vintage cocktails with live music at Nick’s Bar and Restaurant, and meatball sandwiches and cheap beer with lots of taxidermy at Vincent’s.

Let me know how this guide worked for you.  I’m on Twitter:  @TradeCardCarl

Niche Hospitality Group

  • Bocado, 82 Winter Street
    Tapas — can get expensive, but always very good.
  • Mezcal, 30 Major Taylor Boulevard
    Reasonably priced Mexican: try the house guacamole and the duck quesadilla.  The events coordinator won’t respond to inquiries about the private function room, but the restaurant does provide free parking in the attached garage.
  • The Citizen Wine Bar, 120 Commercial Street
    Who gets wine here?! Artisanal cocktails are the way to go.  Try an Old Fashioned.  Reasonably priced appetizers and sandwiches, but more extravagant fare as well.
  • The People’s Kitchen, 120 Commercial Street
    Upstairs from The Citizen (which means they share bartenders): great menu, but the price makes it a special occasion place.
  • Still & Stir, 120 Commercial Street
    Only open Friday and Saturday evenings: back bar at The Citizen.  It used to be the drunk tank in the local jail (some of the bars are still present; have a drink in one of the former cells).
  • The Fix Burger Bar, 166 Shrewsbury Street
    The only one of Niche’s offerings that doesn’t excite me.  The burgers are not anything special, and the service is often incredibly disorganized and slow.  Go here if you want an alcoholic milkshake.  Otherwise, you can do better elsewhere on this list.

A Family Affair:  Or, the Siblings

  • Vincent’s, 49 Suffolk Street
    Worcester’s taxidermy bar. The meatball sandwich is delicious.  Say hello to the jackalope.
  • Nick’s Bar and Restaurant, 124 Millbury Street
    Worcester’s German cabaret. Live music every night of the week.  Try the warm gingerbread.
  • Ralph’s Rock Diner, 148 Grove Street
    A short walk from the AAS, on the other side of Institute Park. Poetry slam on Mondays.  Have a cheeseburger.

Awesome Beer Bars and Local Breweries

  • Armsby Abbey, 144 North Main Street
    One of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars of 2015. Locally sourced food.
  • The Dive Bar, 34 Green Street
    Operated by the same folks as Armsby Abbey. Cash only.  No food.  Best patio seating in Worcester
  • Wormtown Brewery, 72 Shrewsbury Street
    Have a pint or try a flight of four local brews. Outdoor patio.  Easy walking distance to many other restaurants on Shrewsbury Street.
  • 3cross Brewing Company, 26 Cambridge Street
    A selection of beers as well as kombucha. Guests are welcome to bring food to go along with their drinks.  Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 5:00-9:00 only.

Diners:  It’s Not All-You-Can-Eat, It’s More-Than-You-Can-Eat

  • Miss Worcester, 300 Southbridge Street
    Original diner car manufactured in Worcester. Breakfast and lunch only.  Try the meat lovers stuffed French toast with cheese.  Admire the cook’s tattoos.
  • The Boulevard, 155 Shrewsbury Street
    Also a Worcester diner car. A bit more expensive than the Miss Worcester (yet still reasonable), but open 24 hours.
  • Gold Star Diner, 68 West Boylston Street
    Greek proprietors give this diner a unique twist. Good food at low prices. Breakfast and lunch only.
  • Jan’s Kitchen, 580 West Boylston Street
    Breakfast and lunch only. Do the pancake challenge:  either you’ll get your photo on the wall or you’ll have leftovers for several meals.

Outdoor Dining

  • Grill on the Hill, 1929 Skyline Drive
    Overlooking Green Hill Park and the golf course, the best view for outside dining in Worcester. Sometimes the staff seems a bit disorganized, but a great place for lunch or dinner if you’re not in a hurry.
  • Vintage Grille, 346 Shrewsbury Street
    Used to be a full-service garage, but now an automotive-themed bar and restaurant.

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

  • Volturno Pizza Napoletana, 72 Shrewsbury Street
    Rustic-upscale atmosphere for artisanal pizzas with unique topping combinations.
  • Wonder Bar, 121 Shrewsbury Street
    Low frills local joint: currently under renovations, but check to see if they’re open yet.
  • Blue Jeans Pizza, 270 Park Avenue
    Comfort food for take out or delivery only: don’t eat in (you could eat in, but don’t).

Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Munchies

  • El Basha, 256 Park Avenue
    Often voted Worcester’s best Middle Eastern. Traditional luncheon venue for the Assumption College Women’s Studies Program (for whatever that’s worth!).
  • Shiraz Armenian Cuisine, 259 Park Avenue
    Seems to be a family-operated place with good eats. Try the kibbee plate.

Assorted Others Worth Checking Out

  • Sol of Mexico, 538 Pleasant Street
    Looks unimpressive from the street, but the food is delicious, delicious, delicious (assessment confirmed by my Latin American Studies colleagues).
  • Smokestack Urban BBQ, 139 Green Street
    Whether you eat cow, chicken, or pig, always delicious, especially with the Southern sides.
  • The Sole Proprietor, 118 Highland Street
    Seafood at mid-range prices for dinner (and more affordable for lunch). Reservations highly recommended for weekends.  Includes sushi bar.  Late night happy hour menu available Thursday through Sunday.  Buster, the world’s largest inflatable crab, “attacks” the restaurant during crabfest every July.
  • The Boynton, 117 Highland Street
    Local pub with a broad menu and beer selection. Often crowded, so plan ahead.
  • Joey’s Bar and Grill, 344 Chandler Street
    A comfortable place to unwind on a Friday night. I can never decide between the Chicken Frangelico and the Eggplant Napoleon.

Special Treats

  • Meola’s Wayside Ice Cream, 165 West Boylston Street, West Boylston
    Absolutely delicious. Cash only.  More flavors than Baskin-Robbins.
  • Sweet, 72 Shrewsbury Street
    Gourmet desserts and mixed drinks: what more could you want?
  • MB Bar and Lounge (aka The Male Box), 40 Grafton Street
    The oldest gay-owned and -operated bar in Worcester. A real hole in the wall.  Mostly townies, 30s to 60s.

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