Grab a fork, Lawrence residents. You’re living in one of the nine best small towns in America for dining out, according to a national food website.
The website The Daily Meal recently included Lawrence on its list of nine small towns where you can “find great eating where you might least expect it.” The site touts Lawrence as having everything from Central American food — it highlighted La Parrilla — to a “booming gastropub scene,” specifically calling out Dempsey’s and Free State Brewery.
“I think our restaurant scene is surprisingly adventurous for being in the middle of the country,” said Ann Dominguez, a manager at La Parrilla, 814 Mass. “We have a bit of an international feel here.”
Lawrence was one of only two cities in the middle of the country that made the list. Free State founder Chuck Magerl, who also owns and operates Wheatfields Bakery, said Lawrence’s restaurant scene has benefited from a population that is well-traveled.
“We have a lot of people who get excited about what they have seen in other places and want to bring it back here,” Magerl said. “And we still have a lot of people in Lawrence who are always willing to give it a try.”
But there also have been some significant changes in recent years in how Lawrence restaurants operate, said Steve Gaudreau, who owns Dempsey’s and the longtime Massachusetts Street staple Quinton’s. He said several Lawrence restaurants really have taken to the idea of buying local meat and produce, and also have seen the value in hiring highly trained chefs. When he opened Dempsey’s Burger Pub, 623 Vt., about a year ago, he brought in a fully trained chef who had worked for Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills.
“A few years ago, you just didn’t do that in Lawrence,” Gaudreau said. “But now we are going out and getting highly trained chefs, and they are the ones who are bringing in some new concepts. There are lot more items made from scratch these days, and a style that really lets the flavors speak for themselves.”
Other cities that made The Daily Meal’s list of nine were:
- Asheville, N.C.
- Danville, Calif.
- Ithaca, N.Y.
- Edgartown, Mass.
- Ojai, Calif.
- Burlington, Vt.
- Evanston, Ill.
- New Haven, Conn.