Once a hotel (Bay State House), deadhorse hill has reclaimed the history of the building it occupies dating back to the early 1900’s. Then, the headquarters for the Worcester Automobile Club held the Dead Horse Hill Climb from 1905-1911, where the best drivers and fastest cars would compete in a one mile race up Stafford Street- a steep 16% incline. Today, the owner/operators of deadhorse hill pay homage to the buildings origins and hope to return it to its glory days of being a prominent social destination.
The trio of owners clearly took their charge of creating a sense of nostalgia and integrity quite seriously; Sourcing antique glassware and china that recall your childhood memories (vintage dinner plates with butterfly gold patterns to the iconic Ronald McDonald collectible water glass) and outfitting their entire front-of-house staff with shirts displaying different Worcester designs from Worcester Wares (a retail store with all Worcester-themed goods just a block away on Commercial St.).
I appreciate small details and deadhorse hill scored high in this department. With a modern but simple twist, the menu came to us on clipboard with a selection of small plates (more like an appetizer) and large plates (entrée). While it all looked amazing, I decided to order two small plates. I was a little concerned it might not be enough food but it turned out to be more than sufficient. As to why I chose small plates, well… I am of German descent and anytime I have an opportunity to order Spaetzle, I’m in! This was no ordinary German noodle; This Spaetzle was pan-fried with mustard, sugar snap peas and a dollop of crème fraiche. The first few bites were good but as I got deeper into the bowl and combined the noodle with the sauce, it went from good to amazing. With different textures and flavors, this meant the rest of the meal had a lot to live up to. To go with it, I elected the Memphis Ribs with a big helping of house-made bread & butter pickles and a vinegar slaw of red cabbage. The plate came with 4 smokey dry-rubbed ribs. The meat literally fell off the bone. If I wasn’t in the company of some very lovely people then I probably wouldn’t have bothered with utensils. I’m not a huge fan of sweet pickles (more of a dill girl) but they were fresh and crunchy. On the other hand, I absolutely love pickled vegetables and the red cabbage slaw was terrific and very balanced.
The menu is a little pricier than other restaurants in the downtown area but I felt that the prices were justified. Everything is made from scratch- curing their own meats and making their own sauces. Our server, Carlos, told us Jared (owner and Chef de Cuisine) is a like a mad scientist, letting things marinate and creating special concoctions. Carlos was a wonderful server- super friendly and informative. He wasn’t afraid to give a recommendation, which I admire in a server.
I am thrilled to see a restaurant like this in downtown Worcester. It felt like fine dining without all of the pomp & circumstance. The owners have had some good press and I believe they’ve set the bar for other restaurants in the area. Although they’re not from Worcester originally, they’ve totally embraced the city, the people and the history. That’s a winning combination!