Visit Dates: (04/30/14) (05/06/14) (05/21/15)
Sure, there are hotel restaurants that are cheesy, but Ceres Bistro at the Beachwood Hotel (between Route 9 and Route 290) is elegant without being forced. From the color schemes to the French art to the modern furnishings to the rotunda in the ceiling, the entire restaurant exudes understated class. It's the kind of place you'd go for a business lunch, or maybe a date if you don't mind the booths being right on top of each other in an ice cube tray arrangement. There are also some banquettes, seats at the bar and more on the patio in warmer months.
Working nearby, I'm always looking for lunch options with respectable burgers, and this menu caught my eye. Both visits were for lunch.
It may look like a bulkie, but there's nothing bulky about this fresh roll that's surprisingly light and flexible. The bottom might be a little thin to withstand all the beef juiceage, but that says more about the beef than the bun. Throughout the meal I was trying to figure out whether it was buttered as well as grilled—I tasted it but couldn't find any visual confirmation. So I called it a coinflip, or perhaps only the bottom half got it. Turns out it was only the bottom half: on the second visit I inspected both halves and confirmed it.
On the first visit I went with the 50-50 burger ($12 with fries), so named because the beef is a 50-50 blend of short rib and chuck, offering 25% more short rib than the more newsworthy newbie a few blocks away.
The exterior got a respectable crusting and moderate salting. A quick bisection of the sandwich started the juice parade immediately, and such a long parade. The doneness nailed a perfect medium rare as ordered, and you couldn't ask for a smoother grind. Beefiness was just okay and not the expected home run that the blend might suggest, but there's still a lot to like here.
That same blend is also used in the other burger, the Bacon Blue ($12 with fries), which I tried on the second visit. Beefwise, this was the same in all aspects: as-requested doneness, decent crusting and seasoning, gentle grind, rampant juice flow and mild beef flavor.
The 50/50 burger on a revisit a year later was nearly identical to the ones I tried previously. Juice flowed very easily.
Folded-over Bibb lettuce proved formidable (and ultimately removeable) on visit 1, tamer on visit 2 and formidable again on visit 3. Tomato was decent but not really noteworthy.
A thick blanket of aged Grafton cheddar on visit 1 was slightly sharp, a little tart and melted nicely but not to the point of runny. As for a condiment, there is none and none is really needed with all that juiciness.
Blue cheese on visit 2 didn't attain the same coverage, but with its more potent whallop, a little goes a long way. I like that it straddled the line between solid and liquid with some crystals in the texture. Bacon got crisped to the point where fexibility was lost but short of overdone.
At first glance they look ordinary, but the hand cut fries here are a generous mound with an interesting assortment: there's crisp and there's droopy; there's salty (coarse grain) and there's peppery. Overall, nice job. The second visit's fries were hotter and crisper outside without compromising inner fluff.
A hotel restaurant could get away with charging a few dollars more, but Ceres keeps things reasonable.
During lunch hour, approaching from downtown Worcester is faster via I-290 than Route 9.
The Bottom Line
Ceres Bistro has a very good burger that with a few tweaks could be a great one. The beef is impressively luscious; add some flavor firepower and we could be on to something special. As constituted, it's still one of the best in Worcester and one I'll return to for sure.
Yelp reviews of Ceres Bistro
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