It's been a long time since I've seen anything on this board about New England's second largest city (!) so I thought I'd post some updates and suggestions.
Thai Time on Highland Street (run by folks who have a restaurant of the same name in Clinton) is the real deal: Thai food that tastes like it does in Thailand. Northern Thai dishes like larb and som tam, sometimes hard to find, are done very well. They've only been open since September and they're already packing 'em in. BYOB.
It's "pig fest" season at Via, a particularly good time to visit what might be Worcester's most consistent restaurant. Had a wonderful pork belly app there just last night: slow cooked, crusted with black pepper and fennel, served over a brussels sprout slaw with raisins. Nice stuff.
Across the street, Volturno keeps tweaking its menu and refining its service, generally for the better. Apart from Armsby Abbey, nobody in Worcester pays more attention to sourcing good, local ingredients than Volturno. It's a nice addition to the city.
Another relatively new Shrewsbury Street restaurant is 7 Nana. While I'm not into the teppanyaki table scene, they have some very nice seafood-based apps and do some sushi rolls that rival Baba. Baba's still the king of sushi in Worcester, of course, but 7 Nana has its charms, and is a bit more affordable.
Finally, I'll mention that I went to Corner Grille for the first time in a long time last week, and had forgotten just how good their pizza is when it's right out of the oven.
Worcester folks, what are you loving these days? I'd love to see the Worcester scene represented a bit more here.
Yeah, Rosalina's is very appealing. A friendly, affordable, BYOB neighborhood Italian kind of place. Café Espresso (which also fits that same description) is alive and well in its new Chandler Street digs on the west side. It's amazing how many Italian restaurants are able to survive in this city.
I've been hitting Oli's Eatery in West Boylston (just over the Worcester line) for lunch a lot lately. Great Italian food at a decent price, and I can't get enough of their Chicken and Tortellini dish with the tomato-cream sauce!
Had a VERY interesting experience last night at Byblos, a Lebanese place in Union Station. 7pm on a Friday night and hard to get into a lot of places w/o a reservation. I had read about Byblos and decided to give it a shot.
It's located on the opposite side of Union Station from Luciano's. Luciano's was hopping, with a large private holiday party that had taken over half of the atrium. We wandered over to find a spacious room, decorated in an eccentric and appealing way with dark, lurid colors -- completely empty. Oh, except for one person behind a long bar. She confirmed we were in the right place and invited us to take any table. Most of the seating was couches with low tables, good for drinks and apps. We took one of the few conventional dinner tables.
The bartender became our waitress, and she started by explaining that they might not have everything on the menu. After she named a few things they were out of, we made our choices. Oops, they're out of those, too. Eventually, with some heavy hints from her, we chose a set of dishes that they were prepared to serve.
"Oh, is there a wine list?" "Well, no, we drank most of the wine last night, but I think there are two kinds of red left." "Um, OK, please bring us a bottle."
Everything was EXCELLENT. Rich, thick labny was served with exotically spiced olives and pita chips without charge. We had the best tabbouleh I've ever tasted -- almost no bulghur to speak of, just a touch of lemon and garlic, mostly silky, super-fresh chopped parsley and tomato. Wonderfully smoky baba, light and delicious hummus with very little tahini in it, and some very solid kibbeh. Everything was nicely presented and super-fresh.
The tab for a wonderful meal for two with a nice bottle of Cab was $62 before tip.
Turns out they're only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and while they open at 6, it's mostly a late-night crowd. But both our waitress and the chef, who came out a few times to deliver some bonus bites and see how we were doing, were very hospitable and clearly hoping we'd enjoy ourselves and come back. We definitely will.
This is NOT a place for someone picky, since who knows what they'll happen to have. But if you are flexible and like really, really good middle eastern food, give it a shot. Oh, and I love the $1 parking in the Union Station garage, too.
Charlie's Diner has moved to Spencer, about 15 minutes west of Worcester and right off of Rt 9. They still have the original diner for breakfast and lunch, but they added an attached building for additional seating with a bar and also serve some pretty damn good dinners there most nights. I always found them to be pretty standard diner-fare but with the addition they have made their menu much more interesting with some really good eats!