One way of finding a good place to eat is to simply follow the crowds. It's not a sure-fire approach — the wisdom of the masses can lead you astray — but in the case of Mulberry Street, a popular restaurant on Main Street in Manchester since 2005, the people are on to a good thing.
Mulberry Street was crowded when we stopped in for lunch recently, and we had to wait a few minutes for a seat. But the Rolling Stones played at a comfortably assertive volume on the stereo, and the room buzzed with action, warm with its Silk City-centric decor (vintage panoramic shots of Manchester) along with some artfully decorated bakers' peels (those paddle-like thingies they use to slide bread in and out of an oven). It's a fun place to be: lively and eye-catching without being a cluttered riot of distraction.
Mulberry Street, or "The Mulb," as it's evidently called, has a solid Italian-skewing menu, and a few Asian tangents, with a range of eclectic specialty pizzas, filling pasta dishes, burgers, hefty sandwiches, and munchable appetizers (sliders, wings, nachos). In the dining room are a number of pizzas that are already divied up for slices (huge slices). There are the standards, cheese and pepperoni, and a few more anomalous varieties. I tried a slice of a teriyaki chicken and pineapple pizza, in part because I could never imagine ordering a whole pie of such a combo. The pizza is good, with a medium-thin crust showing off lots of blisters and a few nicely charred bits. That teriyaki concoction was sweeter, fruitier and stickier than I generally want my pizza to be, but if you pretend you're eating some other mysterious dish, you might find something to enjoy. There are more than 20 specialty pizzas, and calzones, too.
An appetizer of chili-fried onion rings with a tangy horseradish dipping sauce sort of begged for a cold beer. These were razor-thin slices of onions, batter-fried into a tangled nest. It might have just been the maximalist mood of the place, but I longed for an excessive flourish to anchor the wispy and crispy bits of onions, something like bacon or gravy or meat sauce. But I think I was just feeling a stunt-eating spirit inspired by the Mulb.
A meatball sandwich made with a gently toasted ciabatta roll managed to be both extra filling and yet somehow wieldable, not some giant monstrosity spilling out of itself into a mess of sauce and cheese and meat. This was good. Salads are tasty, too, with a range of options from fruity (the signature Mulberry salad has dried cranberries, candied walnuts and pears) to classic (caesar, Greek, etc.).
Mulberry Street is one of those places with a rotating list of house-made desserts and treats. You'll need to save room and exercise a little restraint if you want to have space and stamina for a sweet something to cap off your visit. Plan ahead, and take your time.
The Details: 981 Main St., Manchester Closed Mondays 860-645-8646 and themulb.com
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