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Foodies invade Worcester County, need help!

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Hi all,

Boston foodies have relocated to the burbs and need some good advice.

I've heard about Tiano's and TiNovo in Worcester, and have dined at 111 Chop House. I know that the Castle in Leicester is kind of a classic, but after that ...

I'd appreciate any suggestions for good food anywhere in the Worcester County area -- bonus points if you can point to Worcester or regions south (Oxford, Sutton Millbury, Worcester, etc.) And if anyone knows of any good spots for sushi, Italian (not Greek) pizza, or great Chinese or Thai takeout, please advise!

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  1. Worcester has a lot to offer. I'll just name a few favorites, since I know others will pitch in, too.

    For upscale dining, try the Struck Cafe (New American), or Rovezzi's (Italian). You can also graze nicely in the Struck's bar, e.g., watching a Sox game. (For the best dining in Worcester County, you must head north to Sonoma in Princeton.)

    The Sole Proprietor is a legendary place, very reliable for seafood. Their menu is very flexible, making it a place for anything from a quick bar meal to grazing to a splurge dinner.

    For very nice "Italian-American" food, which is Worcester's long suit, try Anthony's or Piccolo's on Shrewsbury St., an avenue worth exploring in detail.

    My favorite Worcester restaurant is a Vietnamese place that offers some remarkable fusion specials. It's called the Bamboo Hut, and is run by some wonderful folks named Nam and Quyen. BYOB, and be patient, since it's a family place and the service is sometimes casual.

    Some quite nice sushi at Zipango on Shrewsbury St.

    Real, thin-crust Italian-style pizza (as recently noted on this site) is at the Corner Grille. Thicker but also nice pies can be gotten at Ciao Bella, also a good place for sandwiches and informal pasta meal.

    There is no really good Chinese, Thai, or Mexican, sadly. Some good Indian choices, though--Surya, Bollywood, and, um, the place across Rt 9 from Bollywood (the latter two just into Shrewsbury). Seoul Leechi on Main St has a nice array of Korean dishes. And finally, for a killer Hungarian experience, visit Anna's Kitchen, across from the RMV.

    That should get you started. Happy chowing!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rick_V

      Lots of great suggestions here, but I'd like to chime in on the topic of Chinese food in Worcester. There is a relatively new place on Shrewsbury Street that is worth checking out - Red Lantern. Avoid the sushi - it is just not good. However the Chinese is varied, fresh, and really top-notch. There is even a dim-sum brunch on Sundays. Avoid the buffet and order off of the menu. You won't be disappointed.

    2. P.S. For breakfast, try Scano's on Shrewsbury St. For a wonderful quick lunch, grab a sandwich (fish, kufta, and lentil/onion are especially great) at Emilia's on Pleasant. For good examples of Worcester's other specialty, middle Eastern, try either El Basha (two places, one upscale and one casual or Shiraz (good service, mediocre atmosphere), or Sahara (exactly the opposite). Finally, when shopping for good food, check out Hyder's on Pleasant, Living Earth on Chandler, and Emerald Meats on Chandler, and rejoice that there's a Trader Joe's in Shrewsbury.

      1. When in the Big Woo I am ever drawn to the One Love Cafe for Venice Fouchard's incredible Jamaican culinary craft. One Love is a tiny storefront on 800 Main Street, near Clark University. Just a handful of tables and an overstuffed sofa, with Venice on the other side of the counter stirring aromatic pots. Don't be in a hurry, good home cookin' takes time.

        Indeed, I discovered Chowhound via a Boston article on founder Jim Leff in which he raves about the joint (excerpt):

        "Our first stop is one that the two hit the last time Leff was in the area: One Love Cafe, on Main Street. As soon as owner Venice Fouchard greets us, Leff says, ''I've been waiting to have your food again for two years."

        Amid the paint-by-number horses and dogs and the poster of Bob Marley, Leff looks over his notes from the previous visit, and we peruse the menu of ''Likkle Tings," ''Big Tings," and ''Sweet Tings." Leff suggests oxtail, as well as ackee with codfish, the national dish of Jamaica. It is made from salt cod and the white flesh of a red tropical fruit. In the Northeast, ackee is often frozen, but Fouchard has a friend in Florida who grows the fruit and sends it to her fresh.

        As we scarf down the spicy, salty, creamy fish and the deeply flavored oxtail with lima beans, Leff declares the oxtail ''the best I've ever had -- and I've had a lot"

        For the full Globe article including other restaurants in the area -- click here: http://www.boston.com/ae/food/article...

        Other chowhound board links on One Love:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. A second for the Sole Proprietor and Anthony's.
          Make sure you try the veal chop at Anthony's!

          1. I've heard raves about the food at Anna's Hungarian Kitchen. Haven't made it there, yet, but it's on my chow list.

            http://www.annaskitchen.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: three of us

              Sadly, I believe Anna's is closed. We tried to go there last weekend. The doors were locked though the light on the sign was on. Residents leaving the hotel/condos where the restaurant was told us they had closed.

            2. Thanks so much, everyone -- especially Rick V. Sounds like we've got to make our way down to Shrewsbury Street!!

              1. I second the breakfast at Scano's (the official name is "Zia's Grill at Scano's," and it's located next door to the bakery). They start you off with fresh fruit when you sit down, and the specials are amazing. This past weekend, one special was "Crabcakes Benedict" -- very indulgent. The personalities that haunt the place are fun, too, and very welcoming.

                Another great (and cheap) breakfast in Worcester is at the Gold Star Restaurant (on Gold Star Boulevard). The corn beef hash is FRESHLY made with real corned beef (no canned meat), and it is amazing. Plus, your eggs always come as ordered -- the cooks at the grill really know their business.

                1. We lived in Woosta until just a few years ago, so apologies if any of this info is out of date. An absolute high point in the city are the two fantastic Middle Eastern grocery places on Pleasant Street, Ed Hyder's and Bahnan's. I've forgotten the name of the bakery, but closer to Main on Pleasant you can also get great Lebanese sandwiches, soup and sweets. In season, there are lots of good farm stands as well, of which our favorite was Cournoyer's in Paxton, near Anna Maria College. Tom's Deli is also very good for Polish specialties, and there are good butcher shops (Emerald on Chandler) and fish markets (West Boylston Seafood). A note for carnivores: Ed Hyder of Ed Hyder's will take orders for delicious fresh lamb from local farmers.

                  We had a lot of favorite restaurants in Worcester, some standouts were Pho Dakao on Park Ave, Coes Cafe by Coes Pond, the Wonder Bar on Shrewsbury St. Keep an eye open for surprises, too, like the wonderful Salvadoran food at the tiny Pupu Seria (I honestly believe that I am remembering this name correctly) on Pleasant.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gordito

                    We were notified of your posting concerning our farm in Paxton and just wanted you to know that we appreciate the mention. There is no better advertising than word-of-mouth, which is the way we have managed to stay in business for 56 years. Thanks and Happy Holidays, Gordito.

                    1. re: Vegro

                      Vegro, please tell me where you are in Paxton. We just moved to the West side, this fall I spent a very pleasant forty-some minutes driving around on a big hill but not finding you (the directions I had were rather vague). I suspect, however, you're closed for the season. Many thanks, Juliet

                  2. Worcester is great for ethnic food! This especially goes for Vietnamese. I would suggest Pho'DaKao and Da Lat on Park Ave and Saigon on Main St. Definitely try the avocado shake. It's sweet and doesn't taste like the bitter fruit. Vietnamese soups are also some of the best you'll ever have.

                    Also, go to Water St., where you can find a Jewish bakery (Widoff's) and a Jewish deli (Weintrabu's). The bread is amazing and the deli is a lot of fun and has been in business for ages. Also on Water St. is the Broadway Diner, where they make their own ice cream (or used to).

                    Lastly, go to Coney Island Hot Dogs, near the train station, Union Station. They have also been open for ages, have great (and cheap) hot dogs, and have one of the most overtly sexual/photographed neon signs (basically and hand squeezing a juicy hot dog). Also check out the wooden seats in there. There are carved with the most interesting graffiti!

                    People who fluff off Worcester don't know what they're missing!

                    1. I thought I would check back in with everyone and let you know the results of some of our recent grazing...

                      1) Zipango, sushi, Shrewbury Street

                      After years of being almost addicted to Sakura Bana's sushi in Boston, we finally tried sushi in Worcester last night. Zipango had a nice atmosphere and the service was very good, while the sushi was OK but not spectacular.

                      There were many, many appetizer options available. We had a generous, steaming portion of edamame and a crab cake appetizer, one of the evening specials. It was decent, but a little too much filler for our taste.

                      On the raw fish side of things, there was a mixed bag. The hamachi sashimi was a little dry, though the sake sashimi was pretty good. Portions were generous, particularly with the maki rolls. The volcano maki roll was decent, but the crab meat on top didn't taste perfectly fresh.

                      Overall, if you're jonesing for sushi, Zipango would be a decent option, but don't expect to have your socks knocked off. (Has anyone tried Willy's in Shrewsbury, or the new place on Park Ave that I've heard about where one of the areas's better-now sushi chefs now works?)

                      2) Wonder Bar, pizza, Shrewsbury Street

                      Thank God for Wonder Bar! In a region where everyone making pizza seems to have a surname that ends in -opolis, Wonder Bar makes one of the best pizzas we're ever had. It's certainly better than Regina's in the North End of Boston. (Regina's incidentally, has been on a slow decline for the last 5 or 6 years). Their homemade soups were also quite good, and the atmosphere is kind of like a 70s rec room.

                      And here's a great little feature: If you want homemade Italian sauce but don't have time to make it yourself, you can buy a quart of theirs for $5. (It's even on the menu).

                      3) National Grille, dinner, Blackstone National Golf Club, Sutton

                      We've been to this place a number of times because of its convenient location in Sutton, and we have been pleasantly surprised each time. It's somewhere between pub fare and a basic American dinner, but they do it pretty well. The fish and chips are excellent, as is their calamari appetizer. Service is decent, and on cool nights they have a great roaring fire in their dining room fireplace.

                      I believe it will close for the season very shortly, so you may need to try it in the spring.

                      4) Leo's, Italian, Shrewsbury Street

                      We have discovered that nearly all restaurants in Worcester shut down on Sundays. Leo's is an exception, so we have visited twice for basic Italian fare. The food isn't breaking any new ground, but they do all of the classics pretty well. If you're looking for a basic red sauce kind of place, you could do worse than Leo's.

                      1. A couple of posters referred to an Armenian restaurant called Shiraz, as being 'Middle Eastern'. I am 100% Armenian and we are of European descent not Middle Eastern. (A common error, believe me). Although we do share many like dishes with the Greek people , such as baklava (We say Paklava), we are mostly alligned with Russians and the Euro culture. El Basha is Lebanese cuisine, and both Armenians and Lebanese claim the 'shish-kabobs'.:) However, I grew up with lamb shish kabob and know it is an Armenian dish. Many people mistakenly mix all of these cultures up, so I thought I'd post some facts about these wonderful nationalities. There used to be a fabulous restaurant called ARMENIA in Worcester a few years ago. BTW, to the poster who said there are no great Chinese places, let me offer the info that there is one great place in Worcester (On the West Side near where I live) called Nancy Chang. You will love it. Japenese cuisine interest you? Try Sakura Tokyo on Park Avenue. I personally love the swordfish at Harlequin located within the Beechwood Inn (hotel), pricey but I prefer very clean, quiet , upscale places to noisy overcrowded ones. Now we need an elegant French cafe on the West Side of Worcester. El Basha West is ok, very nice ambience but limited menu choices. Block Five on Green Street is nice however someone made a huge mistake in the ambience and seating departments (very noisy, cafeteria looking too-close tables, too cramped) but their fondue is luxurious !! cie

                        1. A few more great choices to be found at the end of a nice drive! Now if you want Mexican cuisine, Margaritaville at Chuck's on rte. 20 (Auburn). Try fabulous cuisine and stellar ambience at the Salem Crofts Inn. on rte. 9 West Brookfield. Try the Whistling Swan (and its' Ugly Duckling Loft!) in Sturbridge. All in Worcester County. I grew up on Boston's North Shore and now live in a charming old historic home on the West Side of Worcester and enjoy both areas. cie

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cie

                            Margaritaville at Chuck's is the worst Mexican food we've ever experienced. Unfortunately, we've yet to find a decent Mexican restaurant anywhere near Worcester.

                            1. re: cie

                              Whistling Swan/Ugly Duckling is a shade of its former self...no longer really reliable. Margaritaville has pretty lousy food...good mex is almost impossible to find in central ma.

                              1. re: Altaira

                                Agree that Margaritaville is awful, but there is some decent Mexican food to be found. Check out Cancun in Grafton on Rt 122.

                                1. re: Altaira

                                  Check out Tacos Parilla Mexicana in Worcester. Very authentic and delicious!

                                  -----
                                  Tacos Parilla Mexicana
                                  138 Millbury St, Worcester, MA 01610

                              2. I think one of the better chinese places in Worcester, although not nearly as good as in Chinatown Boston, is Ping's Garden on Madison St, Worcester.

                                There have been a lot of new Vietnamese restaurants opening lately in Worcester that are pretty good where you have a choice between Pho and other dishes such as Green Bamboo on Green Street and Anh Thu on Park Ave- not far from Da Lat. My favorite for now is Anh Thu. They have a great seafood stir fry dish that's one of the best I've had. Also great Bun Bo Hue.

                                Bamboo Hut serves great food, but the service leaves me too frustrated to return there often. To say "the service is casual" is a polite way of saying "the service is horrible".

                                1. Having gone to WPI on the 6-year, 4-year degree, two restaurants that we always went to (back in the late 80s/early 90s) were Ping's Garden and Sakura Tokyo. Sakura was my first teppanyaki experience and I was hooked. Ping's was our go-to for cheap, good off-campus food. Having lived in Dallas and Phoenix for the last 11 years, each of which lacks a decent, dependable Chinese restaurant, Ping's seems that much better. Down here, buffet is king for the most part if you want Chinese. I've heard good things about Da Lat, but the only time I went there I was the lone white male in our group, and got served well after the Asians in our group. The meal put me off Vietnamese for years, until I had some in Montreal that opened my eyes to how scrumptious pho and banh can be. :)
                                  BTW, I am a native Mainer. I've just had my fill of snow. :)

                                  1. Hi Firenza! If you go to Ping's Garden, you'd better love loud loud music ! ;) BTW I love Maine and love snow lucky you.:) The one thing I hate about buffet is the public all leaning and reaching over the food. (Not everyone washes their hands after the powder room. Ewwwww). I avoid buffets.

                                    1. I saw someone post about a good brunch place. Personally, I believe that the best brunch place in Worcester is Annie's Clark Brunch which is on Main Street in Worcester right next to the Clark University campus (934 Main Street). It routinely wins Best of Worcester awards.

                                      1. The best sushi in Wocester area is Willy's in the center of Shrewsbury. Their prices are comparable/below Zipango's and their sushi is MUCH better

                                        1. For sushi, your best bet is Baba on Park Ave. Best I've had this side of Boston. And somebody mentioned the dearth of good Mexican food, but I would recommend Tacos- Parilla Mexicana on Millbury Street. Authentic, dirt cheap and extremely tasty.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jackbauer

                                            I second Baba. Willy's seems to have gone downhill for sushi. I agree that it's better than Zipango.

                                            Will try Tacos-Parilla! There is a new Mexican place on Shrewsbury Street - Mezcal. Getting some mixed reviews.

                                          2. I'll second Willy's as a good sushi spot. Only been once, but had a great meal. It could've been nostalgia though as I hadn't been in the space in twenty years when my parents used to take me to the old pub there.

                                            1. I like Biaggo's on Park Ave for Italian, their garlic dip sauce is the second best free thing in the world. Prices are extremely reasonable. Bennies at the Summit WB and Mountain St has great cheap food, and Finders Pub in West Boylston does the decent food at excellent prices very well. The downside is pretty much every night it is difficult to get a seat. Ciao Bella on West Boylston St in Worcester is very good also. Anthony's is gone. The Brew pub is OK value wise but the food isn't spectacular. Min's Wok on WB Street has very good Chinese take out, Nancy Chang has good upscale Chinese food.

                                              1. I'm another newcomer to Worcester and am grateful for all the suggestions and guidance here. We've been spared a lot of bad meals and had some good ones. I wanted to throw out there that the fish and chips at West Boylston Seafood, right on the West Boylston and Worcester town line, is always perfectly fresh and perfectly fried (the lobster bisque is sometimes wonderful, sometimes just average, but always worth a shot; loads of brandy in it). The fabulous and ever-expanding Bahnan's Mediterranean market--really, it's a market of food that is eaten anywhere that used to be the Ottoman Empire--has opened a cafe on its site. Shwarma, falafel, etc., all excellent. But I don't ever drive by there without stopping for the spinach or spinach and cheese pies that are for sale from the bakery because they're just so fabulous and make a great breakfast the next day as well. The baklava there is our family's new favorite; just the right texture and not at all cloying.

                                                1. We got a pretty good pizza tonight at Blue Jeans. Ask for thin crust- we got sausage, RED peppers and onions. a little under $15 for a large but not "Greece"-y at all. We're North of you (Holden) and we just got a NEW Thai place. Nice atmosphere and pretty good food

                                                  -----
                                                  Thai Island
                                                  456 Main street, Holden, MA

                                                  1. Was home for a visit last month and tried Armsby Abbey (http://armsbyabbey.com/) on Main Street in Worcester. It was awesome! Amazing beer selection and huge focus on supporting local producers. Most "foodie" place I've seen in Worcester.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: TownSpa

                                                      Ill second the Abbey for great pizzas, sandwiches and cheese boards with nearly everything sourced from local and sustainable farms. The bonus is 22 draft lines and over 150 bottled beer selections with a focus on Belgian!

                                                      Also, Sonoma in Princeton is spectacular.

                                                      Still River Cafe in CT...cant remember the town but its close to Thompson, has recieved the top review from The New York Times.

                                                      Baja Grill on Millbury St (BYOB) for great, inexpensive authentic Mexican...and afterwards you can hit Nick's, almost across the street. Its a great German bar with a food menu and live music and cabarets.

                                                      One Love Jamaican Cafe on Main St in Main South. Great authentic food in a cozy, artsy space...BYOB

                                                      Any of the dozens of ethnic restaurants....they can be hit or miss but try them. Pupuseria La Salvadorena on Pleasant St rocks. Da Lat on Park Ave is pretty good.

                                                      Baba on Park Ave is tops for sushi in the city.

                                                      Sahara on Highland, El Basha on Park Ave and Shiraz Armenian, also on Park are great middle eastern spots.

                                                      55 Pearl St is pretty good, though Ive only been once.

                                                      Chicken Shwarma from Bay State Bakery on Water St.

                                                      Im sure I'll think of more soon. :-)