By Elisabeth morgan
If you’re from Massachusetts then I’m sure you’ve heard of the city of Worcester, the Heart of the Commonwealth, located smack dab in the middle of MA. Worcester is the second most populated city in New England outside of Boston, and maybe that’s why I see so many similarities between the two. Both Boston and Worcester are filled with bustling life, culture, and great food. But Worcester isn’t Boston, it very much has its own rough charm, and continues to grow and develop as the years fly by.
I feel very lucky to have grown up right outside of this city but never would’ve guessed I’d end up loving and spending most of my time here now. Why- you might ask? Believe it or not, Worcester has some amazing vegan eats and fortunately enough the vegan scene continues to grow and grow in our little corner of the world.
A guide for vegan food options in Worcester
Let’s kick it off with some coffee and, dare I say, Pop Tarts? The New Tradition Company may be the coolest café I’ve ever been to- no joke. Located inside a garage on Harris Court in Worcester, this quaint little spot shares its space with a motorcycle shop and barber shop, and is decorated top to bottom with vintage signs, cool photographs, local art, and healthy plants.
On weekdays you can order from a variety of different drinks, and on the weekends Pig Out Bakery makes, you guessed it, some insanely good Pop Tarts.
Next on the list is Nu Kitchen, which you Somerville folk will recognize, on one of Worcester’s most well-known streets- Chandler. What I think is so special about Nu Kitchen, besides the fresh ingredients and chic atmosphere, is the fact that their menu is extremely vegan friendly and accommodating, everything is clearly labeled. VG for vegan and VE for vegetarian- almost any meal can easily be made vegan by replacing non-vegan items with tofu or other alternatives, Just Egg, or one of their vegan cheeses.
In the mood for a breakfast sandwich? Pastry? Smoothie? Lunch or dinner? Nu has you covered. Recently my favorite meal to order on the menu is their Vegan Dijon Pesto “Chicken” Flatbread (pictured below). It comes loaded with vegan “chicken”, mozzarella, tomatoes, caramelized onions, spinach, a house-made dijon pesto, and a side of their spicy cucumber salad. I don’t know, I think it’s something about the pesto that makes me think this is one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.
A close second is their Vegan “Chicken” Caesar Wrap.
The Loving Hut on Hamilton Street in Worcester is very near and dear to my heart for two main reasons. Firstly, this was the first all vegan restaurant I had ever been to. I remember being in complete shock four and a half years ago when I realized I had an entire menu to pick from for food. Secondly, their food is awesome, and they never disappoint.
Worcester has two Loving Hut locations, the second being on Chandler Street, and though the one on Chandler Street has a way bigger menu, experience has taught me to stick to the one on Hamilton Street.
For years I would only order the Golden Charm (mostly because I tend to be a creature of habit), which is crispy soy chickn stir-fried with lemongrass and bell peppers served with a side of salad, and their Lovely Rangoon’s. Recently, I’ve been switching it up and ordering their Sweet and Sour Divine (pictured below) which is crispy soy protein, bell pepper, pineapple, carrot, topped with sesame seeds. Also pictured below, is their Kung Pao, soya protein chunks stir-fried with carrots, bell pepper, celery, red chili flakes, peanuts & cashews. My friend Ryan and I also decided to try their Hot Wings that come with house made ranch. I kid you not- if I could live off these Hot Wings I would.
Though I’ve only had the pleasure of going to the Vegan Nest a few times, they are certainly one of my favorite restaurants in Worcester. All vegan and family run, this charming restaurant is located on Waldo Street, right near the DCU center and the Palladium. Each time I’ve been there Victor, Nicole, and their children have been nothing but kind. You can really feel their love for their community, which I think makes their food all the better. You can learn more about their story here.
Pictured below is their Hot Pastrami Melt, a house-made vegan pastrami, mustard aioli, and “cheesy cheese.” A+ from me! This same day my sister tried their Skillet Mac and Cheese which was also a hit. They also offer breakfast and brunch.
It would be severely disappointing if I wrote a food guide without telling people the best place in the city to get pizza- and I’m not here to disappoint. I’m here to tell you it’s Antonio’s, also located on Chandler Street in Worcester.
Now, Worcester is extremely lucky for this reason. I’m not sure that any other Antonio’s, which I know is a pretty well-known chain at least in Massachusetts, has vegan cheese (Daiya). I know that the location in Amherst, where they originated, doesn’t- which was always extremely shocking to me as a UMass student. Nonetheless, the Worcester location does have it, hooray!
Side note: The only reason I know that they have vegan cheese is because two years ago I was working in an entirely different pizza restaurant that has since shut down. We didn’t have vegan cheese, so I did what you do when you’re a vegan and just make pizzas with sauce and a ton of veggies. The cooks thought it was funny, in a pitiful way, but also respected my lifestyle (mostly). So, when the news came out that Antonio’s had vegan cheese, I think at least 5 of my co-workers tagged me in the post on Facebook amongst several other friends that suspected I would be thrilled. I was.
Though Antonio’s doesn’t have any meat substitutes (yet! Let’s keep the demand up), I’m a sucker for a loaded veggie pizza. Pictured below is a large cheese pizza with banana peppers, green and red bell peppers, and red onions. Not pictured: The other large cheese pizza we got, two happy vegan friends (Hi Delaney!) and their very vegan-supportive friend (Hi Ryan!). When we left Delaney’s that night there was no leftover pizza.
*Be sure to call in your order, the vegan cheese can’t be ordered online.*
Can I get a drumroll please, for what I suspect to be Worcester’s favorite and most loved vegan restaurant: Belmont Vegetarian! Don’t let the name fool you, this restaurant is 100% vegan and owned by someone who is extremely passionate and proud of this lifestyle. Located on Belmont street in Worcester, right next to UMass Memorial Medical Center, you’ll be sure not to miss it.
The menu is constantly changing but two things remain the same- that you’ll never be disappointed and that you’ll always have a heaping plate of soulful Jamaican food. You can order either a medium or large plate and omit or add extra of any items available that day.
The second you walk through the door you’ll be greeted by some Jamaican music and informative posters on veganism, mindfulness, and letters written by their many fans thanking them for their one of a kind food and warmth. If you care to have an insightful conversation with another like-minded and kind person, make sure to talk to Steven.
Last on my list, but certainly not least, is Nancy Chang. This restaurant, which specializes in Chinese, Japanese, and Thai dishes, is also located on Chandler Street in Worcester. They are hands down my favorite restaurant right now and I only just found out about them two weeks ago- but they’ve been around for years and have won several awards.
Though they’re not entirely vegan, they have a huge vegan menu. I can’t wait to try everything on there. They also, in my humble opinion, have the best seating options out of all the restaurants I’ve listed so far. Additionally they have a pretty decent drink menu for those of us that are 21+!
Pictured below (featuring my dog Dewey’s curious nose) are Steamed Vegan Spinach Wontons and their Vegan General Chow’s Chicken. I actually let the hostess pick these for me because it was my first time ordering from them and I wanted to know what she thought was best. I was so impressed I returned a few nights later to have dinner with a friend. That night I ordered their Kuala Lumpur, which is Chinese eggplant, string beans, cabbage and fried tofu in a coconut curry sauce. I nearly cried over how good it was.
*All photos are owned by Elisabeth Morgan.*