A Chef’s Guide to Eating Well in Southie
One of the oldest, most historic, and arguably most misunderstood neighborhoods in the entire country lies just south of the Fort Point Channel. South Boston, or “Southie” to its eclectic range of residents (and what The Daily Beast thinks Dorchester is called), is undergoing one of the most dramatic transformations in the city. Cars might still be parked two- and three-deep on East Broadway, and working class beacons like Croke Park might still be slinging $3 pints of Guinness, but they’re now operating next door to gourmet sandwich shops and grocers selling artisanal jellies. The waft of gentrification is in the air, yet somehow Southie has stubbornly retained its sense of identity.
To help us traverse both the new and the old of South Boston, we’ve enlisted the help of proud Southie residents, Asia Mei, of Moonshine 152, and chef Jason Albus, of Fairsted Kitchen. Here are their picks for all the best take-out, cheap eats, and more in their neighborhood.
Doughboy Donuts and Deli
Mei: This 24-hour doughnut house is a lifesaver to every Southie resident. Complete with a drive-thru, great breakfast sandwiches, and access to some of the best doughnuts around, it’s hard to nail down the best thing about this place. My personal favorites are the glazed jelly-filled doughnuts, the blueberry cake, and their enormous Boston cream pie doughnuts. Back when I used to leave the Franklin around three in the morning—even when most of Chinatown was already closed—the Doughboy would still be alive and cranking away, making life a little easier to handle.
220 Dorchester Ave., Boston; 617-269-7560
The Barking Crab
Albus: What can I say, The Barking Crab is my guilty pleasure. There’s nothing better than waking up when it’s blistering hot, going down there, grabbing some cold draft beers, and getting some fried seafood. It’s a really fun environment when you’re friends are in town, especially in the summer. It’s like the beach: plastic cups, girls getting drunk, guys getting drunker, and boiled lobster dinners. [Ed’s note: not reallllly in Southie, but we’ll allow it.]
88 Sleeper St., Boston; 617-426-2722 or barkingcrab.com.
Albus: An Italian red sauce joint that I really love. The penne with vodka sauce is the way to go here, but the pizzas are also really tasty. As you can tell, I eat a lot of pizza. When I’m craving something comforting like chicken marsala or a piccata, this is where I’m going. It’s a family-owned and operated place that’s been in the neighborhood for 15 to 20 years. When you go inside, it has this very homey vibe. The one thing I find really weird though is their hours; they open at 10 in the morning and close at 8:30 at night.
200 L St., Boston; 617-269-9701
Sam’s at Louis
Albus: I like the owners Esti and Drew [Parsons] and it definitely is the place to be in the summertime considering its view right there on the waterfront. Jason Cheek from Merrill & Co. just took over and officially got everything turned over after Asia’s [Mei] departure. Cheek’s food is awesome, particularly his seafood, which has always been a focal point on his menus.
60 Northern Ave., Boston; 617-295-0191 or samsatlouis.com.
Mei: Moko is a small spot on East Broadway where the quality of food rivals anything downtown. In fact, their sister restaurant is Samurai on Boylston. Not only is the sushi great, but they always hit it out of the park with their selection of Korean items. We usually go for sharing a few rolls to start, then bring it home with bibimbap, japchae, and bulgogi. It’s always fun to go in and dine with their uber polite staff, but I can’t tell you how invaluable it is that they also deliver.
674 E Broadway, Boston; 617-752-4601 or mokoboston.com.
Croke Park (aka Whitey’s)
Mei: You haven’t seen what a Southie dive bar has to offer if you haven’t visited Whitey’s. This place feels like home whenever you walk in, and odds are it’ll be full of regulars playing pool with the owner Danny at a stool by the front door. Without fail, it’s always filled with Southie’s most colorful characters and the menu-less bar offers tons of rambunctious fun. Don’t be deterred by the fact that there’s no real sign, in fact, feel free to sign the wall. And no, it’s not called Whitey’s because of Whitey Bulger.
268 W. Broadway, South Boston; 617-464-4869
Albus: Late night, you can go to Lincoln and get a meal that’s probably the best food you’re going to find around Southie at that hour. But it’s always consistent, I’ll often stop in for lunch and get a cocktail and one of their wood-fired pizzas. I’m kind of plain jane kind of a kid, so I’ll usually just get a pepperoni pizza.
425 W. Broadway, South Boston; 617-765-8636 or lincolnsouthboston.com.
Mei: I used to live across the street from KO Pies back when they first opened up in 2010. Running into Sam Jackson in that tiny space was always the highlight of my week. Not only can you walk through anytime and pick up a delicious range of meat pies, but they also have other really solid food picks: spicy shrimp on the barbie, sides of mushy peas, and their sweet corn fritters are just some of my favorites. You can also stock up Aussie-style with their retail pantry items, so I always know where to go when I run out of sweet chili sauce or Milo.
Albus: I lived in Auckland for a while, about four months, and KO is the closest thing I can find to true New Zealand meat pies. I found out about the place by just randomly popping in and having a conversation with Sam [Jackson], right when they first opened. They used to be closed a few days a week, and occasionally on a Friday night, Sam would bring leftover pies to me and my team at Menton. It was great, particularly in the winter, because they’re the perfect cold weather food.
87 A St., South Boston; 617-269-4500 or kocateringandpies.com.
Rondo’s Sub Shop
Albus: This is my favorite local sandwich shop. I always get steak sandwiches there, but to be honest, it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve ever ordered there. I call it the “homeopathic sleeping pill”—a large steak and cheese with extra onions, extra mayo, extra onions, salami, pepperoni, and hot peppers. You have to take a nap 15 minutes after eating it. A lot of people like their chicken parms and the hamburger subs. You can always tell when there’ve been a lot of orders for that sub because that hamburger fat flavor permeates your sandwich. It’s just awesome. It literally knocks you out.
Mei: Considering Liberty Bell closed, Southie would be at a loss for bomb sandwiches if it weren’t for Rondo’s. If you’re visiting in peak hours, you better be ready to wait in a line out the door because their super reasonable prices and huge menu entices pretty much everyone in the neighborhood. My favorite sandwich is the steak, egg, and pepperoni bomb, with cheese, fried eggs, pepperoni, and super thinly sliced steak, all thrown together in a soft bun. It’s like crack!
134 West Broadway, South Boston; 617-269-0274
Mei: This is the quintessential neighborhood diner in Southie. I usually sit at the counter, where the service is always warm and accommodating. You’re almost a guaranteed to have someone call you “Hon” at some point. Their portions are very generous, the prices are unbelievable, and they even offer service through a tiny window that connects to William’s Tavern next door. My usual is the “Green eggs n’ ham,” which includes pesto, diced ham, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Who doesn’t love a little bit of whimsy in a no-frills atmosphere?
Albus: The cheapest breakfast in Boston: just $3 for three eggs, toast, and bacon. Your classic, classic breakfast diner. It’s where I go with my girlfriend when she wants pancakes. They’ve also got classic clubs, a killer pastrami sandwich, and an omelet board with 15 different selections. It’s just kind of like a regular joint where everybody says, “Hey, how are ya” as soon as you walk in the door. It’s that kind of a place.
98 A St., South Boston; 617-268-9889 or astreetmydiner.com.
Mei: The sister restaurant to The Paramount in Beacon Hill, this addition to the neighborhood was a godsend to breakfast and lunch-goers in Southie. It’s centrally located on East Broadway, and the long, quickly moving lines are a testament to the reliable, badass machine that it is. Whether it’s the chorizo omelet, the crab cake sandwich, or the bacon burger on brioche, people will always find what they’re in the mood for. Plus, they always have some of the most cheerful, speedy, admirable line cooks I’ve ever seen. Their counter service is top-notch!
44 Charles St., Boston; 617-720-1152 or paramountboston.com.
Albus: This is more of a take-out place, since there’s basically only three or four seats against the wall. But it’s just really good Indian food. I get all kinds of things when I go: chana masala, samosas, and all the vindaloos are great. I’ve got an obsession with saag paneer, and they do one of the best versions in town. There’s also this amazing vegetable curry with cauliflower and black eyed peas that’s super hot, but really, really tasty. My tip though is to go in and pick up your food as opposed to getting delivery, since it can take a while. I think they only have one driver. Go in, order, and relax with a lassi.
87 L St., Boston; 617-464-4800 or cafemamtaz.com.