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It's All About the Food at the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Massachusetts

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 3/11/2018.

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Super Steak Panini from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Super Steak Panini from the Depot Street Tavern.

Adam Hicks quit his job several years ago at a worldwide food service when witnessing co -workers losing their jobs after dedicating their lives to long years of service.

"I didn't want that," said Hicks. "I didn't want to waste the rest of my life to a unloyal employer!"

One day out with friends trying to find a good restaurant for sandwiches in Milford, Mass., Hicks came across a vacant dining spot -- the former Crivillo's Crossing, predominantly a popular breakfast and lunch place in business from 1938 to 2013. He didn't solve the sandwich search challenge at that given moment, but Hicks took a fancy to the building located on a densely-populated working class Milford side street by the railroad tracks and near former shoe factories. He then decided to open his own restaurant at that location.

"I didn't know where to go with friends to sit down for some good sandwiches," said Hicks, 35, an Uxbridge, Mass., resident. "We had trouble finding a place, so I decided to do something about that."

Enter the Depot Street Tavern in 2014 where word-of-mouth caught on quickly about Hick's flair for creating basic pub food favorites going far beyond the norm. Customers wait up to two hours on a weekend to dine and drink in the bustling, friendly, slightly cramped but comfortable and cozy bar and restaurant with 40 seats in the main section and 20 in the indoor/outdoor deck addition. Even on a weekday when seating is ample at most surrounding restaurants, the Depot Street Tavern consistently has lines out the door. No reservations are taken here, but locals have no reservations about coming to the Depot Street Tavern.

Lines out the door at the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Massachusetts
Waiting in line for lunch at the Depot Street Tavern.

Once inside, the unpretentious atmosphere feels like home with its small dining room and Hick's "stuff" all over the place -- collectibles, antiques, street signs, Jimmy Buffet signs, etc. Lately, customers have been contributing to the collection.

"In addition to all of my useless stuff from home, people have been bringing their own stuff in -- even a lacrosse stick," said Hicks. "People come here in the morning and leave something on the steps."

The dining room at the Depot Street Tavern in Miford, Mass., has a classic neighborhood tavern look.
Dining room and bar area with plenty of signs at the Depot Street Tavern.

Hicks, 35, comes across as affable, funny, and sometimes with no filter, but he is dead serious about his profession. He started working in the restaurant industry at age 13, at the now-closed Cocke'n Kettle Restaurant in Uxbridge. Hicks quickly learned the profession at this old school restaurant known for its traditional New England food, plenty of cheese and crackers and rolls before the main meal, weddings, receptions, and lounge singer entertainment. Graduating Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical School in Upton, Mass., as a culinary student, Hicks continued his passion for the food service industry after high school by attending Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., where he earned an undergraduate degree in culinary arts. He also picked up significant "food made from scratch" knowledge by working at the locally legendary Oliva's Market in Milford for several years.

Translated to the Depot Street Tavern's success, Hick's earned Worcester's Best Chef Award in 2015, 2016 and 2107 and the WXLO-FM 104.5 Worcester Perfect Palate Award. With four sous chefs on site, and an efficient and friendly wait staff, the Depot Street Tavern not only serves outstanding upgrades on salads, appetizers, steaks, chops, chicken, seafood and Italian dishes, but makes sure to do so on a consistent basis.

"There's no book on how to do things," said Hicks, about creating food. "I just like to put a spin on things, but, most importantly, to keep the customer happy and coming back. And we hire people who care."

Locals have taken notice around the Milford, Mendon, Franklin and Uxbridge areas, but also those from afar.  Tom and Anne Kerrigan, of East Bridgewater, drove over an hour with friends to sample some of the Depot Street Tavern offerings.

"It's a small space, but super friendly and the food was great!" said Tom.

"I had the buffalo chicken mac and cheese and it was very good," said Anne.

Adam's love for food and a natural, "'You-can't-teach-this-stuff" gift for culinary creativity gives customers the best of both worlds -- that is, a neighborhood joint to enjoy popular comfort foods, but also a place where a master chef and his chefs are not just just content with the basics. Because the Depot Street Tavern is basically Adam's life (he works up to 100 hours a week), that commitment leads to an ever-evolving offering of comfort foods to die for...

Adam Hicks, of the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Massachusetts
Depot Street Tavern owner Adam Hicks brings out lunch from the kitchen.

Appetizers suggest the beginnings of a special dining experience, resembling nothing like the paint-by-numbers, assembly line generic offerings seen at so many restaurants of this genre. For those tired of basic fried calamari appetizers, the Kung Pao Calamari adds sticky Asian sauce, julienne peppers and carrots, fresh herbs and chopped peanuts served over wild arugula. The popular Polenta Sticks features house made Parmesan and black pepper polenta matchsticks lightly fried and served with a lemon and herb aioli for dipping. The equally popular Loaded Nachos brings this appetizers staple to the next level with house fried potato chips piled high with chili mojo pork, melted cheddar and topped with olives, shredded lettuce, jalapeƱos, chipotle BBQ and cilantro cream. And then there's the Crispy Buffalo Chicken Poutine Fries with hand cut fries smothered in melted cheddar jack, bleu cheese and cheese curds -- then drizzled with buffalo cheese sauce and topped with crispy buffalo chicken...
Buffalo chicken putine fries from the Depot Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Crispy buffalo chicken poutine fries from the Depot Street Tavern. Photo source: Depot Street Tavern.

Homemade soups and salads also serve as wonderful precursors to the main meal -- or perfectly acceptable and satiating as standalones.  Like with most dishes, diners can order to specification like the customer who ordered a salad with salmon and pesto...

Salad with salmon and pesto from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Salad with salmon and pesto from the Depot Street Tavern.

Hicks likes to refer to sandwiches as "handhelds" as a more specific description, but one would definitely need big hands to handle the ample servings like this Reuben accompanied by hand-cut onion rings...

Reuben from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Reuben from the Depot Street Tavern. Photo credit: Depot Street Taver.

The Super Steak Panini, as pictured at the beginning of story, offers an incredible portion of perfectly cooked shaved rib eye steak with sauteed onion, peppers and prosciutto -- and then topped with melted provolone cheese, house made peppercorn sauce and a side of au jus for dipping. And, of course, served with hand cut potato chips, made every day at the Depot Street Tavern. One more look for an added perspective and appetite builder...

Super steak panini with homemade potato chips from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Super Steak Panini with homemade, hand cut potato chips.

The Old Fashioned Burger -- coming in at a half pound -- has a mouthwatering effect with ground hand-formed chuck on a roll with arugula, farm fresh tomato and American cheese. The next level of burgers: The Depot Burger served in the same size but with caramelized red onion jam, aged Vermont cheddar cheese and crispy applewood bacon served on a Portuguese muffin. In a completely different twist on a burger, however there's the Porketta Burger -- porketta is a traditional Milford favorite (spiced pork). This masterpiece features ground pork seasoned with roasted garlic, cracked black pepper and chili flakes topped with shaved fennel salad and provolone cheese on a homemade roll supplied by a local bakery. 

Depot burger from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Burger from the Depot Street Tavern.

Even the hot dogs go beyond the standard...

Hot dog platter from the Depot Tavern in Milford, Mass.
Hot dog plate from the Depot Street Tavern.

Dinners continue the over-the-top theme, including superior versions of fish and chips, mac and cheese, steak tips, chicken Parmesan and creative selections like the wild mushroom and cheddar meatloaf that includes a bacon compote. The Three Hour Pasta Bolognese features a house made ragu of beef and pork that is simmered for three hours with red wine. San Marazano tomatoes, fresh herbs, onions and celery. Finished with a drop of cream and house made garlic bread on the side, this meal could probably serve two people.

Chicken parm from the Depot Street Tavern, Milford, Mass.
Chicken parm dinner from the Depot Street Tavern. Photo source: Depot Street Tavern.

Two dinners have earned awards in the Worcester Best Chef Competitions. The Homemade Porketta Ravioli is filled with porketta ravioli tossed with a ragu of wild boar, tomato, wild mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, carrots and red wine. The dish is simmered for hours and finished with cream, Romano cheese and fresh fennel. The Pecan and Sage Crusted Chicken with Strawberry Butter features pecan and sage breaded chicken served over homemade sweet potato and wilted Swiss chard -- and then topped with melted strawberry butter and fresh sage.

Fridays offer the lobster grilled cheese with ingredients around the lobster and cheese varying from time to time.

Ever-changing blackboard specials are plentiful and continue Hick's creative vision, while the standard menu rotates two times a year. Additionally, the Depot Street Tavern offers breakfast on Saturday from 7 a.m.-12 noon and Sunday from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. that includes egg dishes, pancakes, waffles and specialty cocktails.

S'mores pancakes from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, massachusetts.
S'mores pancakes served at the weekend breakfast at the Depot Street Tavern. Photo source: Depot Street Tavern.

Spicy Bloody Mary from the Depot Street Tavern in Milford, Massachusetts.
Spicy Bloody Mary served at the Depot Street Tavern weekend breakfast. Photo source: Depot Street Tavern.

Even with the high quality selections served in big portions, the Depot Street Tavern offers tremendous value for the money with most huge sandwiches coming in around $10, dinners between $15 and $20 and kids meals between $4 and $6. Some meals cost more, but Hicks feels gratitude no matter what customers order.

"I am happy with whatever people order," said Hicks. "I get no more enjoyment seeing someone buy a 30 dollar steak than a 10 dollar hamburger."

Desserts vary, but are homemade (either made on the premises or brought in from a local bakery) while the beer and wine selection is vast. A rotating selection of 20 bottled beers including lagers, IPAs and Porters, as well as 12 selections of craft beers on tap, highlight the beer menu.

Depot Street Tavern beer selection, Milford, mass.
No shortage of beer at the Depot Street Tavern.

Hicks also gives back to the community, including donating 1,600 lbs of food to local food pantries. He loves Milford and the close-knit feel.

"People care about their community here," said Hicks. "There's a sense of pride in Milford. Lots of people graduate Milford High School, go to college or work, and then come back to live here. It is basically a blue collar town with lots of history and lots of good people."

With the increasing crowds and tight dining quarters, as well as a growing catering business, does Hicks plan on eventually moving the Depot Street Tavern?

NO!", said Hicks. "This restaurant is going nowhere (geographically). This is our home."

Hicks recently opened a second restaurant, however: Maddi's Cookery & TapHouse at the former The Perfect Game site in Worcester's up-and-coming Canal District. Named after his son Matthew, nine, and daughter, Addison, two, Maddi's extends upon Hick's high-end yet affordable approach to sandwiches, salads, dinners and drinks.

The two restaurants truly validate Hicks' decision to leave the corporate world to start his own businesses.

"I made the right decision leaving the food service job," said Hicks. "I love what I am doing and this is what keeps me going."

Depot Street Tavern is located at 45 Depot St., Milford MA. Tel. 508-488-6844. Web site: (includes full menu). Facebook fan page: Twitter address: Instagram:

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The Abbey in Providence, R.I., is known for its burgers and beer

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