In Captain Jack’s kitchen, the crew assembles a concise menu. With the fryer bubbling and the scent of salt and oil in the air, the cooks prepare fresh scallops, whole-belly clams, all-natural beef, free-range chicken, and hand-cut french fries. The menu appears selective because it is. They use only humanely treated animals from regional farms to make their house-made burgers and hot dogs, and all their veggies come from local purveyors who practice sustainable farming. In fact, everything at the roadside shack is so fresh that they don’t even own a freezer, which assures their ingredients are served in a timely fashion and that penguins never claim squatter’s rights.
Pananas Restaurant continually surprises diners with a selection of upscale entrees that change with the season. The spring menu promises fresh options such as the grilled salmon, which is sautéed in creamy pesto before it comes to rest atop bitter greens and risotto-stuffed tomato ($21). Ensconced in an au poivre crust, the 16-ounce bone-in Delmonico steak frolics through sprinklers loaded with balsamic grilled onion and gorgonzola cheese sauce ($28). Pasta options abound, including farfalle aglio e olio, which adds zing to bow-tie pasta with breaded chicken and broccoli rabe sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper ($15). The stuffed artichoke Francese brims with sundried tomatoes, boursin cheese, and lemon butter sauce ($8). Since main courses rotate seasonally, chefs can take advantage of the migratory patterns of vegetables to guarantee access to the freshest ingredients.
As Italian eateries go, Peppercorn’s is a chameleon. Entrees can be elegant—grilled salmon over mesclun, steak tips with a seafood casserole—or downright comforting, such as a pot roast with natural pan gravy. Families have an easy time ordering thanks to the thin-crust pizzas and kids' menu, whereas more mature crowds enjoy the benefits of Peppercorn’s proximity to Wormtown Brewery. The craft-beer producers are just next door, so they keep Peppercorn’s bar stocked with their regular brews, rare offerings, and to-go growlers. In the lounge, seven high-definition flat screen TVs broadcast the day’s athletic proceedings, and here spectators can order anything off the full menu while they second-guess the manager's decision to replace the catcher with a pyramid of fragile milk bottles.
Featured in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette as a neighborhood pizza staple, family-owned P&D Oxford House of Pizza decorates 19 specialty pies in a livery of savory toppings while dishing out platters of toasty Italian fare. The Inferno pizza ($8.50–$14) coaxes taste buds through a doughy ring of fire spackled with pepperoni, sausage, and hot peppers, and the Athenian's garlic butter sets the gustatory stage for grilled chicken morsels dressed in spinach togas and feta-cheese helmets ($8.50–$14). Patrons can choose their own pizza adventure with a slew of toppings, including broccoli, meatballs, and bacon. P&D's toasted grinders, such as the steak- and mushroom-laden "Flynn-IE" ($6–$7.50), deepen the roster of handheld edibles, and homemade lasagna ($6.25) leads a hearty caravan of pasta dishes. Guests can defer to the bistro’s free Internet access to settle dinnertime disputes over whether pasta was first invented by China, Italy, or Marlon Brando as a way to pass the time on the set of The Godfather.
Northern Berkshire peaks peek through the windows of Taylor's, where surf and turf unite in a lamp-lit, exposed-brick dining room. An army of appetizers kicks off the menu, including the baked brie, which is infused with grapes and sprinkled with brown sugar, walnuts, and apples ($8). A fresh garden salad sidekicks every entree, serving as a momentary plate mate for hearty dishes such as the filet mignon ($24) and its aquatic, redundant counterpart, grilled mahi-mahi ($21). The ratatouille with tofu forgoes filets for a mix of stewed eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes that are fresher than haircuts of the eighties ($16).
Years ago, the building now occupied by O'Porto Restaurant built bicycles. Today, the converted factory still carries an industrial-themed appearance and echoes with the distant dings of ghost bikes. But the space now churns out traditional Portuguese cuisine—a service that earned O'Porto the honor of "Best Portuguese Restaurant" from CT.com for 2013. Executive chef Adelino de Sousa relies on many of the ingredients from Portugal's former colonies: rice from Asia, hot peppers from Africa, and cinnamon from India, just to name a few. He transforms those elements into artfully presented dishes, including seafood-based entrees, such as baked salmon stuffed with shrimp and crab and grilled filet of sole.