10 Must-Visit Restaurants in Worcester, Mass.
Wondering where to eat in the Heart of the Commonwealth? We're smitten with a legendary gastropub, a standout sushi spot, and more.
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The so-called Heart of the Commonwealth has come a long way as a dining scene in recent years. From West African to Vietnamese cuisine, and from a nationally-noted beer bar to an under-the-radar food truck, here are the standout spots earning our love right now.
Accra Girls Restaurant
Boy, oh boy: For West African cuisine in Worcester, Accra Girls is where it’s at. For the last few years, the Grafton Street restaurant has offered a delicious “Taste of Ghana” with mouthwatering specialties such as kenkey (fermented corn dough balls) or banku (fermented corn and cassava dumplings) with fish, as well as okra or yam stews, spicy fried plantains, and more. Even better, in 2020, the Accra Girls crew opened a second venture, Akra, at the Worcester Public Market. There, guests choose from rice, veggies, and meats to build their own bowls and wraps.
Generally recognized as one of New England’s best beer bars, Armsby lives up to the well-earned rep with a draft list that, at any given moment, features regional treasures—even hard-to-find brews from Vermont’s fabled Hill Farmstead—alongside interesting imports and cult-favorite labels. Don’t let the beer goggles cloud your estimation of its also excellent gastropub fare, though, which more than rises to the occasion: Grazing-friendly boards of charcuterie, artisan cheeses, and other small snacks, as well as hearty helpings of seasonal offerings like stout-braised short rib pot pie, pan-roasted chicken with maple shallot brown butter, and a hell of a double-patty burger topped with marrow caramelized onions.
144 Main St., Worcester, 508-795-1012, armsbyabbey.com.
From the outside, it looks like a standalone residence plopped on Worcester’s busy Park Ave. Inside, though, the brick- and beam-accented space happens to house the city’s best sushi: super-fresh fluke, salmon, uni, yellowtail, eel, and more over rice or daikon radish, or tucked into specialty hand rolls. While you’re at it, check out spicy starters—such as shichimi pepper-encrusted tuna belly—and cool off with cocktails like the orange-, peach-, and red wine-spiked sake sangria. (By the way, Baba also has a location in nearby Sturbridge, as well as locations in Bolton and Bristol, Rhode Island.)
309 Park Ave., Worcester, 508-752-8822, babasushi.com.
Bocado Tapas Wine Bar
Small plates, big flavor: that’s the secret to the success of Bocado, which has expanded to Wellesley since first opening in Worcester in 2006. The chic tapas spot’s litany of little dishes pack a lot of punch, from the hot cherry pepper sauce that perks up the shrimp hamburguesas, to the fried calamari augmented with orange horseradish cream, to the pomegranate molasses and sundried tomato-olive salsa that dresses slow-roasted chicken. The paella, too, has pow—whether you opt for the saffron rice with chicken, slow-roasted pork in a charred onion and bacon broth, or any other combo. And it all gets washed down with Spanish wines and pitchers of sangria, the latter in passion fruit, mango, peach, and more styles.
82 Winter St., Worcester, 508-797-1011, bocadotapasbar.com.
B.T.’s Fried Chicken & BBQ
B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge is, without a doubt, one of the best places for barbecue in New England. Naturally, then, we had high hopes when it spawned a fried chicken-focused spinoff in Worcester in 2020—and sure enough, these birds blew us away with their crunchy, Nashville-hot breading that yields to juicy, tender meat. The Wormtown location still has some other ‘cue staples, too, including platters of pulled pork, beef brisket, and sides such as mac ‘n’ cheese, pecan pie, and “sexy grits.” Ooh-la-la.
318 Park Ave., Worcester, 774-530-6152, btschickenandbbq.com.
Aside from a gurgling fish tank, there’s not much to look at inside Dalat, a spare and frill-free standout for Vietnamese cuisine. Who cares, though? You’re not here for interior decor tips—you’re here to dive face-first into steaming bowls of delicious pho, curry, and fish soups, plates of silky vermicelli noodles with pork or shrimp, and snack on sizzling beef skewers. It’s all offered at excellent prices for the portion, which means there’s one thing you’ll very much enjoy looking at: the bill.
425 Park Ave., Worcester, 508-753-6036, dalatrestaurant.wixsite.com/da-lat.
Chef Jared Forman has quite a resume: Per Se, Gramercy Tavern, and Momofuku Ssäm are among the legendary NYC restaurants where he worked before opening Deadhorse Hill in Worcester in 2016. There, you’ll find Forman’s fine-dining prowess on full display, albeit in unfussy, farm-to-table trappings fit for a decadent Sunday brunch of suckling pig croquettes with saffron aioli, creamed herring on toast with salmon roe and pickled onions, and lobster Benedict.
281 Main St., Worcester, 774-420-7107, deadhorsehill.com.
Okay, it’s not a restaurant—it’s a food truck. And, okay, it may not be in Worcester—right now, Mama Roux is most often found parked at the Botanist dispensary in neighboring Shrewsbury on Fridays and Saturdays. (It had to relocate from its former site behind Worcester’s late, great Dive Bar.) But it is, without a doubt, one of the best places to eat in the area, thanks to Jonathan Demoga’s New Orleans-inspired eats: fried chicken sandwiches, boudin balls, jambalaya, stewed okra and tomatoes, and whatever else he fancies. We fancy it all.
Wood oven-fired, Neapolitan-style pies are the name of the game at ‘Olo, from red sauce-slathered rounds topped with thick cups of pepperoni, roasted peppers, or local sausage, to white pizzas dressed up with spicy soppressata, Buffalo chicken, or sweet pickled peppers. Not in the mood for a slice? Try the oven-cooked chicken wings with a lemon pepper rub, fried Brussels sprouts with goat cheese pesto and a drizzle of hot honey, or Nutella- and mascarpone-filled zeppole.
40 Millbrook St., Worcester, 508-459-1959, olopizza.com.
When it comes to people-pleasing Chinese takeout, Red Pepper stands head and shoulders above the rest. Why? Consider the sprawling Sichuan menu that covers all manner of noodles, rice, hot pot, moo shi, and more, plus some fiery pickled-pepper plates to alight your twisted tongue. It’s tough to nail so many dishes with such consistency, but Red Pepper pulls it off—and allows for BYOB, if you opt for eat-in service.
1083 Main St., Worcester, 774-243-6488, redpepper.awsmenu.com.