Around Town: South Boston

By Erin Byers | Boston Magazine |

“Southie,” as it’s known among locals, is primed and ready for its next role as one of Boston’s hottest places to live.

James “Whitey” Bulger had the right idea. When the infamous mob leader wanted to hide from the fuzz, he laid low in the one part of town that would never give him up: South Boston. Legendary for its tight-lipped loyalty, the neighborhood once had a reputation for closing its doors to outsiders. The insular community was hiding more than criminals—it was also harboring the most scenic stretch of beach in the city. But Bulger’s crimes and that small, protected piece of land have been exposed to the masses—and new faces have been flocking here ever since.

Post–Big Dig, the neighborhood has emerged as an affable enclave. Once stark industrial streets are now full of beautifully rehabilitated red-brick town houses and inviting storefronts. A new generation of neighbors peppers the streets, waving hello to the longtime denizens still firmly planted on their stoops. Home to the new monster-size Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC) and a few notable residents (author Susan Orlean lives here), Southie, as it’s known among locals, is primed and ready for its next role as one of Boston’s hottest places to live.

Young professionals are scooping up the city’s last bits of affordable property inside Southie, which is framed by the harbor to the south and east and the BCEC and expressway to the north and west. Former factories and churches are being converted into spacious lofts and condos, many of which have harbor or city views. Buyers relish such perks as proximity to downtown, a beach within walking distance and the historical backdrop of Fort Independence.

Of course, along with moneyed young professionals comes an influx of new and revitalized restaurants and shops. “There’s so much room for restaurants in this neighborhood,” says Dan Kaufman of South Kitchen & Wine Bar. “Until recently, [locals] have lacked good places to have a good meal and a glass of wine.” Kaufman’s casually upscale wine bar opened last fall. It serves regional American foods, like roast organic chicken and prime rib, and has a lengthy and affordable wine list.

At the Cranberry Cafe, a homey coffee shop with corrugated-tin decor, neighbors line up for the famous chicken salad spread between thick focaccia slices and flavored coffees that include snickerdoodle and eggnog. Farther down Broadway, the 6 House has become an upscale afterwork restaurant and watering hole. And the 116-year-old Amrheins Restaurant, which reopened last fall after a renovation, is now a more sophisticated version of its former self, but still serves steak tips, a local favorite.

Though residents can voyage to the South End or Back Bay for major shopping, many specialty items are stocked right in South Boston. Thomas Park is a closet-sized store with a great selection of purses, snappy stationery, and souvenirs. At Wild Plums, a stylish children’s boutique, kids can pick up party dresses from Susanne Lively Designs and Us Angels. Wild Plums’ tea sets, “Little Miss Fancy Pants” pillows and gift sets make perfect take-home treasures. Shag, an industrial-chic hair salon run by goateed rocker Sandy Poirier, gives tired tresses a fresh new look. The salon’s buzz has been building around town (and around the country) and is luring yet another wave of outsiders to Southie.

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