A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in Dorchester
With its booming Vietnamese population and storefronts offering everything from Cape Verdean roti to Indian chicken tandoori to Jamaican shrimp patties, Dorchester has become a hub for some of the most exciting ethnic cuisine anywhere in Boston.
No one knows this better than chefs Chris Coombs and Chris Douglass, who both operate restaurants in the area—Coombs with DBar and Douglass with Ashmont Grill and Tavolo—and call the neighborhood home.
“Dorchester is such a diverse neighborhood, and that shows in all the types of food you see here,” Coombs says. “One of the best parts about being a Dorchester resident over the last eight years has been getting out and exploring the local restaurant scene.”
We asked the two culinary standouts to finally divulge the taquerias and pho hot spots they’ve long been raving about. Here’s where (and what) Coombs and Douglass choose to eat when they’re off the clock.
Taqueria Casa Real
Douglass: “With our busy schedules, my family tends to get a lot of takeout. Taqueria Casa Real is one of our favorites. It’s a great little place with just a couple of seats inside. The tacos and quesadillas are excellent, but I almost always go for the carnitas burrito. My son, who’s now about to head off to college, loves to get the chicken burrito.”
860 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester; 617-282-3135
Coombs: “There is a huge Cape Verdean population in Dorchester, including my neighbors who told me about this place. Until I started coming here, I didn’t know much about Cape Verdean cuisine, which is a unique fusion of Portuguese and West African. They do a wonderful job with fish and quail, as well as Canja, a local chicken soup. One of the signature dishes at Restaurante Cesaria is the Katchupada, a spicy stew of pork, beans, kale, and hominy. Everyone should try their Cabriada, or stewed goat, and offal lovers will die when they try the sauteed beef liver.”
266 Bowdoin St., Boston; 617-282-1998
Banh Mi Ba Le
Douglass: “This is hands down my go-to spot for a banh mi—all others don’t compare. They make their own bread that’s always has that perfect combination of a soft interior and a crunchy crust. My daughter always goes for the beef, but I like to mix it up. There are a couple of pork options that include a pâté spread with cold cuts and head cheese. For that slick-chin, four-napkin craving, go for the barbecue pork belly. They have great beverages too, from fresh juices to bubble tea to Vietnamese iced coffee.”
Coombs: “This along with La Baguette are staples for a great banh mi in Dorchester. A lot of times I’ll go in and buy 10 or 12 sandwiches for the kitchen team at one of my restaurants. The barbecue beef and pulled pork are my personal favorites and they’re a bargain at only $3 and $4 each. Also, don’t leave without getting a Vietnamese iced coffee.”
1052 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester; 617-265-7171
Singh’s Roti Shop
Coombs: “Singh’s has solid Trini-style Caribbean food, especially the chicken oxtail roti and pork roti—hence the name. The Jerk chicken is spicy but very enjoyable. If I really want some heat that day, I’ll reach for their house-made red pepper sauce, which is one of the best I’ve ever had. Pro tip: If you’re squeamish about bones, definitely order boneless. Their meat tends to be served with lots of bones.”
692 Columbia Rd., Dorchester; 617-282-7977 or singhsrotishop.net.
Pit Stop BBQ
Douglass: “No nonsense meat and smoke! Pit Stop is a take-out only place that’s open Thursday through Saturday and Sundays in the summer. It’s just this little shack that serves old school, real deal barbecue out of styrofoam boxes with slices of white bread to mop up all the sauce. All the meats are really good, but I tend to stick with the brisket and pulled pork.”
888 Morton St., Mattapan; 617-436-0485 or thepitbbq.net.
Pho So 1 Boston
Douglass: “There are lots of good pho in Dorchester, so its hard to go wrong with any number of places. This is a sentimental favorite because I’ve been taking my kids there since they were little. Everybody loves it! Its less slick and a little more homey than some of the others, but all of the pho options are excellent. My kids always go for chicken, but I tend to gravitate to some of the more adventurous beef combinations. Also, the fresh spring rolls are my family’s go-to healthy snack.”
223 Adams St., Boston; 617-436-8888
Shanti – Taste of India
Coombs: “For years, Shanti has been one of my favorite Indian restaurants, not just in Dorchester, but anywhere in Boston, really. They execute everything with such ease and I’ve never ordered anything that I didn’t like. My favorites include the naan, chicken tandoori, chicken tikka, lamb buhna, goat vindaloo, shrimp shaag, mulligatawny , and the raita. The place is just awesome.”
Douglass: “Seriously great Indian and Bangladeshi food. The goat—what more can I say! They have a really good lunch buffet that’s less than $10 bucks and it comes with pickles, goat, lamb, spinach, dal, lassi…the list is endless.”
1111 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester; 617-929-3900 or shantiboston.com.
Coombs: “When I worked at Topper’s at The Wauwinet in Nantucket, many of the workers were Jamaican and they used to bring in home cooking every once in a while. IRIE is as close that experience as I’ve had since. The Jerk chicken, beef, and shrimp patties are all very, very good and cheap—like less than $2 dollars cheap. Beware though, if you are going to get jerk anything here, it is extremely spicy, but worth it. Their curried goat though is magical and made with so much soul. Also the plantains are not to be missed.”
310 Bowdoin St., Dorchester; 617-929-3866
Coombs: “This has been my standby for eight years. Of the 10 or so pho restaurants that I frequent, this is the top dog. I typically order Pho 2000’s namesake dish, which comes with all the parts of the cow: tendon, flank, brisket, tripe, eye-round, everything. The broth is unctuous, rich, and perfect. If you’re going with a large group, definitely order the whole fried catfish. I love to bring people here because they are always blown away by the food. When I brought my sous chef at Deuxave, Stef Giao Bui, who is Vietnamese American, she said it was the best pho she’d eaten in America.”
198 Adams St., Dorchester; 617-436-1908
Sunrise Rang Dong
Coombs: “This place not only has mind-blowing flavor combinations, but some of the warmest, friendliest service. The family that owns and operates Sunrise is what really makes it special. Some of my personal favorites include the beef with scallions, sesame chicken, pea pod stems, summer rolls with pork and shrimp, and the Vietnamese sweet and sour soup.”
1157 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester; 617-288-7314