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Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Brings Delicious Comfort Food Classics With a Twist to The Canal District of Worcester, Massachusetts

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 1/20/2019.

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An after-meal fortune cookie best summarized the significant appeal of Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse in Worcester, Mass.: "The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected."

Fortune cookie message foundat Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

In addition to finding fortune cookie wisdom at a restaurant with American comfort foods, the unexpected happens the minute upon approaching Maddi's with good signs of a fun, satisfying dining experience -- signs, literally and figuratively that is. A huge Maddi's sign adorns the side of the historic Mendel Building, originally built by businessman Mendel Bloch in 1907. For the record, Bloch used his name as a pun to create what would become known as the Mendel Block! The enormity of the new restaurant sign visually stands out in the up-and-coming Canal District, suggesting Maddi's as being one of the new cornerstone businesses.

Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse is a fabulous restaurant located at the Canal District in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Inside, the Five Man Electrical Band's dated but somehow timeless 1971 hit single, "Signs," ironically plays in the background while a quick look around the restaurant reveals old-time signs saturating the wall. Retro signs for milk delivery, local streets, a Boston fire station, Barnum and Bailey Circus, Yawkey Way, Western Union telegraph and cable, Savings Bond and stamps, Shriners Hospital, Imperial Ice Cream, Firestone Tires, cigarette ads and Fairmont Imperial Ice Cream represent what is just a fraction of the wall memorabilia. Much like Maddi's, none of the signs are recreations. Rather, they are the authentic real deal.

Maddi's in Worcester, Mass., is full of signs and other memorabilia in its two dining rooms.

Next to an old-fashioned telephone booth, a "Top Secret Nuclear Warehouse" sign humorously points to the wine cellar. A peace sign suggests unity for all to enjoy Maddi's.
TheMaddi's Cookery & TapHouse logo sign stands as the most visually prominent wall advertisement. The best sign, however, is that Maddi's puts a significant twist on traditional pub food for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. That, coupled with a rotating selection of 20 craft beers (as well as wine and the ability to expertly infuse its liquors), suggests why lines have been forming out the door on weekends.

Owner Adam Hicks: He Did It His Way

By now most of us are sick and tired of all the buzzwords and phrases to describe 21st century restaurant cuisine. After all, those who choose to dine out find food more tasty than empty nouns and adjectives. Farm to table, clean food, artisan, small plates, curated, sustainable and deconstructed mean nothing if the meal isn't tasty and the bill looks like a portion of the national debt.

Enter Maddi's Cookery and TapHouse owner Adam Hicks who often "tells it like it is" and has probably never taken a ride on the pretentious bandwagon in his life. Naming the restaurant after his two children, Matthew and Addison, Hicks opened Maddi's in June 2018, to bring his love of made-from-scratch comfort foods, as well as good drinks to the second most populated city in New England.

"Others might try to be trendy -- we are the exact opposite," said Hicks
. "We have a relaxed atmosphere and want to be a place where you come with our buddies, as couples or with your neighbors. This is also not a place you come out to just once a year as a special destination for celebrations. We are more of an every day place where we see people coming back more than once a week."

Adam Hicks, owner of Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in The Canal District, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Hicks, a graduate of Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical School in Upton, Mass., and
Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., with a degree in culinary arts, has been working 21 of his 36 years in the food industry business. He credits an inspirational high school "life lessons" shop teacher and working several years at the legendary Oliva's Market in Milford, Mass. as major, positive influencers in his career direction.

From bus boy to chef to management type in the food service industry -- and everything else in between -- Hicks simply wanted a business of his own. His career wish became even stronger after seeing many of his co-workers in the corporate world being laid off after years of dedicated service. Hicks didn't want to become that person succumbing to career casualty. He quit his job.

"I didn't want that," said Hicks, an Uxbridge, Mass., native
. "I didn't want to waste the rest of my life to a disloyal employer!"

One day out with friends in 2013, Hicks found it a challenge to find a food stop with good sandwiches in Milford.

"I didn't know where to go with friends to sit down for some good sandwiches," said Hicks. "We had trouble finding a place, so I decided to do something about that."

On that day of not being able to find something tasty, Hicks took a fancy to the building that housed the former Crivillo's Crossing. Crivillo's faithfully served the local public from 1938 to 2013 with a tremendous reputation for serving hearty breakfasts and lunches. In 2014, Hicks then decided to open the Depot Street Tavern at that location. His flair for creating basic pub food favorites going far beyond the norm soon resulted in two hours waits on the weekend.

Riding on the success of the Depot Street Tavern, Hicks saw a golden opportunity to expand his restaurant vision by opening Maddi's in Worcester's Canal District.

Creating A One-of-A-Kind Restaurant

Maddi's bears no relations to anything slick and perfect, as well as the conventional ways things should be done at a restaurant. In addition to all those signs, the sight of an old fan, an ancient clock that reads 2:45 at 10 a.m. a Popeye doll on top of a sled, a Tonka toy truck on a wall ledge and an eye exam chart comprise something that strays far from the sterile, angular, trendy restaurants and bars of today.

Popeye toy above the dining room at Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

There's a method behind Hicks' madness.

"We are not just selling food," said Hicks.
"Rather, we want to sell you an experience. We don't have this and that, and I certainly don't live the most trendy life. But here, we have sold you a memory with all those signs, So many people, say, might grab a meal from Subway, eat in their car and that's that, Here, people might see a sign which brings back memories. A child might see the Popeye, the Tonka truck, the Ritz Cracker tin and ask their parents about it. These are conversation starters. We want people to converse with each other here! The signs give you the opportunity to talk about something. People are looking for nostalgia."

Old dairy sign on the wall at Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts,

Maddi's features two rooms: a smaller gathering spot with a counter and a larger space with a bar, as well as a patio for the warmer weather. The restaurant might sport a perfectly imperfect look, but don't let the historic look fool you. Formerly The Perfect Game restaurant and nightclub, the business was in need of an extreme makeover. Hicks hired local contractors including commissioning his father, as well as friend Wayne Lesperance as site supervisor to help put a unique stamp on the restaurant-to-be.

Eating and drinking counter at Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

"We basically gutted everything except the brick walls and floors," said Hicks, "It all turned out great without compromising the history and feel of the place. We worked hard to save the floors. The handmade tables come from an old machine shop in Hamden, Connecticut. The reclaimed chairs come from Pennsylvania. The overhead lights were repurposed. Sure, we could have put in glass tables and fancy chairs and updated with everything new, but no, that's not what we wanted!"

Dining room at Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts. 
Like the basis of a country song where life goes wrong but everything feels so right, the restaurant might seem old and creaky from some perspectives with some water leaks and bursts having occurred more than once. Maddi's, however, reflects the every day challenges of the working class where the good bones of a home, the close-knit feel of family and community, and the healing powers of a good, home cooked comfort foods meal matter more than anything else. You can that  feel that sense of community in the people dining here and the owner and staff -- it all feels like a family gathering.

At the bar in Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

In addition, Hicks takes great pride in employing approximately 40 employees at Maddi's with the majority living in Worcester.

"We take great pride in the people who work here," said Hicks.
"We have the ability to pay people and keep our word! Sure, we make mistakes, but we learn from those errors. Everything is fine as long as the employees aren't on their cell phones and social media. They aren't because they care about where they work. "

Even Hick's children, at such young ages (Matthew is 10, Addison, three), can feel something special going on at their dad's restaurant. Matthew enthusiastically helps out at Maddi's although, admittedly, there might be an underlying motive.

"If he (Matthew) wants a new video game, I'll have him work at the restaurant," said Hicks. "My daughter, well, she likes to see herself on TV!" (Maddi's has been featured on the Phantom Gourmet and Wicked Bites).

Dining at Maddi's in Worcester, Massachusetts.

While Hicks comes across at affable, forthright and humorous, he is ultimately dead serious about his work.

"I don't sit at the bar and drink in my restaurant," said Hicks. "I go across the street for that. We have a business to run."

Putting A Twist On Comfort Food Favorites

Hicks offers a simple but much-needed solution to those who love eating out at restaurants: Just give customers the food they love at huge portions with good value for the money. Hicks has an uncanny knack of knowing what the public loves to eat and an even more uncanny knack to create those dishes better than virtually all those restaurants this writer has tried in 56 years. Depot Street Tavern started that mission in motion and Maddi's continues that trend without the trendiness. He makes food from scratch, often sources locally and has hired a staff that loves food and working in the restaurant industry as much as he does. Often putting some kind of twist on comfort food classics, Hicks comes across as the Lennon and McCartney of cooking -- that is, taking the basics of his craft and transforming it into something creative, original and memorable. You just can't teach this stuff. The menu is completely different than the Depot Street Tavern, but the same vision remains. Hicks, in fact, proudly displays a Depot Street Tavern sign at Maddi's that his father crafted.

Adam Hicks proudly displays a Depot Street Tavern sign that his dad created at his second restaurant, Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse.

Here is an irresistible sample of some of Maddi's best dishes...

The Steak Press Handheld takes the panini/grilled sandwich to the next level with steak tips that rival the Best of Boston area places like the Newbridge Cafe, Floramo's and Conrad's. This masterpiece also includes house marinated hot peppers, sauteed onions, provolone, horseradish, crunchy bread, hand cut chips and a pickle. It's absolutely delicious.

Steak Press Handheld with hand cut chips from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse located at The Canal District in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Pasta Buco features jumbo shrimp, fresh bucatini pasta, eggplant caponata, basil, ricotta salata and house garlic bread.

Pasta Boco from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in The Canal District in Worcester, Mass.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

The lobster cakes feature lemon slaw and a chipotle aioli.

Lobster Cakes from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse at The Canal District in WOrcester, Massachusetts.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

The Stick E. Bacon has been a favorite since Maddi's opening with its crispy Applewood smoked bacon further flavored with sriracha and brown sugar.

Stick E. Bacon with Applewood smoked bacon, sriracha and brown sugar
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

The Fried Chicken and Waffle also stands as a customer favorite with dry rubbed boneless chicken, a cheddar bacon buttermilk waffle, jalapeno infused maple syrup and sunny egg.

Chicken and waffle from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

The Bacon Jam Burger clearly goes beyond your basic burger with a half pound hand packed burger, cheddar cheese, espresso bacon jam, arugula, roma tomato, onion frizz, a warm buttery roll, hand cut chips and a house pickle.

Maddi's half pound burger with cheddar cheese, espresso bacon jam, arugula, roma tomato, onion frizz on a warm buttery roll.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

Shrimp Tacos comprise of cajun shrimp, cabbage, mango salad, tomatillo salsa, cotija, hand-pressed chive tortilla, hand cut chips and a house pickle.

Shrimp Tacos from Maddi's in the Canal District in Worcester, Mass.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

If you love mac and cheese, Maddi's takes the comfort foods favorite and adds steak tips, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, cheese sauce, pasta, buttered panko and house garlic bread.

Steak mac and cheese from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Photo credit: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse Facebook Fan Page.

If you have enough room, the in-house made desserts continue the culinary magic at Maddi's, most notably the fresh chocolate cheesecake chimichanga placed inside a flour tortilla and fried for crispiness. Sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served with vanilla ice cream and homemade whipped cream, this is a dessert staple at Maddi's. A rotation of desserts include key lime and apple pies, banana bread, grapenut pudding and cannolis.

Oreo crumble cannoli from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse located at The Canal District in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Oreo crumbles cannolis.

Maddi's Digs The Canal District

Hicks couldn't have chosen a better location to do business. Maddi's has not only found lines also forming out the door on weekends because of Hick's fantastic place for food and drink, but also as a beneficiary of one of the hottest trending urban areas in southern New England. It is a family-friendly restaurant that all walks of life seem to enjoy and can feel safe dining at in an increasingly interesting section of Worcester.

Peace sign at Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

A little background on The Canal District: The area first prospered as a means to connect Worcester and the Blackstone Valley towns to the sea at Narragansett Bay in the early 19th century. The Canal District eventually evolved into a bustling mixed-use and multi-ethnic neighborhood based on the eastern European immigration of the late 19th and early 20th century. The Canal District, unfortunately, fell into decline later in the 20th century. The old neighborhood has been given a second life, however, showcasing many new restaurants, bars, clubs and events, as well as new apartments and condos in historic mill buildings. This growth has resulted in The Canal District has becoming the fastest developing area in Worcester and second only to Boston's Seaport District in Massachusetts. Additionally, in 2021, the Worcester Woo Cats will succeed the Pawtucket Red Sox as the Boston Red Sox Triple A minor league team, playing at a brand new stadium in The Canal District scheduled to open in 2021. It's an exciting time to live and work in Worcester with The Canal District as a major player in the city's renaissance.

"We have a number of good young independent business owners in the area," said Hicks. "This isn't the place for chains, just a lot of new businesses mixing with established older family businesses. It (The Canal District) has really transformed. We hope to be here for a long time."


For Worcester, that means having the fortune to enjoy mouthwatering foods at Maddi's created by one smart cookie!

Fortune cookie from Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse is located at 64 Water St., Worcester MA. Tel. 508-459-1080. Web site: http://www.maddiscookery.com. Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/maddiscookery. Instagram address: http://www.twitter.com/maddis_cookery.




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Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse, located at The Canal District in Worcester, Mass., features comfort foods made with a twist. It's located in a historic building in one of New England's fastest growing urban neighborhoods.



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