Editorial: Showoffs in the kitchen, Worcester style

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You gotta eat.

Might as well do it right.

Not in terms of limiting portion sizes, buttering broccoli instead of bread, or choosing seltzer over sangria — though those are perfectly fine moves for the person sitting across from you.

We’re talking about enjoying food that’s prepared, and presented, with care.

When it comes to restaurants in Worcester, that’s exactly what we get: Choice upon choice of tantalizing places to dine, with scrumptious and sometimes imaginative menu items.

The Cafe Reyes Cuban sandwich, with slow-smoked pork and ham, and a side of sweet plantain chips

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

The Cafe Reyes Cuban sandwich, with slow-smoked pork and ham, and a side of sweet plantain chips

Yes, right here in Worcester we have world-class and affordable — you can even park there probably — and wonderful places to eat.

How do we know? We read it in The Boston Globe.

We knew already, of course. Seeded by standouts such as the longtime Sole Proprietor on Highland Street — which for some four decades has set a high standard for ambiance, taste and service — date-night, higher-end type restaurants have been rolling in.

And for as long as anyone can remember, residents’ appreciations for good food, friendly atmosphere and serious value have been satisfied by bustling diners, cheery family restaurants, chain places that are generally well-run, and local holes-in-the-wall.

Growing ethnic diversity has enlivened and widened the city’s table. Restaurants that expand our experience, and delight or at least interest our palate, have sprung up and found success, not just on Shrewsbury Street but in Main South, Main Middle, Greendale, Grafton Street, the West Side — everywhere.

Basil n' Spice, 299 Shrewsbury St.

Mark Henderson/Worcester Sun

Basil n’ Spice, 299 Shrewsbury St.

Meanwhile, bakeries, coffeehouses and other specialty places old and new are putting on pounds and knocking off socks.

Worcester’s got it good, food-wise, and it’s only getting better.

And it’s flattering — and worth taking notice by city marketers and promoters — that the secret is getting out.

The Globe’s thorough and glowing article a few weeks ago, and a list of suggested newer restaurants, likely helped take Worcester off the back burner for people whose tastes turn to Boston, Providence or Portland for dinner.

We wonder how many Globe readers set the GPS west.

Meanwhile, it’s been happening under our noses all along. While we Worcesterites have been stuffing our faces at one amazing eatery after another, the city has gradually become “in” as a place to eat out.

And it’s largely thanks to those magic, old-fashioned ingredients: competition and excellence.

Worcester’s under-the-radar restaurant boom and rise in recognition is something to ponder. It’s mostly happened organically. Outstanding offerings, service and ambience — many city eateries have repurposed old buildings into spaces of unique and warm appeal — combine to whet appetites and expectations for more of the same.

Other factors include the hunger and energy of the city’s many college students, and the development projects that have drawn more businesses and visitors to the city’s core.

And certainly, favorable lease rates and other business considerations help local entrepreneurs take a bite out of Boston and other expensive settings. As has also happened in Hudson of late, eateries have opened here by people whose talents might have led them to establish in bigger cities if they could have afforded it.

It’s our gain.

Cafe Reyes is at 421 Shrewsbury St., former home to Dante's Restaurant

Giselle Rivera-Flores / For the Worcester Sun

Cafe Reyes is at 421 Shrewsbury St.

Meanwhile, the city has shown some nimble creativity in its food scene. From the Cafe Reyes business model offering, you could say, side orders of kindness and second chances, to innovations at the Worcester Food Bank, to a rise in urban farmers markets, to small and effective efforts such as Lettuce Be Local, to the “incubator” partnership and chef search that helped create the Figs & Pigs micro-eatery — to name just a few innovations — Worcester has cooked up and dished out ideas.

Whether you’re an epicurean or just a human who enjoys sustenance, you’ve benefitted, and probably partaken, of some pleasant culinary surprises.

We’re still us, of course. That’s part of the charm; Worcester’s always flavored its enthusiasms with pragmatism.

They don’t say “plated” that much in this city’s food places. Not every establishment offers Manhattan-esque mouthfuls such as the “mustard spaetzel” at downtown’s lively new Deadhorse Hill.

Worcester is fundamentally unpretentious to go along with its culinary adventurousness.

But there’s room for it all, upscale and down-home, and a growing sophistication and variety to complement the city’s various older and familiar establishments. Customers of all backgrounds, budgets, likes and habits walk away satisfied — and come back for more.

Tomorrow, the summer edition of Worcester’s twice-yearly, two-week Restaurant Week begins.

It’s as good an excuse as any to plan to eat out, whether at one of the nicer restaurants on the list — which offer fixed-price three-course meals for $24.16 in addition to their regular offerings — or a spot not part of Restaurant Week but one you’ve maybe driven by or heard about.

Just be aware that you might have to wait in line or make a reservation. The aromas — American, Asian, African, Mexican, Vegetarian, Miscellaneous, Marvelous — have begun to waft beyond our borders.

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