A Maine Favorite...

A Maine Favorite...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

O'Connor's Restaurant and Bar in Worcester, MA, is "Offaly" Good

Article by Eric H., at VisitingNewEngland.com

Worcester, MA, might not have the diverse dining options of other New England mid-sized cities, but, fortunately, O'Connor's Restaurant and Bar, with its superb Irish cuisine, stands out like a green thumb.

O'Connor's demands high expectations upon entering this massive 350-seat capacity dining spot that seems like a super sized version of your typical, quaint and cozy Irish pub. With rooms called the Eagle, Wild Geese and Back Rooms and The "Treaty Stone" Terrace, The Parlour, The Snug, The Vintner's Nook and The Grand Marshal's Den, you virtually need a GPS to navigate around all the nooks and crannies of the building. Despite the size of this restaurant seemingly equal to a small Worcester neighborhood, the green, gold and wood atmosphere is quaint, and cozy with each room accented with appealing Irish decor, furnishings and memorabilia. The bar is lively, loud, and comes complete with constantly-used beer taps, myriad stouts, beers and ales, busy bartenders walking the distance of the Boston Marathon within a few square feet, and with a "look" made to resemble an authentic Irish pub. The overall feel of the place is tremendously inviting, and a huge expansion upon its 75-seating capacity days, dating back to its inception in 1989.

During a pre-wedding dinner with a party of 14, we found the overall experience of O'Connor's certainly worth many future returns, with only a few disappointments. As an Irish family with years of experience knowing great Irish food and one Jewish person with a digestive track wired to eat enormous amounts of Irish cuisine, we hoped that the selections we chose would deliver upon the promise of the terrific atmosphere. For the most part, it did. One brother-in-law feasted upon, and loved, the "Lt. Governor Murray's Beef Mushroom and Guinness Pie" which perhaps was the height of the overall great dining experience: a gigantic portion of cubed beef marinated in Guiness Stout and simmered with mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots in a rich brown sauce. The flaky pie crust looked just as delicious as the inner contents. Despite the name of the meal, the taxes on this dish were no higher than the other offerings.

My brother-in-law's son enjoyed the turkey pie with mashed potato crust and stuffing, and my wife, Joan, gave high marks to the grilled lamb kabobs -- tender, char-grilled to perfection. The kebobs featured a nice subtle rosemary and garlic flavor and was accompanied by mushrooms, onions, and peppers.

I loved the "Turkey Schnitzel," a dinner special, featuring tender, breaded turkey and cooked apples with spices (and with some amazing rice pilaf). We also enjoyed the homemade brown bread rolls, the mixed greens Caesar salad (with anchovies that rose above the standard, limp "house of pizza" kind) and the phenomenal baked corn beef "Shillelagh" sticks with tender meat and a perfect dough and spicy sauce.

The seafood, unfortunately, was below "C" level with the fried clam plate and the seafood plate with scallops, salmon and haddock paling in comparison to the great seafood we're so accustomed to in Massachusetts and Florida (where my sister-in-law, who had the clam plate, lives).

Regarding service, we were blessed to have one of our favorite waiters, Mark take charge of our table. We knew Mark from his days at Morin's Hometown Bar and Grille in Attleboro, MA. Funny, witty, intuitive, professional, informative and entertaining, he made our dining experience so enjoyable. There should be more "Marks' who serve our food in restaurants! He's like your favorite cousin -- or for the kids, the uncle they look forward to seeing.

On future visits, we hope to sample the Shepherd's Pie, grilled pork chops and stuffing, traditional corn beef and cabbage, chicken curry, Irish potato pizza, and Reuben rye panini. For dessert, we look forward to the raisin pudding and apple berry crumble.

The moral of this review is, when in Ireland, stick with the regional fare. When eating at an Irish restaurant in Worcester, do exactly the same. To date, my favorite Irish restaurants were the Burren in Somerville, MA, and Finnegan's Wake in Walpole, MA, but, with all due respect, that has changed. Based on our first-time here, you'd be hard-pressed to find better Irish cuisine than at O'Connor's -- noteworthy, given the strong competition and reputations of many superb Irish pubs and restaurants in this region. There's no better way to "go green" in Worcester, or any other part of Massachusetts, for that matter!

O'Connor's Restaurant and Bar, 1160 West Boylston St., Worcester MA. Phone: (508) 853-0789
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