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Best Restaurant for Business Lunch
It could have turned out a lot differently for Robb Ahlquist, co-owner of The Sole Proprietor.
Instead of celebrating his 40th year at the landmark seafood restaurant on Highland Street in December, the Shrewsbury resident might have been admiring four decades as a doctor.
“I was pre-med at Syracuse University,” Ahlquist said.
As a student at the upstate New York school, Ahlquist, now 69, took a slight detour. The biophysics major took a 15-hour-a-week job in the school’s food service department. Within a short time, he was managing the dining hall, earning free room and board.
With his love for the restaurant and hospitality trade born as an undergraduate, he said, instead of pursuing medicine after his graduation in 1972, Ahlquist took a job at The Walter White Tavern in Syracuse.
One of the things he remembered most about the experience was the New York eatery got its fish from Foley Fish of Boston. That supplier, founded in 1906, is still operating. Ahlquist said Foley has set the standard for the freshest, most flavorful seafood available.
By 1979, Ahlquist and his wife, Madeleine, were ready to return to Massachusetts. That year, the couple bought the former Shannon’s, a diner and pub, and prepared a seafood menu.
“Back then there wasn’t a single seafood restaurant in Worcester,” he said. “Restaurants served seafood dishes, but none had seafood exclusively on their menu. But I knew I had a supplier of high quality seafood.”
Ahlquist then called Frank Foley to open an account. Today, the restaurant still gets most of its seafood from Foley.
A Sole secret for success, he said, is the restaurant has refused to follow a the trend where everything is a la carte.
“When we started, a salad or soup, a vegetable and a starch were part of the meal,” he said. “Our customers like it that way, and we’ve kept it because it’s worked for 40 years.”
Another secret, he said, is a staff with longevity.
“Some of my people have been with us for 20 and 30 years,” Ahlquist said. “That says something.”
Best Locally Owned Place to Meet for Coffee
With live music and rotating local art pieces in a large vibrant space, BirchTree offers an eclectic atmosphere to enjoy coffee, with enough room to spread out for quick business meetings. Beyond its coffee, BirchTree has expanded its specialized events from its beer dinners to wine dinners and cheese dinners.
Best Restaurant for Business Dinner
In keeping with its mantra of offering the big-city steakhouse experience without the prices, One Eleven has introduced a weekday promotion offering a prime cut steak and a lobster tail for $25.99, which has expanded its customer base. Its steaks are hand selected and certified prime-grade, and its wine list has received Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence annually since 2001.
Best Caterer for a Corporate Event
Peppers continues to approach every event in a unique way, offering clients a personable experience, while focusing on providing good-tasting food presented in appetizing ways. This past year, Peppers began hosting events at its Northborough location – ranging from chef-curated wine dinners to hands-on cooking classes – and converted a van into a food truck, making appearances at local breweries.
Best Blackstone Valley After-Work Bar
Reunion offers scratch-cooked food, rare craft beers, a modern dining room, a spacious bar, and a private dining room. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch and has catering services.
Best North County After-Work Bar
Founded as a working man’s bar in 1934, Celuzza has been transformed Slattery’s over the past 30 years into a full-service hospitality venue. The eatery tries to source local food whenever possible.
Best Metrowest After-Work Bar
While touting a neighborhood vibe, Tavern in the Square offers a craft cocktail selection and a diverse list of 50 beers changing with the seasons. The scratch-food menu is updated seasonally.
Best Worcester After-Work Bar
The Beer Garden offers 36 craft beers on tap, food, a heated year-round pavilion for live music and a terrace filled with games. This winter, the bar added six heated igloos for free on the terrace.
Best Central Mass. South After-Work Bar
Offering a neighborhood atmosphere, the restaurant includes a full bar with cocktails prepared by a passionate staff. Cedar Street has redone its chef structure to provide more creative food, with a mix of small plates, seasonal entrees, and house-made desserts.
Best Local Brewery
This year, Wormtown had its largest rollout to date, with its Don’t Worry IPA as a partner to its flagship Be Hoppy IPA. The brewery opened its second location in Patriot Place in Foxborough, and it continued its commitment to local ingredients to follow its tagline “A piece of Mass. in every glass.”