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Welcome to Worcester Class of 2027: Come on in The Worcester is Wicked Fine

Irena Kaci

Another year, another influx of budding adults: Worcester’s incoming first years is part of what keeps our city current and alive. We at Pulse are here to give a helping hand and a guide to what newly minted adults might enjoy and engage with in their various locales. 

If you’re coming into Worcester via Clark University, congratulations on joining the ranks of the city’s humanitarians, activists and artists. Nestled in Main South, Clark University is committed to seamlessly integrating the local community with student led missions. I spoke with recent graduate Brett Iarrobino, whose volunteer work during his undergraduate years included refugee assistance, and after school help to elementary school children. “St. Peter’s Church does homework for elementary school students. They pair you up with one or two different kids. It was a very cute way to engage and get some face time with some residents. Another volunteer spot was Main Idea Youth and Arts Nonprofit. Worcester Refugee Assistance Group also is a great place to volunteer. They are very active with the Korean, Afghan, and Burmese populations.”

Volunteering in the community is not the only way to engage with Main South. Just around the corner from campus there are several small eateries with a smorgasbord of multicultural offerings. “Formerly Acoustic Java, the new coffee shop nearest campus is now called Belen’s Casa De Pan, and it is a delicious Salvadorian bakery. The new owner is a former Clark University graduate herself. Further down, there’s Hacienda Don Juan. It’s a lunch and dinner spot with $1 pupusa for students.”

Emma Couillard completed both her BA & MA through Clark’s 5th year free program and had her own recommendations and fond memories to impart. “Right near campus, there’s Saigon as well as Mint. They are both Vietnamese cuisines but totally different vibes. Saigon is more casual and lunch, whereas Mint is over by Worcester Pizza Factory, and hosts a lot of college-student friendly events, such as trivia and karaoke. They also offer a lot of good deals for students. On campus, I loved the Hillel-run Midnight Bagel Events. It is exactly what it sounds like: Bagels and schmear at midnight, as a study break. One great place to know about on campus is the Traina Center. It’s a bit off to the side right on Park Avenue, but they host a lot of great events, including a small museum in the bottom floor, which runs exhibits of local artists, both students and non-students.” 

Mint Kitchen and Bar’s Big Mint Platter

If you’re coming to Worcester via WPI, congratulations on joining the ranks of the future engineers, problem solvers, and having the unique experience of Greek Life while on campus. WPI has the distinction of being in the most ‘trafficked on foot’ part of our city, and is packed to the gills with dining and activity options. 

Right on Highland Street, there are various WPI student frequented haunts like Thai Time, and the Bean Counter Café. The Bean Counter is well known around these parts for their delicious vegan and gluten free baked goods. An easy place to sit down and get some work done, The Bean Counter also boasts one of the most active and current bulletin boards for local events. 

A few doors down from both these spots is Taqueria Del Pueblo, a lively food stand turned restaurant, offering affordable lunch and dinner options for students and faculty alike. Not far from campus there is also Worcester’s most beloved dive bar, Ralph’s Rock Diner. Ralph’s offers the grittiest Worcester, served with a side of 90s grunge.  For students looking to unwind with punk rock or poetry, Ralph’s offers Slam Poetry nights on Mondays, and a smattering of local shows throughout the month.

If your interests are a bit more board game oriented, you’ll not want to miss the city’s Nerd Mecca a.k.a. That’s Entertainment. That’s E! hosts weekly Magic The Gathering, DnD, and more. It’s an easy walk through historic Elm Park, where the latest installation of ‘Art in the Park’ will enliven your stroll.

That’s Entertainment! on Park Ave.

If you’re coming to Worcester by way of Holy Cross, congratulations on joining the ranks of elite athletes, young go-getters, and entrepreneurs. Holy Cross is a mini universe of its own. You’ll have to drive a bit to get off campus, but fret not because even on campus there is plenty to do. From Cool Beans, the on campus coffee house offering a social space to meet and collaborate, to the Seelos Film House, offering exclusive features, your cup will be full. 

Should you choose to venture off campus, you will be less than two miles away from BirchTree Coffeehouse, one of the city’s most renowned and architecturally beautiful coffee houses and bake shops. They make some of the city’s best pizzas on Wednesday night and they offer student discounts. Situated right beneath BirchTree is the Crompton Collective, the gateway to Canal District’s most charming section. Local vendors, handmade goods and the biggest flower shop in town (Seed to Stem) await your perusal. To make a day of it, round the corner and take in a game of America’s pastime at Worcester’s own Woo Sox Ballpark, Polar Park. 

Polar Park

If you’re coming to Worcester by way of Assumption, congratulations on joining the ranks of tomorrow’s healers, organizers, and entertainers. Congratulations also on having, in this reporter’s humble opinion, the most picturesque campus. You will be happily situated equidistantly to both the city and the countryside, with ample options on either end. A short drive from campus on Salisbury Street, and you will find the Worcester Art Museum, one of our more prized locales offering tours, classes and so much more. If you’re looking for more of the same, not far from the WAM there is also ArtsWorcester, a small gallery that packs a big punch. If you’re looking for some communing with nature, it will be easy to head in the opposite directions to hit up Moore State Park or the Cascades for a rigorous and very autumnal experience. Looking for coffee shops, there are quite a few within the mile radius, including Espress Yourself, a small European style café. Just up the street, there is Root & Press, if you’re looking for a more collegiate atmosphere. Root and Press does double duty as both bookshop and coffee/lunch spot. You can dine in or al fresco and pick up your extracurricular reading all in one trip. 

If you’re coming to Worcester via Worcester State, congratulations on joining the ranks of local juggernauts who may or may not know Worcester just as well as I do. Worcester State’s campus and campus offerings are perhaps the most successfully intertwined with the local community, giving anyone who isn’t a local, a chance to blend in with ease. Located right on Chandler Street, one of Worcester’s thoroughfares, Worcester State students are very centrally located. 

I spoke with recent graduate and current Assistant Director of Conferences and Events, Caitlin Kincaide for some insider tips.  “My friends and I really like to try different places to eat, weekends or afternoon free time. If it was lunch and we wanted to study and do homework we would go to Nu Kitchen, The Mercantile, or the Boynton. We also went to a place called Blackstone. They do ‘flights’ of everything there, so you can try different menu times. On campus, there is usually one Halloween related fair, filled with Halloween activities. Also, in September, they bring a mini-farmer’s market on campus for a big health fair.” 

Nu Kitchen

To caffeinate, I would recommend the newly established Worcester Sweets, which serves the best Colombian coffee around, in an atmosphere that I can best describe as Barbie-core. While lunch spots are aplenty, I want to give a special shout out to Nu Kitchen, which is a well worn WSU hangout, always offering exactly what is needed. But within a stone’s throw, there are several options including Nancy Chang’s for a mom and dad sit down dinner, and Sushi Miyazawa, a surprisingly delectable hole in the wall. Make it a triple feature and stop into Tidepool Bookshop for the latest poetry reading, or book launch and you’ll feel like both a college student and a Worcesterite in no time.

Even though Worcester boasts the title of second largest New England City, we do not suffer the congestion of some of the bigger cities out there, and therefore all of these options are easily available. For this reason, it makes sense to set up a central list of Worcester 101, listed below:

Bars:

While I understand that most first-years are unlikely to need this advice right away, it never hurts to plan ahead. Worcester is fortunate to boast a long list of breweries, and beer gardens. 

Not least among them, is the Worcester Beer Garden (64 Franklin Street), offering beautiful open air dining, with a luxurious twist. You’ll forget that you’re not across the pond in some of their fantastically luxurious seating options. 

Blue Jeans Pizza (270 Park Avenue) is another collegiate spot that just invested in their own beer garden, and it does not disappoint. Located in a rather heavily trafficked corner, you’ll get the most Worcester vistas, while enjoying a slice and maybe (someday!) a cold one. 

My personal favorite brewing spot is Greater Good Brewery (55 Millbrook Street) offering both casual indoor and outdoor dining. 

And last, but not least, because BarbieCore is having a moment, Femme Bar, Worcester’s answer to the gay bars of yesteryear. Featured on their very ‘on theme’ menu you’ll find sparkling wine on tap, and a can of ‘gay beer’.

Restaurants:

Worcester has too many to name, but I’d like to mention those that might go easy on a college student’s budget the most. 

First up Fantastic Pizza (910 Main Street) has the best falafel wrap, at the most reasonable price but they have pizza and mozzarella sticks too. While you wait for your order, you can play the old timey Galaga machine that still takes quarters inside. 

Or, head off to George’s Coney Island Hot Dog (158 Southbridge Street) for a classic at a reasonable price. It’s not just the hot dogs, but also the turn of the century time capsule atmosphere that’ll make you think fondly of your college years. 

Shawarma Palace (20 Franklin Street) downtown offers the absolute best shawarma around, at lonely a fraction of the usual price. 

And, lastly, if you’re looking for Vietnamese cuisine, Da-Lat (425 Park Avenue) goes easy on your wallet while absolutely pummeling your taste buds.

Events/Activities: 

Worcester offers countless ways to spend the time, but I’d like to mention a few under the radar and perhaps uniquely Worcester options for newcomers to explore. 

I have never lived anywhere else where I could watch wrestling live, and it’s all thanks to Wrestling at the White Eagle (116-120 Green Street). Every Thursday night at 8pm, any interested parties can see wrestlers from all over New England duke it out with impunity. 

If you’re jonesing for old school vibes and 90s era arcades, do not miss out on Materia Machina (116a June Street). The owners are a dedicated duo, looking to bring the same joy of coin-operated games to the residents of Worcester. But wait, there’s more. Just a couple of doors down, its sister business, a budding ‘video store’ and event place is shaping up to be a hub for local news, and local politics. 

If you’re a cinephile, you will do well to explore the Elm Draught House Cinema (35 Elm St., Millbury). It is a small but hearty presence, with the goal of keeping art house movies alive and on the big screen. 

Last, but certainly not least, if you’ve ever thought you might write the great American novel, give the Worcester Writers’ Collective (20 Franklin Street at the JMAC) a chance. Their weekly Tuesday night meetings include a small but plucky band of artists, writers, and thespians looking to be a part of your journey.

So there it is, the Worcester of 2023. It will surely change and be changed by countless forces, and congratulations again on being part of our history and part of that change.