You would think that because it’s the second-largest city in New England, Worcester would have countless options for dining, and you would certainly be correct. The question is, how do you narrow down the restaurant choices in this sprawling central Massachusetts city? It’s not an easy chore, but some of the options below are among the best of the best — and it’s a pretty diverse list so that there should be something for just about everyone here.
One restaurant that gets high enough marks to bring food lovers all the way from Boston is Deadhorse Hill (281 Main Street), a casual upscale dining spot in the heart of downtown that is currently offering takeout, prepared foods and meal kits as the pandemic continues. Housed in a former hotel, this restaurant focuses on New American fare and comfort food, while also offering a few top local beers and some classic cocktails.
Located just east of downtown on a street full of dining options, La Scala Ristorante (183 Shrewsbury Street) is the perfect place to go to if you love huge portions of Italian food. The Shrewsbury Street area is often called Worcester’s Little Italy, and La Scala does this bustling thoroughfare justice with such items as chicken parmigiana, veal marsala, eggplant rollatini, ravioli, gnocchi, sausage pesto alfredo and an array of pizza options.
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The section of Highland Street just north of downtown has traditionally been a funky, eclectic area filled with college students, and its diverse restaurant scene makes it a destination spot for foodies as well. One of the best options here is Sahara Restaurant & Bar (143 Highland Street), a quiet Lebanese restaurant that rivals some of the best you’ll find in Boston. If you like falafel, baba ghanouj, shawarma and kebabs, you’ll probably love this place.
Worcester has its fair share of old-fashioned dining spots, and George’s Coney Island (158 Southbridge Street) is about as old-school as they get. Dating all the way back to the early 20th Century, this landmark eatery a bit south of downtown is known for its delicious hot dogs, but perhaps even more than that, the “secret” chili sauce that they use on them which is all beef and no beans, helping make the chili dogs a meat-eater’s dream dish.
Not everyone loves meat, and those in Worcester who love plant-based foods flock to Belmont Vegetarian Restaurant (157 Belmont Street) for vegan and vegetarian takes on Caribbean food, with a specific nod toward Jamaican fare. Located on Route 9 just east of the Route 290 intersection, Belmont Vegetarian Restaurant is a convenient spot to get such items as veggie patties, collard greens, curry, veggie stew, macaroni and cheese and more.
A true Worcester institution is Annie’s Clark Brunch (934 Main Street b), a diner in the southern part of the city that locals frequent for stick-to-your-ribs breakfast plates and hearty lunch items, all of which comes with a big dose of character from both the workers and the patrons. This cash-only spot has been around for more than 30 years and isn’t all that well-known outside of the city, making it a hidden gem of sorts.
Speaking of diners, Miss Worcester Diner (300 Southbridge Street) is a legendary place that resides in a Worcester diner car that dates all the way back to the 1940s. Another cash-only spot and not all that far away from Annie’s Clark Brunch, Miss Worcester Diner serves up a ton of comfort food items, from omelets and French toast to burgers and hot dogs, pasta dishes, quesadillas, homemade soups and so much more.
The Boston area isn’t the only place in Massachusetts where you can find great Irish pubs, and O'Connor's Restaurant & Bar (1160 W Boylston Street) up by the West Boylston border certainly proves this point. A spacious spot that also feels cozy with lots of nooks and crannies and dark woods used throughout, O’Connor’s is a great place to go for bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie or fish and chips along with a pint or two.
If it’s Korean food you’re looking for, Choose & Mix (5 Mountain Street E) is a restaurant that is well worth checking out. Located just down the road from O’Connor’s, this counter-service restaurant is popular for its customized bibimbap bowls where you get to choose from an array of bases, veggies, meats, and sauces, while the hibachi menu includes shrimp, chicken, steak, tofu, and veggie options, all of which come with miso soup.
Some outstanding Mexican food can be found at Pepe's Taqueria (645 Chandler Street), a colorful Tatnuck Square eatery that debuted in 2019 and is a popular spot for takeout while also featuring a small patio during the warmer months. All your favorite Mexican items are available here, including burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and tortas, and you can also order chicken mole, carne asada, and many other tasty meals.