Once bereft of places to go in South Boston beyond a sports bar or scary green door that led you into an even more terrifying bar that you may not get out of, we now have an exciting plethora of restaurants, bars and cafes right on our doorstep. Of course, I like to make it my business to try them out and tell you all about them… I see it as a public service.
South Boston is one of America’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods. Once known as Dorchester Neck, today South Boston is affectionately nicknnamed “Southie” by its residents. Nowadays a much friendlier place to us Brits where once it was anything but. It was here in 1776 that George Washington placed his cannon and forced the evacuation of the British troops from Boston. I am now here to say I love living in Southie and find its residents very friendly indeed.
There was actually a time, in fact only a few years ago I would rarely go out in my neighborhood unless it was to the good old and now sadly gone Farragut House for a home cooked meal, usually in my sweat pants and no make-up. It was just that sort of place. Its replacement does call for a touch of make-up and perhaps some nicer clothing than sweat pants. Occasionally, I would stop by the Playwright or Boston Beer Garden and every now and then for some hearty Italian, Portabellos would be on our go to list.
I thought it might be nice to give you a run down of what’s now local to us Southie folk – some old and some new kids on the good old Southie Block(s). I am not talking the Seaport District or Fort Point Channel, which we know is abundant with fabulous new restaurants, I am staying a little closer to Broadway for this round-up. So let’s start at the Brroadway T stop.
Franklin Café – Broadway/Dorchester
Franklin hails from the South End where the original, teeny, cozy restaurant has been for years and has always been a local favorite. This location is much larger and more open than its sister. The menu is creative, modern and has a fun flair. They also do very inventive cocktails and interesting micro brews. One of my favorites (not sure if it is still on the menu) are the grilled mussels that I just can’t get enough of. A long bar that runs the length of the restaurant lends itself to more casual dining alone or with a friend. The restaurant is great for large groups and in the summer they have an outside deck, perfect for the leisurely brunch or summer cocktails and snacks. Franklin is perfect for a local date night.
Amrheins – Broadway @ A Street
Amrheins has been around since the 1890s and quite possibly makers of the best Chicken Pot Pie I have ever tasted. Old world charm, dark wood décor and a restaurant that can boast the oldest hand-carved bar in America. Friendly staff and a menu reminiscent of home cooked dishes are what makes Amrheins a home away from home. Great for a family dinner in an unrushed, comfortable and friendly atmosphere. They also have a courtesy shuttle bus for those that want to have that one extra glass of wine or beer. A super idea.
The Junction – Dorchester @ East Broadway
The Junction is the place for loud music, lots of beers, wings and friends. Put on your jeans and casual sports t-shirt and go and enjoy the game. The Junction is a cool place for a party night like Cinco de Mayo and St. Paddy’s Day. They also do a Trivia night every Tuesday.
Café Arpeggio, West Broadway @ F Street
Café Arpeggio is a small, funky little café that offers delicious soups, salads and sandwiches as well as a selection of micro-brewed coffees. Fun artwork by local artists adorn the walls and is for sale to the public. Great to run in and grab a coffee and muffin or to sit and read the newspaper in peace and quiet. They also do a mean egg sandwich.
Stats Bar & Grille, The Playwright and Boston Beer Garden – Broadway @ D St, K St, L Street
I am putting all three of these together because they are more or less the same – this is of course just my opinion. All great local neighborhood bars. Different sizes and looks but similar in big screen TVs, Boston Beer Garden having the biggest screen front and center of the bar and definitely geared towards the sports fan. All the menus are similar with burgers, sandwiches, some pasta dishes and unique offerings like Tempura Artichoke Hearts at Stats and Halibut with Roast Corn at The Playwright. Great for a game night with friends or casual weekend brunch/lunch – all three locations have huge open windows, which is perfect for that that Summer’s evening. They all also offer a quiz night if you want to stretch your intellectual prowess.
Cranberry Café – East Broadway @ K Street
A locals’ café. Cranberry Café is super for breakfast, flavored coffees and fantastic sandwiches. Very pleasant, smiley staff that welcomes every customer like they are lifelong regulars. A long high-stool counter that lends itself to those dining alone. They have a no cell phone policy, which I think is an idea more places should adopt. Now, if they just made some extra strong dark roast coffee, I would be there every day!
Cafe Porto Bello – East Broadway @ L Street
I love this place and its just five blocks away from where I live. So much better than trekking to the North End when you want a solidly good pasta dish close to home. Porto Bello’s is an old-style classic and casual Italian restaurant. Always busy, always welcoming and always very easy going. Delicious pasta and pizza dishes, they don’t scrimp on portions and you are definitely in for many more nights of dinner with leftovers. On a Monday they are packed with a special $9.95 menu of appetizer and main dish. And dont forget, like I always do, this place is cash only.
Sidewalk Café – East 4th Street @ L Street
Owners of Wolfie’s, Sidewalk has been around for as long as I have lived in Southie. Always a line out of the door on the weekend mornings for fantastic breakfast sandwiches that usually drip with yokey runny eggs and large amounts of sausage and bacon; people just love this café. People also love their iced coffees, I would prefer a much stronger roast. Although I think this place is more popular for breakfast and coffee, it does offer a huge menu of pizzas, panninis, wraps and sandwiches. Not really anywhere to sit except for a counter that accommodates about 2-3 people on each side, this is a pick up and go café.
Local 149 – P Street @ 8th Street
The place the new Southie crowd is heading to and now my “Local” – Local 149. An imaginative menu that offers dishes like duck drumsticks, potstickers and devilled eggs for bar bites and Ham & Cheese Sandwich with Seaweed Fries or a rare Tuna Burger for a main. They also do a superb twist on brunch with things like Lobster MacMuffin and Chicken and Waffles. Loud, cool and enjoyable any night of the week. What’s better than having a great local restaurant on your doorstep?
Of course, there are many other places like Shennagins, Amsterdam Café and some scary places that I have never been in but I thought I would stick with places I am a little more familiar with. Go out and enjoy discovering and rediscovering Southie.
Next on my list to try is the new Paramount. I thought I would give it a few weeks first before stopping by.