Written by Michael Brazell
118 Highland St., Worcester
Known not only for the giant inflatable crab that adorns its roof during summer months, but also for the best seafood in Worcester, The Sole Proprietor continues to be one of Worcester’s best restaurants, with terrific service and excellent food.
Visiting late on a Thursday night, my co-diner Lillian and I entered to a busy but not packed restaurant. When arriving, diners are first greeted by a large, lively center bar, with about a dozen booths surrounding the taps and raw bar. Lillian and I were brought through to a larger dining room in the rear of the restaurant, with plenty of tables and several booths capable of seating large parties. Our server visited us immediately and we ordered a couple of local draft beers and two cups of the Sole’s excellent clam chowder. The chowders arrived hot, packed with thick potatoes and plenty of clams, perfect for those cold, damp autumn nights.
We opted for an appetizer of crab rangoons before ordering our entrees. About six large, coin-purse shaped deep-fried dumplings were served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce. Though crab rangoons are more traditionally served at Chinese-American restaurants and are known for fake-crab filling and cream cheese, these rangoons are packed with real crab meat and are the perfect starter to any meal at the Sole.
Seasonal dinner specials are offered, and Lillian and I both ordered from that menu. Lillian chose the Black and Blue swordfish, two perfectly cooked blackened swordfish steaks that were as tender as they were delicious. The expertly-prepared fish was served with sauteed bacon and Brussels sprouts, beside a helping of au gratin potatoes prepared with fontina and gorgonzola cheese, with a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction. Though I snuck fork-fulls of Lillian’s swordfish, I opted for the Arctic Char, a little known fish similar to salmon that can survive in both fresh and salt waters, and has been a dietary staple of the Inuit in Canada for generations. This grilled, flaky fish had a trout-like sweetness though its light pink color was more similar to salmon and easily gave way to my fork, as a thick skin on the bottom delicately held it together. A tart apple slaw was liberally spread on top of the fish, while a generous serving of delicious pumpkin risotto rounded out the dish.
Service at the Sole is excellent as similar to Worcester Restaurant Group’s other restaurants, two servers wait on each table. Our servers were prompt and courteous throughout the meal, never being far but also not hovering around our table. Prices at the Sole are higher than other mom and pop fish restaurants, but the quality of each dish – even in spite of a terrific amount of variety – justifies the price. Most entrees range between $20 and $30, though the crowd pleasing fish and chips remains $15. With drinks, appetizers and specials, meals can easily eclipse the century mark for only two diners, though the Sole also features a wallet-friendly bar menu of $5-$10 apps and sushi. Speaking of the bar, the restaurant prides itself on being able to match the perfect wine for your dinner order, with an ever changing wine list that easily tops 100 bottles on any given night, though their draught beer offerings are disappointingly limited. The Sole Proprietor has been serving excellent seafood to Worcester diners for over 30 years, and its formula for success – great food and quality service – should see it be a Worcester mainstay for decades to come.