The second abbey is ARMSBY ABBEY! This small (and I mean small) restaurant, has a chic bar feel. Located on Main Street in downtown Worcester in one of the old street front properties (bonus points for preservation... can I get a w00t?), they specialize in craft beers and artisanal foods. They've created a Brick Skellar-vibe,with a non-descript almost speak-easy-esque feel more often found in New York or San Francisco, but they've found their niche and quite a following here in Worcester.
Photo Credit Armsby Abbey
Armsby is always packed. I'm not exaggerating. No reservations for parties under 6, so plan to have a beer or two while you wait for a table during peak hours. You'll be rubbing elbows with your neighbor, but after that first Chimay no one seems to mind. The rustic looking high-top tables and bar stools create a casual atmosphere and provide the majority of their seating. However, two window box tables are always the most coveted seats in the house and somehow manage to tone down the bar-vibe enough to make the restaurant socially accessible for several generations (read: as long as you have had a 21st birthday). In the warmer months, you can enjoy your beer and/or meal at a small cafe table on the front side walk. A truly inspired touch that compliments the entire presentation and minimizes the wait.
Photo Credit Armsby Abbey
Unlike your corporate chain (COUGHApplebeesFridaysLonghornCOUGH), the waitstaff seem to have PhDs in craft beer. With over 20 beers on tap that change constantly and a bottle list that takes a good half hour to read through, I have yet to encounter a server who couldn't supply me with a useful description any of the beers offered. I may be guilty of trying to stump them a time or two. Spot on with suggestions and impressively attentive despite the crowd, the Armsby staff shows a level of professionalism that severely lacks in most establishments on the East coast. (It's unfair of me not to note that I think this trend is changing and the service industry is really improving in New England, but I'm always pleasantly surprised by a really knowledgeable server.) Warning: This is not a place for the bud light drinkers of the world. Budweiser has it's time and place -kegs and flip cup tables, but Armsby provides a chance for you to expand your palate and take some risks.
While their dining menu is short, Armsby spares no expense on quality. Local farming and co-ops are the suppliers of the artisanal cheeses and fresh ingredients that go into every delectable meal. Dishes are flavorful and exotic, and while never offering a traditional entree, somehow they've tapped into the comfort food market. Portions are reasonable for the most part, though the slates - which actually come on SLATE - should probably be shared.
Obviously, I'm a big fan of Armsby, so why write about them now, you wonder. Until Sunday, I had never tried their lauded BRUNCH. I have no excuse for this, I'd try to blame Jackson, but he's actually suggested it a time or two. Anyway, I am now kicking myself for dragging my feet to get to Sunday brunch at Armsby, because it was phenomenal. Still non-traditional and locally grown, the entrees were enticing and exciting. As you can tell from previous posts, I'm a big fan of traditional diner breakfasts, but for brunch I want to have options. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed a mimosa while waiting for a table (if I thought evenings were busy, brunch was a zoo), and loved the Moroccan Hash I ordered for brunch.
So, like Downton, if you haven't tried Armsby Abbey, what are you waiting for?! It's a favorite of mine and a real win for the Worcester restaurant scene. Two enthusiastic thumbs up, I'll be back.
Until next time,