I don’t see myself as a food snob.

I enjoy hotdogs from Coney Island just as much as I enjoy a steak from 111 Chop House.

Growing up in a working class family I understand the value of stretching a dollar at the supermarket to feed a family of four. I don’t think expensive food necessarily translates to good food either. Most good food has nothing to do with the monetary value, but more the time, love, and effort that is put into creating it.

In this world, anything and everything homemade can find itself with a hefty price tag. Often times handcrafted items are considered a prized commodity when they are tangible consumer goods, but unfortunately this does not always translate to food. With that being said, at first glance, the menu at Kummerspeck can seem pricey and even a little pretentious. However, I don’t believe that to be true in either aspect.

Situated on Water Street, next to Weintraub’s and across from the former Widoff’s Bakery, and with a name like Kummerspeck — the restaurant seems to fit right into this Eastern European immigrant neighborhood of old.

Zambone/Photo by Yussef Khalaf

The literal translation of the German word Kummerspeck is an adjective used to describe weight gain from emotional eating, in layman’s term, comfort food. As far as first impressions go, the entrance to Kummerspeck falls flat. The decor lacks some sort of art or character that other restaurants in Worcester have capitalized on.

Upon further investigation, the other side of the restaurant has a very quaint bar and deli case filled with all the delicious carnivorous meats you could imagine available for purchase by the pound. This seems to be more of an attractive atmosphere for dinner than the actual “dining room”, which is relatively bland in terms of decor and comes up short of the eclectic style they’re trying to achieve.  

Anyone with a weak constitution for the preparation and butchering of that night’s special, should be warned, the atmosphere of Kummerspeck might not be as appetizing to you as it is to me. The owners of Kummerspeck are so proud of their butchering background, in fact, that the main butcher block counter doubles as a bar for dinner service with a show.

Visible throughout the entire dining room, you can watch the executive sous chef Erin Hockey break down a rabbit, a whole pig, or a variety of locally sourced proteins. You will find better ambiance in places like Lock 50 or Dead Horse Hill, but you will not get half the quality and service that I experienced at Kummerspeck. Not only was our server and general manager amazingly friendly, but their knowledge and love for what they did really shined throughout during our entire dining experience.

Now onto the “meat and potatoes”. The average person is going to find it a little difficult to navigate the menu at Kummerspeck. This is typical for a restaurant of this caliber. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to use ingredients like foie gras, pastrami jam, sous vide carrots, or chicken liver mousse, but the inexperienced dinner guest is going to have a tough time understanding what this food tastes like just by reading the name.

Many of us have never eaten rabbit before, and therefore have no idea of the juicy flavorful bite a spoonful of braised rabbit can pack. If you took the best dark meat from poultry then added the texture of a braised short rib, and the flavor of a sweet glazed duck, then that’s what rabbit tastes like. If the expression “people eat with their eyes” holds any value, then it’s not just the visual appearance that is going to make people eat the food, but the written description as well. 

Pierogies/Photo by Yussef Khalaf

A mix of modern American cuisine with German and Polish influence, the menu also seems pricy, but you can’t look at it as a single appetizer costing anywhere between $11 -$15. The portion sizes are so big that you have to think of everything as being able to amply serve two people. A $15 charcuterie plate really is like a $7.50 charcuterie plate per person. The $16 Zambone is more like a $8 per person dinner for two.

I started with the charcuterie plate. This plate was dressed with some of the most interesting and exotic cuts of meats I have had the privilege of tasting. Everything from spicy coppa, black peppered duck breast, lamb ham, and my favorite, the pork rillette. This rillette was incredible. Not to salty, very tender, and flavorful I will definitely stop by their deli counter again to bring some home.

The next dish, in my opinion was the star of the entire meal, the Zambone. A pork trotter stuffed with merguez sausage, over red lentils and arugula, garnished with chicharones (fancy word for pork rinds). Unlike anything I’ve eaten anywhere in worcester lately this dish was so balanced, well thought out, and perfectly executed. The wilted greens mixed with the creamy red lentils really balanced well with the spicy merguez sausage. Although I didn’t want to eat anything after that, I also sampled the pierogis. Like everything else up to this point this dish did not disappoint, the pastrami jam was amazing. My only critique about this dish was I felt the chef went a little heavy on the mustard cream.

Next was the Zucchini fritters. Deep fried, seasoned shredded zucchini, laid atop a smear of chicken liver mousse garnished with sous vide carrots and candied pepitas (fancy word for pumpkin seeds). The presentation of this dish wasn’t as vibrant a dish as everything else we ate that evening, but none the less delicious. A little rich for me, my only critique would be that they went a little heavy on the smear of chicken liver mousse.

Drunk off the euphoric feast of expertly butchered and prepared meats, I ordered the rabbit spaetzle special(try saying that three times fast) for my entree. Rabbit is one of my favorite proteins, but not often found on menus, so of course I had to order it. Even though I only made it a few bites in, before surrendering to the limits of my appetite, this dish also came through with amazing aromas, a beautiful presentation, and overall satisfying end to a great meal

TWIW Review:

Food

Quality, quantity, presentation; absolutely amazing. The chef/owners should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished.

Service

Friendly, knowledgeable, well above average. The front of the house did a great job at preparing their servers to be both helpful and patient when explaining the menu.

Atmosphere and Ambience

Great music, excellent beer and wine selection, decent cocktail list.

Dining rooms lacks character. If you served that caliber of food in the ambiance of a place like nick’s on Millbury street you would have one of thee best restaurants in the county.

Do NOT, I repeat do NOT bring your vegan/peta holier than thou friend out for a night at Kummerspeck!

Price

On the higher end, but manageable. Not cheap enough to eat at everyday, but definitely in the normal rotation of places to go out to eat, when you want to spend money on a great meal.

Overall

Kummerspeck is going to face all the same growing pains every restaurant with an upscale ingredient list faces in Worcester. People will complain about the food being too expensive, only to mask their fear of trying something new and something they don’t understand. It will get mixed reviews by friends and socialites as they share a conversation over dinner and drinks competing about “the best meal they’ve had in awhile”. 

About Yussef Khalaf

Yussef Khalaf is the restaurant critic for ThisWeekInWorcester.com. He was born and raised on the West Side of Worcester and is a graduate of the Worcester Vocational High School’s Culinary Arts program. As a native of the city, he has been involved in working with and around the foodservice industry in Worcester for over a decade. While most of this time was spent working in the high end restaurant industry of Nantucket, he also worked in Miami, FL and Albuquerque, NM. Although currently working outside of the food industry, he continues his love and connection with food through his continued patronage of Worcester’s many establishments.

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