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Winning combination for downtown diners.

Byline: Bill Clapper

COLUMN: DINING REVIEW

You want to root for these guys and hope they succeed where others have failed.

These guys are David LeDoux, Matthew Bousquet and Greg Takacs, three longtime friends with roots in Worcester, who got together and opened Overtime Tap Fantasy Bar and Grill in the spring.

The trio brings excellent credentials to the Worcester dining scene, with more than 40 years combined in the food service and restaurant business. The food is terrific and the on-floor staff is delightful and very professional.

The only apparent obstacle to the success of Overtime Tap is the reputation of the location. Over the years a parade of restaurants have come and gone, the last one was only able to stay in business for two months.

But situated as it is on the corner of Front and Commercial streets, and neighboring the Common, City Hall and the DCU Center, Overtime has a prime location to become a favorite of the center city regulars.

To ensure its success, Overtime pushes its express lunch and takeout business, and it provides entertainment and a haven for a growing late-night clientele.

Weekends in center city by definition are a slow time for restaurants and the two of us had the place nearly to ourselves on a sultry Saturday night. We had the full attention of the staff, the bartender and even the owner, who came out of the kitchen to see how we were being treated.

We sat by the open windows and were entertained all evening by the comings and goings on the Common and along the section of Front Street that we could see. We also watched the big screen TV as the Red Sox recorded another victory on their march toward the American League pennant.

Multiple TVs in the bar and dining area are an acknowledgement that Overtime is positioning itself as a fantasy sports bar. But good taste prevails and you won't find ersatz sports memorabilia lining the walls.

The focus is on the food and there is an obvious effort to offer familiar restaurant fare with flair and keep prices moderate.

Our appetizers set the scene for the evening. The New England crab cakes ($6) were plump and bursting with flavor without added filler or goop. Lightly pan-fried, the cakes were formed from lumps of Rhode Island blue crab, red pepper, celery and scallion. A chipotle aioli was just the right accompaniment.

Never had, or heard of, Cuban egg rolls ($7), so I ordered them. This delightful concoction, dreamed up in the Overtime Tap kitchen, was a blend of shaved pork, pickles, smoked gouda cheese and Cuban mustard wrapped in an eggroll and lightly fried. The mango sweet and sour sauce added zest.

Overtime's salads are major league. My partner found a new way of interpreting the venerable wedge salad of her childhood with Overtime's wedge of iceberg lettuce, covered with crumbled bleu cheese dressing and shaved red onions ($6).

The house salad ($6) was Olympian in its presentation and substance. Assorted greens were tossed with shredded carrot, cherry tomatoes, beets, onions and Vermont cheddar.

Overtime's signature dish is macaroni and cheese, with three house mac 'n' cheese selections on the menu. I chose the Portland ($12) because it contained lobster and a creamy Fontina cheese sauce.

If you feel daring, you can build your own macaroni and cheese (or grilled cheese sandwich) by selecting from four pastas, four cheeses (Irish cheddar, smoked gouda, Port Salut or Swiss gruyere) and fillings that included diced ham, asparagus, mushrooms, tomato and basil pesto.

After the Tap's mac 'n' cheese experience, I can't subject anyone I know to box mac 'n' cheese ever again.

The Colorado lamb chops ($25) were incredible. Cooked to perfection, the lamb was enhanced with roasted garlic, asparagus and tomatoes. The chops surrounded a mound of lobster risotto.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I could not finish the mac 'n' cheese, nor could my partner polish off more than a third of the lamb chops and risotto. We wanted to save the little room we had left for dessert. Our server anticipated our dilemma and quickly boxed up the meals.

The desserts were disappointing. The chocolate lava cake was grainy and had lost much of its chocolate punch. The cheesecake was flavorless and a caramel sauce did nothing to enhance the presentation.

Our quiet evening in what could have been a raucous sports bar was pleasant and prices were in line with what you would expect to pay at other Worcester restaurants. Our dinner for two with wine and beer came to $86.50 before tax and tip.

Overtime Tap

50 Front St., Worcester

* * *-1/2

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays; noon to 11 p.m. Saturdays; 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays.

Website: www.overtimetap.com

Phone: (508) 757-0600

Parking: On street.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover.

Prices: Low to moderate.

Pluses: View of the Common, City Hall; respectable dark wood paneling; bar separate from dining; varied lunch offerings; extensive takeout menu; personable, professional staff; banquet and private room facilities; entertainment; gluten-free menu.

Minuses: Desserts not of the high quality as the meals.

About the Stars

Perfection: * * * *

Very Good: * * *

Good: * *

Below Par: *

Serious Flaws: No stars

Restaurant reviews are the opinions of reviewers based upon at least one visit to the restaurant. The reviewer is accompanied by at least one companion. Recommendations from readers about restaurants they would like to have reviewed are welcome.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 18, 2011
Words:926
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