Natick’s Year In Food: 2021’s Biggest Local Food and Drink Stories

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NATICK, MA – Crack a Funk Daddy Sour Ale and order yourself a Pepe’s Pizza because it’s time to look back on some of the biggest food stories of 2021. We look back on openings, closings and other major food shifts in Natick and beyond.

Emergency over?

No surprise, the biggest food story this year was linked to the pandemic.

After more than a year under the yoke of the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurateurs saw hope when Governor Charlie Baker ended the state of emergency in May. This ended the nationwide order of masks and capacity restrictions.

Find out what’s happening inside Natick with free real-time updates from patch.

Warm summer weather and vaccines brought some return to normal, although the delta variant kept the case numbers relatively high. The year ends with a spate of new cases thanks to omicron, and some communities – including Worcester and Sudbury – have returned to indoor mask mandates.

Big openings

Perhaps one of the greatest restaurant success stories of 2021 was the expansion of The Farmer’s Daughter in Sudbury. The brunch spot drew long lines after it opened in March after more than a year of work. The restaurant may soon have a new neighbor: a boutique ice cream parlor.

Find out what’s happening inside Natick with free real-time updates from patch.

The Buckley Kitchen & Bar in Framingham, which opened downtown this summer, can’t be beat and has received consistently good reviews. Sam Sushi Art & Music meanwhile replaced the former Sofa Café. A new acai spot has also opened in the city center. A new Bubble Tea (and Korean Roast Chicken) opens in Trolley Square Plaza.

The restaurants in Framingham were also picked up this year by Restaurant Rush, a grassroots competition designed to promote food during the summer months.

Nearby, the Natick Mall received a big boost when Level99 opened with an outpost of Everett’s Night Shift Brewing in June. In Milford, a former Framingham pizza maker reopened Mozie’s Kitchen in the Turtle Tavern in November.

Marlborough has a new ramen spot, Kinzen. Though Raising Cane’s first location in the area is still in the works due to a district court appeal filed by a McDonald’s next door.

Worcester’s dining scene added a few pounds in 2021: the country music venue and restaurant Off The Rails; The cabin along Park Avenue; Torito Mexican opened at Lincoln Plaza; Meraki Coffee Dessert Bar and All Systems Go Esports Bar along Shrewsbury Street; Canal District wines in the Worcester Public Market; the free play arcade, bar and restaurant; and the Far Shot ax thrower opened in October.

And Wayland finally got its bagel table. The owners first announced plans for the store in January 2020, but the Natick location opened ahead of Wayland in the fall of 2020.

Goodbye

Worcester has seen a number of closings including the 75-year-old Maury’s Deli, Sahara Restaurant, Ken Chin’s, and Fairway Beef (also 75 years old). In Marlborough, Halfway Café closed its 20-year location on Boston Post Road in May.

Maury’s Deli in Worcester closed in October. (Neal McNamara / Patch)

The Greek restaurant Aegean Sea was auctioned in Framingham in the spring. The closed Shoppers World location of TGI Friday’s is to be demolished. Little Lola Restaurant in South Natick closed in March, but owners are planning a new location.

At the end of the year, Natick’s Dolphin Seafood closes at the end of December. But the owners plan to return in the spring with a new restaurant concept.

The year in beer

The two Framingham breweries celebrated their big anniversaries in 2021. Jack’s Abby celebrated its 10th anniversary in July – a decade in which the brewery grew to become one of the largest breweries in the state. Exhibition ‘A’ celebrated its fifth anniversary in September and was a comfortable home on Morton Street, which was once inhabited by Jack’s.

In Marlborough, the city’s three breweries – Lost Shoe, Tackle Box (which reopened in late 2020) and Flying Dreams – held their first Oktoberfest since 2019.

In Worcester, Wormtown Brewery ended 2020 with an expansion. But harassment allegations also rocked the brewery, which resulted in several original founders stepping down from their leadership roles. The brewery then hired Kimberly Golinski, the former Tree House Brewing manager, as its new general manager. The city also got a new beer pub: Double Down Brewing at Peppercorn’s, the same restaurant where Wormtown started out. Greater Good Imperial Brewing won a silver medal for its Sour Ale Funk Daddy at the Great American Beer Fest.

Tree House Brewing’s flagship location in Charlton. (Neal McNamara / Patch)

Further afield, Sterling Street Brewery opened in Clinton and Thirsty Robot Brewing in Fitchburg. And in early summer, the Tree House in Charlton reopened its flagship brewery for personal service after being can-only for more than a year.

The Kells Beer Company, the only craft brewer in downtown Natick, closed in late June. After the reopening of its taproom at the end of 2020, the 3cross Fermentation Cooperative returned to selling beer to take away. The brewery didn’t sell any beer at all this week. Redemption Rock Brewing in Worcester has launched a new line of coffee beverages.

New beginnings

Some local restaurants have moved or even modernized in 2021. The Old Path Village Plaza in Framingham became a popular spot in 2021 after Neko’s of New York and Mediterranean Turkish cuisine (November 2020) moved in after a fire several years ago. Neko has also been expanded with the new Saxonville burrito spot.

Worcester’s Pepe’s Italian Restaurant moved just north of Franklin Street to a new home on Shrewsbury Street. After more than a year of post-pandemic closure, Armsby Abbey in Worcester reopened in time for the downtown road closures for filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

And if you’re in Wayland this winter, reserve an igloo. The Dudley Chateau reopened its outdoor restaurants just in time for snow and freezing temperatures.

It’s been a long year. If we missed your restaurant opening or other local food news, please email [email protected]


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