Discover authentic flavors and dishes from all around the globe in Worcester's backyard.
When immigrants move to Worcester, many bring with them vibrant components of their cultures and traditions.
Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the city’s culinary scene, which is deliciously overflowing with a diverse offering of international cuisine. Locally owned restaurants showcase amazing combinations of flavor, presentation and heritage — and the plethora of ethnic dining establishments to choose from on any given night only adds to the appeal of living in Worcester.
Throughout the city, you’ll find Greek, Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Ghanaian, Vietnamese, Thai, Italian and Hispanic cuisines — just to name a few. Whether you’re in search of a specific comfort food or want to try something completely new and different, the options are plentiful.
One brilliant example of this can be found on Shrewsbury Street’s “Restaurant Row” in the heart of the city. This geographical hot spot features over 40 different eateries
within walking distance, so there’s literally something to satisfy every palate. It’s a city staple you’ll need to visit over and over to fully experience, taste and indulge.
Eating outdoors has become increasingly popular, especially since the pandemic. In addition, the COVID-19 safety guidelines imposed on restaurants forced owners to find creative seating solutions, like expanding patios or transforming parking lot spaces into dining areas. But although many of the social distancing mandates have lessened, the public’s desire for open-air dining has not — which is just fine because Worcester’s got alfresco aplenty.
Some notable popular spots include the 110 Grill, Peppercorn’s, Lock 50, Scruffy Murphys, Flying Rhino Cafe and the Beer Garden. (Be sure to check individual websites for their pet policy before bringing your furry friends!)
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Worcester’s culinary landscape continued to grow over the past two years. Resilient and hardworking restaurateurs pushed through the hardships and have come out stronger for it on the other side.
Up and Coming: Puerto Rican Style
Natalie Rodriguez, owner of Nuestra — a restaurant that serves Puerto Rican cuisine — opened her business in January 2020, and when the pandemic hit a few months later, she started pivoting.
“It forced us to get creative,” Rodriguez says. “We learned to prepare meals that were pretty in a to-go container. We switched to takeout only, and we also contracted to do meals for people who were home quarantining with COVID.”
Even without a dine-in space, Nuestra’s Puerto Rican food with a modern American twist kept customers coming back for more.
“We get a lot of feedback about how flavorful our food is,” Rodriguez says. “My grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, and I learned to cook from them.”
Authentic flavors shine in popular favorites like guava barbecue wings and the pork shoulder sandwich.
In June of this year, Rodriguez — whose first restaurant location was in a 1,100-square-foot space — recently launched a second location 10 times the size of the first one. The new Nuestra venue is more than a restaurant: It’s an event space, catering home base and bar.
“It’s exciting that we get to be the largest Latino restaurant in the city,” Rodriguez says. “Puerto Rican food, it’s not as established a genre as Mexican food is, but we’re trying to cultivate and develop recognition within the community.”
Building on Traditional Flavors
Another recent addition to Worcester’s culinary scene is Chashu Ramen + Izakaya, which offers traditional Asian cuisine with a modern twist. In 2017, executive chef and co-owner Son Vo approached co-owner Tam Le and shared a vision for a Japanese-inspired Asian restaurant in downtown Worcester.
A few years later, just as they were preparing to launch, the pandemic hit, which postponed the opening for six months. Despite the setback, the restaurant is now thriving.
“We focus on creating a memorable experience through our inventive menu,” Le says. “We serve our beautifully plated dishes in a vibrant, contemporary dining room showcasing curated art from renowned artists.”
Bestselling dishes include the Spicy Red Miso Ramen, Pork Belly Bar and Fried Chicken Skin Skewer.
The numerous successful dishes at Chashu can be directly attributed to executive chef Son Vo, whose Vietnamese heritage shines through in the food he creates, along with his strong family values, work ethic and pursuit of excellence.
“We’ve received amazing feedback from our customers,” Le says. “Patrons are wowed by the execution of each dish and the attention to detail.”
Savor the Flavor
If you’re looking for a great place to eat, be sure to venture over to “Restaurant Row” on Shrewsbury Street. This hot spot features over 40 eateries that serve everything from fine dining to casual bites. And they are all within walking distance of each other.
Want to know more?
To learn more about the Worcester area, check out the latest edition of Livability Worcester, MA.