You might say Nu Cafe is leading a double life. During the day, it's a classic neighborhood hangout, serving up simple, fresh wraps and sandwiches alongside a variety of smoothies and juices and espresso and coffee drinks. By night, it transforms into a hipper, slightly more sophisticated version of itself, a place where guests can come to mingle, not over their laptops, but around shared tapas plates, cured meat and cheese boards, and a selection of wine and craft beers. But regardless of the time of day, a few things remain the same: the vibe is always laid-back and friendly, the food is always crafted using fresh, wholesome ingredients, and the Wi-Fi is always free. And, adding to the community-oriented vibe, the cafes also host regular recurring events, including live piano players, painting parties, and chess groups.
Eric's LaPatisserie Café sates the morning and afternoon eat reflexes with fresh-baked, oven-hot pastries and gourmet stuffed sandwiches and paninis. Fresh croissants emerge from steaming hot ovens ($3), and toasted bagels remain crisp even while bearing gobs of the eatery’s famous labor-inducing cream cheese ($2). Afternoon appetites, meanwhile, can be sated with a grilled herb-chicken sandwich ($6.25) or a shrimp-and-seafood salad ($5.50).
The sucrose stylists at Sweet Creations bake a bevy of hand-held and decadent sweet treats as well as specialty cakes in a menagerie of flavors and fillings. Give sweet teeth something to brag about at the dental arcade with a sampling of small and large cupcakes ($1.25; $1.75), brownies ($1.95), or plates of half-dozen cookies ($4). Ice-cream-enriched treats are readily available, including brownies à la mode ($3.95) and sundaes ($4.95), and specialty cakes ($40+) come blanketed with house-made buttercream icing or marshmallow fondant and adorned with soccer balls, fire trucks, and still-life scenes from the Constitutional Congress. Sweet Creations also traffics in tasty small and large smoothies ($2.75; $3.25), as well as chocolate lollipops in dark, milk, or white chocolate, all wrapped up with a colorful ribbon.
Originally built in 1879, the building at 25 Union Street stood for nearly a century as an industrial bastion in downtown Worcester. When the last manufactures moved out in the 1970s, Robert "Gus" Giordano had an idea: convert the ruggedly beautiful interior into an upscale restaurant, preserving the historical building and ensuring that he would not be eating in there by himself everyday. Inhabiting the former screw-machine department, Maxwell-Silverman's Toolhouse ensconces diners in industrial elegance, with a ceiling crisscrossed with heating pipes, a floor dotted with oblong railroad ties, and cozy illumination courtesy of more than 40 vintage pool-hall lights.
Nestled in Union Station, Luciano's Restaurant transports diners back to the 1920s and '30s with walls covered in vintage photos and framed newsprints detailing the escapes of legendary gangsters. The refined indoor dining room features plush white seating and lush, flowery carpeting, while outdoor tables allow patrons to enjoy the sun or taunt slugs with salt shakers. Free parking is available at both locations.
Union Station proves to be a fitting location for Byblos Lounge, a Lebanese restaurant that ferries guests away to the eastern borders of the Mediterranean Sea with shareable mezzas, marinated meats, and toasty loaves of pita bread. Waves of Mediterranean spice crest on dishes of Levantine cuisine as sizzling kafta and kebabs fill the air with the savory aromas of beef, lamb, fish, and chicken. The architecture of classical antiquity meets the hip atmosphere of modern nightlife in the restaurant’s interior, where Corinthian colonnettes frame tables clad in royal purple and diners hold Platonic dialogues beneath the glow of neon lights. After cleaning off plates of grilled meats and veggies, groups can head to the dance floor and sway to the sounds of live DJs, singers, and bands that take the stage on weekends.
At Blush Yogurt Cafe, patrons can have their cake and eat it too, enjoying more than 30 flavors of kosher frozen yogurt that contains no gluten, fat, cholesterol, or preservatives. Flavors run the gamut from caramel and watermelon to pumpkin and green tea, each of which is sprinkled with up to 20 toppings such as coconut, brownie bites, and honeydew melon. The staff also stuffs pork and tofu into spring rolls, slathers ham with cranberry sauce in a wrap, and handpicks the seaweed salad’s contents during annual trips to Seaweed World.