Getting to Know Your Neighborhood: Dorchester
A guide to shopping, eating, and more in Boston’s largest neighborhood
Encompassing just over six square miles, Dorchester is Boston’s largest neighborhood. It is also arguably the city’s most diverse, home to nearly a fifth of the city’s population, including Irish, Polish, Vietnamese, and African American residents, as well as a large Caribbean and Cape Verdean community. Founded in 1630, months before the establishment of Boston, it is also steeped in history.
Dorchester was founded by Puritans who emigrated from Dorchester, England. Their ship, the Mary and John, landed at Columbia Point (also known as Harbor Point) in June 1630. Originally a small rural community, the town (it wasn’t annexed to Boston until 1870) was the site of many national firsts: America’s first town meeting was held there in 1633 and the Mather Elementary School (still in operation today), the nation’s first free public elementary school, was erected in 1639. And the first chocolate factory, the Walter Baker Chocolate Factory, was established in Dorchester’s Lower Mills section in 1765. First Parish Dorchester (Unitarian Universalist) sits at the pinnacle of Meetinghouse Hill, where the first church structure was built in 1630; it is the oldest religious organization in present-day Boston. And the James Blake House, built in 1661 is the oldest home in Boston and is now owned and maintained by the Dorchester Historical Society. More recently, the country’s first community health center, the Geiger Gibson Community Health Center (originally called the Columbia Point Health Center), opened in 1965. The neighborhood’s Vietnamese Community Center was also the first of its kind.
By the late 19th century, the neighborhood had become a popular place for Boston’s wealthy families to live, the arrival of the streetcar making it possible to easily travel into downtown Boston. Dorchester officially became part of Boston in 1870, and by the early 20th century, immigrants from Ireland, Poland, Canada, and Italy began arriving, followed by a large influx of African Americans migrating from the Jim Crow South around the mid-century.
Dorchester today is a vibrant community that retains its melting pot reputation. Comprising a number of squares and smaller sections, it’s easily accessible by the MBTA Red Line and the Ashmont-Mattapan High-Speed Line, also called the Mattapan Trolley, or by driving via Interstate 93 (the Southeast Expressway).
In addition to being the city’s most densely populated area, Dorchester is also home to a diverse collection of museums, historical sites, restaurants and boutiques, outdoor trails, and beaches and parks. The 485-acre Franklin Park, is considered to be the crown jewel of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace, a series of interconnected parks. Franklin Park has a world-renowned zoo.
A list of Dorchester’s former residents reads like a “who’s who” of Boston history and includes President John F. Kennedy’s parents, Joe and Rose; actor Ray Bolger (the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz); Star Trek’s original Spock, Leonard Nimoy (Hon.’12); and brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg. Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) called the neighborhood home during much of the time he was a student at BU.
BU Today has compiled a list of some of the best places to explore. And because Dorchester is so much larger than many of Boston’s other neighborhoods, we’ve organized this story a bit differently than others in our series, grouping places of interest by MBTA stops.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
The JFK Presidential Library and Museum opened in 1979 on Columbia Point. The 10-acre site offers sweeping views of Dorchester Bay and is dedicated to the nation’s 35th president, assassinated in 1963. The museum has several permanent exhibitions: Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, his time in the Oval Office, and the NASA space program he nurtured. Another portrays the Kennedy family, featuring home movies, photographs, and correspondence. One of the most popular permanent exhibitions is about former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The museum hosts special exhibitions related to the Kennedy family and mid-20th-century America, and is also home to novelist Ernest Hemingway’s archive. There is a café and a gift shop. Seniors, college students with ID, youth ages 13 to 17, and US armed forces veterans receive discounted admission.
Adjacent to the JFK Library is the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Ted Kennedy (Hon.’70) was a distinguished member of the US Senate for almost half a century, from 1962 until his death in 2009. The 68,000-square-foot institute is dedicated to educating the public about the role of the Senate in the US government and seeks to inspire civic engagement. Visitors will find exhibitions about the Senate and educational programs designed to immerse the public in the legislative process. The centerpiece is a full-scale re-creation of the Senate Chamber, where guests can become a senator-in-training, casting ballots on some of the current issues before the Senate. A replica of Senator Kennedy’s office and reception area are also on view.
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Across the parking lot from the JFK Library is the Commonwealth Museum, which traces the unique history of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. From the first public schools to the first battles for American independence to the first abolitionist newspaper, Massachusetts has been a leader in the quest for equal rights and opportunities, many of them highlighted here. Check out the museum’s Treasures Gallery, which is filled with rare manuscripts chronicling the commonwealth’s history. Among the highlights are the 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the commonwealth’s original copies of the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence. Both the museum and the archives are free and open to the public.
20B District Ave.
“Southern hospitality with city sophistication” is the slogan for this locally owned seafood grill and raw bar. With specialty cocktails and a wide selection of seafood fare, The Pearl is a great stop for amazing oysters, lobster, and more. Try the Pearl Potion, a cocktail featuring an edible flower, alongside shareable platters like chargrilled oysters (with garlic butter and parmesan cheese) or sweet chili salmon bites. The Pearl is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, with a weekend brunch on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm and all-day brunch on Sundays from 11 am to 6 pm. The brunch fare includes classic entrees like brioche French toast along with their own seafood dishes like crab cake Benedict.
543 Columbia Rd.
The Strand Theatre in Upham’s Corner opened in November 1918, billed as Dorchester’s million-dollar vaudeville and movie palace. Seating 1,403 people, the theater closed in 1969 because of declining ticket sales. Saved by neighborhood residents and federal and state grants, it is now owned by the city of Boston and is a cultural and educational resource for artists and audiences. Numerous big-name musical and theatrical acts have performed over the past three decades, including B. B. King, Phish, LL Cool J, and the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’. Home to the Fiddlehead Theatre Company from 2013 to 2015, it now hosts performances from local arts groups, including Boston Baroque and Boston Symphony Chamber Players.
Dorchester Brewing Company
1250 Massachusetts Ave.
Self-proclaimed as Boston’s only contract and partner brewing facility, Dorchester Brewing Company opened in 2016. The state-of-the-art, 25,000-square-foot facility provides local craft brewers who don’t have their own large-scale brewery the opportunity and space to produce, package, store, and sell their beer to the public. The adjoining public taproom offers beers made on the premises, as well as games, Wi-Fi, appetizers, and fresh beer to go. The company was started by several local professionals who love craft beer and wanted to invigorate Dorchester’s development. There’s outdoor seating in front of the brewery and plenty of seating indoors, including countertop stools in front of large windows overlooking the brewery floor. Click here to see what’s currently on tap.
Sugar Bowl Café
857 Dorchester Ave.
With its bright purple exterior, it’s impossible to miss the Sugar Bowl, the popular ice cream and coffee shop that has become a huge hit with locals and visitors. The interior is a hodgepodge of furniture, accented by marble columns and a tin ceiling. The affordable menu includes breakfast sandwiches and hot and cold subs and sandwiches, many for around $5. But it’s best known for its ice cream desserts featuring local favorite Brigham’s ice cream. Crowds line up for the famous banana splits, sundaes, root beer floats, raspberry lime rickeys, and frappes.
The Banshee Pub
934 Dorchester Ave.
This Irish pub claims to be the number one bar and restaurant in Boston for watching domestic and European sports. “If your game is being broadcast in North America, then you can rest assured that the Banshee will be showing it,” says its website. And with 10 flat-screen televisions and two floors, chances are you’ll find your team, whether it’s a European soccer team or Gaelic football club. You can check to see which games are playing on the Banshee’s calendar. The two-story Irish pub serves brunch, lunch, and dinner in addition to bar bites and beer. Menu highlights: buffalo chicken tenders, jalapeño popcorn shrimp, sandwiches, burgers, flatbread pizzas, and beer-battered fish and chips.
224 Boston Street Restaurant
224 Boston St.
Priding itself on its contemporary American cuisine and down-to-earth, friendly staff, this restaurant is open daily, but only for dinner on weekdays—on weekends it opens early for brunch. In addition to salads and sides, 224 serves mouthwatering main courses like pan-seared scallops with butternut squash puree, purple rice, English peas, diced carrots, crispy shallots, and beurre blanc, or lamb frites with Greek seasoned fries, feta, and harissa aioli.
Savin Hill Beach
Bounded by Playstead Road and Morrissey Boulevard
Savin Hill Beach offers much-needed respite for city dwellers on a hot summer day. It is one of three public beaches comprising the Dorchester Shores Reservation. In addition to its protected swimming area, there are baseball fields and a tot lot. Designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers landscape firm, it was one of the most popular beaches in Boston, along with nearby Malibu Beach, until the 1960s, when a lack of upkeep drove patrons away. But the beach has been re-sanded, and upgraded landscaping has been added to the surrounding beachfront area.
109 Savin Hill Ave.
A true Dorchester original, opened in 1999 by two longtime Dorchester residents, the restaurant prides itself on its neighborhood spirit, tradition, friendly service, and large portions of excellent food. Breakfast begins at 5:30 am (6:30 am on Sundays), but the breakfast menu is available all day and includes classic fare like omelets, pancakes, French toast, and waffles. It also serves lunch (no dinner), with dishes like chicken parmesan and pasta, juicy steak tips, crab cakes, and veggie burgers. It serves traditional Irish breakfast items like Irish sausage and black and white pudding—a nod to the many Irish immigrants who make Dorchester their home.
Savin Bar & Kitchen
112 Savin Hill Ave.
Open daily for lunch and dinner, and for brunch on weekends, this restaurant has oversized windows, plush seating, reclaimed oak, and an open kitchen design. The expansive drink menu has wines, beers, and ciders, and creative cocktails. There are daily specials, like $1 oysters from 4 to 6 pm on weekdays. The restaurant features a popular and free trivia on Tuesday nights, where patrons can play using their iPhones.
Banh Mi Ba Le
1052 Dorchester Ave.
Dorchester is home to many of Boston’s finest Vietnamese restaurants, and Savin Hill’s Banh Mi Ba Le is one of the best. All of the food—including lo mein, spring rolls, dumplings, and sticky rice with banana—is prepared fresh in-house, and customers can customize their orders. The prices are another big draw—many items cost only a few dollars. Try the fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice and the delectable desserts.
1236 Dorchester Ave.
Dbar is a full-service restaurant that transforms into a nightclub and lounge as the evening progresses. With a sleek, dark, and moody interior, it’s open daily for dinner and Sunday brunch. The seasonal menu draws on local ingredients where possible and is overseen by noted chef Chris Coombs. Popular dishes include cocktail shrimp ceviche; penne Bolognese with veal, beef, and pancetta in a creamy tomato sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh herbs; and Giannone chicken under a brick—a crispy-skinned organic chicken with mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, and a mushroom-Madeira jus. On the cocktail menu are passion fruit blood orange cosmos, espresso martinis, and more. It’s not unusual to see patrons dancing to 1980s hits. Dbar’s Show Tunes Tuesday, a sing-along of Broadway show tunes, has become especially popular. The restaurant also hosts Karaoke Fridays and Magnum Saturdays.
1310 Dorchester Ave.
Looking for fun nighttime plans? blend has you covered. Calling itself “Dorchester’s Disco,” this local eatery/nightclub is a hub for drag brunches, DJ performances, disco-themed Sundays, and other events each weekend. Party (almost) all night on Fridays and Saturdays when blend is open until 2 am, or stop by Sundays for its popular brunch, featuring a rotating selection of local drag performances. The spot is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday. Check out their events page for a schedule of performers and DJs.
266 Bowdoin St.
Specializing in Cape Verdean cuisine—a fusion of Portuguese and West African cooking—this spot is reasonably priced and includes traditional favorites like fish, quail, canja (a local chicken soup), katchupada (a spicy stew of pork, beans, kale, and hominy), and cabriada (stewed goat). Cesaria’s spacious interior has ample seating and the staff, most of Cape Verdean descent, create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Live music is performed most nights and during Sunday brunch, and the cocktail menu is extensive.
Boston Winery (via #210 bus)
26 Ericsson St.
Boston Winery, founded in 2006 by Italian vintner Raffaele Bruno, says it’s Boston’s only winery. Bruno grew up in a family of vintners in Abruzzi, Italy, and later managed a bakery in the North End before venturing into the wine business. Here, he puts his own twist on grapes from California and Europe, creating one-of-a-kind blends. The Boston Winery sells its own brand, with a selection of crisp whites and flavorful reds, all made naturally without added sulfites or preservatives. The Italian-inspired winery also offers winemaking tutorials, as well as tours and tastings Wednesday through Sunday afternoons—21-plus only. Reservations are required.
Franklin Park Zoo
1 Franklin Park Road
The 72-acre Franklin Park Zoo, nestled inside Boston’s largest city park, is home to more than 220 species of animals in a variety of habitats, including an outback trail featuring kangaroos, kookaburras, and emus; a savannah, home to Masai giraffes; and Serengeti Crossing, four acres of grassland and wooded hills where the zoo’s Grevy’s zebras, ostriches, and wildebeests live. Opened in 1912, the zoo is operated by Zoo New England, a private nonprofit committed to conservation. Open year-round and attracting about 400,000 visitors annually, Franklin Park Zoo features one of the world’s best indoor gorilla exhibitions, as well as a tropical rain forest.
Home.stead bakery & café
1448 Dorchester Ave.
Home.stead is an oasis of quiet in the heart of bustling Fields Corner. The quaint café in the historic Lenane Building is both a meeting place for friends to gather and a laid-back setting for those looking to get work done. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, the café offers fresh bagel sandwiches, burritos, homemade sesame granola, soups, salads, sandwiches, and pressed paninis. It’s all delicious, and the servers are friendly and helpful. The menu’s sandwiches include the Little Chickpea, smashed chickpea salad with avocado, cilantro, and sea salt on toasted seven-grain bread, and the Hot Norwegian, smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado, and Sriracha mayo. There’s ample seating, but home.stead is also a great option for anyone looking to grab a fresh pastry and hot drink to go. A constantly changing array of photographs by local artists decorates the walls and all are available for purchase.
1459 Dorchester Ave.
This reasonably priced, unpretentious café just steps away from the Fields Corner MBTA stop is popular for breakfast and lunch. The menu is small but portions are generous; breakfast begins daily at 6 am and it’s open until midafternoon. You’ll find staples like French toast, omelets, pancakes, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches in the morning. For lunch there are burgers, hot dogs, sweet and salty pork chops with rice, a sunny-side up egg with a side salad, and bot chien, a traditional Vietnamese dish of a fried rice flour cake served over eggs. The Vietnamese iced coffee and tea complement the more savory dishes. Warning: the lines can be long, so be prepared to wait. You can also order food to go.
1480 Dorchester Ave.
Vietnamese dessert and drink shop Coco Leaf is a good place to indulge your sweet tooth. The self-described dessert café is famous for its traditional sweet Vietnamese beverage ché, packed with sweetened beans, tapioca, and fruit. The eponymous ché, the coco leaf, is made from pandan jelly, red and white beans, hot luu, mung beans, coconut milk, coconut meat, and chia seeds. Those preferring something less adventurous can select from Thai iced tea, bubble teas, passion fruit and mixed berry smoothies, or traditional iced coffee. It also serves a variety of sweet and savory crepes, such as the Trai Cay, filled with mango, lychee, pineapple compote, and toasted coconut flakes, topped off with vanilla ice cream, strawberry pocky, and whipped cream.
Dorchester Art Project
1486 Dorchester Ave.
It’s easy to walk past the Dorchester Art Project (DAP); its unassuming entryway blends into the street landscape. But inside, it hums with the creative energy of local artists working on a range of eclectic art. DAP houses 15 artists’ studios, a gallery, and a performance space, providing a needed venue for up-and-coming artists to showcase their work within the 6,000-square-foot space. Outside, arts groups can use the space to hold events. DAP also works with local arts organizations and businesses to offer art education programs for youth. The gallery is open on Saturdays from noon to 5 pm, when a show is up, and otherwise by appointment.
The Blarney Stone
1505 Dorchester Ave.
A Dorchester institution for more than 35 years, the Blarney Stone has the distinction of being the first bar in the country to sell draught Guinness. Today the historic bar/restaurant specializes in modern American comfort and bar food: beer-battered fish and chips, soups, salads, sandwiches, and flatbreads. The bar has a variety of wine, beer, and cocktails, including a pomegranate cilantro margarita with blanco tequila, lime vodka, agave syrup, fresh lime, and Powell & Mahoney pomegranate. It’s open for Sunday brunch from 11 am to 3 pm, serving favorites like avocado toast, breakfast nachos, and steak scramble (tender beef sirloin, caramelized onions, cheddar jack cheese, and parsley, served with sourdough toast). Taco Tuesdays feature $2 tacos from 4 pm to closing.
Chill on Park
142 Park St.
The self-proclaimed “coolest ice cream & coffee shop in Dorchester,” Chill on Park opened in May 2015. The ambiance is inviting: an enormous mural adorns the wooden walls. There are many daily ice cream flavors, including Extreme Chocolate, Graham Central Station, and Cherry Vanilla. The shop also serves up specialty teas, smoothies, bakery items, and more.
Oasis Vegan Veggie Parlor
340 Washington St.
In the market for some fresh and delicious vegan nosh? You’ll find it here, nestled in Four Corners. Among the many healthy, tasty options are the create-your-own plates with grain, stew, and veggie options, and a hummus wrap with kale, carrots, and onions. There are also a number of juices, smoothies, and shakes, among them a Purple Rain smoothie with apple juice, blueberry, goji berry, moringa, and agave.
Tavolo Ristorante and Bar
1918 Dorchester Ave.
Tavolo has become a neighborhood favorite and a go-to hot spot for casual but sophisticated dinners. Conveniently located next to the Ashmont T station, the restaurant offers ample seating, including a large, family-style tavolo (table). It serves what it calls “Dorchester Italian” fare on a menu that changes daily, including appetizers like marinated olives, steamed mussels, house meatballs, and meat and cheese boards. Try one of the famed pizzas, such as the mushroom pizza, made with whipped ricotta, Taleggio cheese, scallion truffle oil, and rosemary. It carries an array of craft beers, specialty cocktails, and wines, and hosts a monthly Pasta Tour, featuring a three-course meal of regional specialties for $35 on the first Wednesday of each month. Closed on Sunday and Monday nights.
The Bowery Bar
2261 Dorchester Ave.
The interior of Bowery Bar has been carefully curated to create a vintage feel. Pull up a stool at the 26-seat bar featuring 19 rotating draft beers, most of which are from New England, or head outside to the large patio area, where you can lounge in a full dining section, complete with a misting system to keep you cool on hot summer days. Specializing in classic bar fare with a high-end twist, the bar/restaurant serves fish and chips, blackened fish tacos, truffle fries, and more. Stop by for their weekend brunch and order a boozy iced coffee paired with one of their amazing breakfast sandwiches.
789 Adams St.
Molinari’s is named after Boston native and chef-owner Jeff Cincotta’s grandmother, who grew up just outside of Rome. The restaurant is the only one in Dorchester that uses a brick oven to cook authentic Italian cuisine, Cincotta says. The specialty pizzas are worth the trip—try the Meat Lover, made with tomato sauce, house-made Italian sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, and caramelized onions, or the Lucca, made with Parmesan garlic cream, mozzarella, ricotta, meatballs, truffle oil, and garlic confit. The house-made pastas, like pappardelle Bolognese—hand-cut fresh noodles with meat sauce, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and seasonings—are also delicious. As are the sandwiches, like the Grinder, with shaved prosciutto, mortadella, salami, imported provolone, house-made pickled Italian peppers, baby lettuce, olive oil, and vinegar.
The Eire Pub
795 Adams St.
The Eire has been a Dorchester fixture for over 50 years. A traditional Irish pub, it’s a popular destination for celebrities and politicians alike, including Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, actor Mark Wahlberg, Governor Charlie Baker, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (Hon.’95), to name a few. Originally opened as a “men’s bar” (as the signage still says), the pub started letting women join the fun in 1984. There are 13 beers on tap and 11 HD TVs. It serves classic pub favorites like tater tots, chicken wings, hot pastrami and grilled reuben sandwiches, hot dogs (only $3), and burgers.
Lucy’s American Tavern
13 Granite Ave.
A more recent addition to the bustling Adams Village area, Lucy’s American Tavern is the place if you’re looking for a local spot to relax and enjoy a great meal. Named for 19th-century Dorchester resident Lucy Stone, a pioneer for women’s rights, the restaurant has outdoor seating and a cozy interior. Among many great lunch options are a kale and quinoa salad with crumbled goat cheese, red quinoa, spiced pepitas, butternut squash, and fresh figs dressed in a honey paprika vinaigrette. For dinner, there are savory choices like cornflake-crusted fried chicken, steak tips, and fish tacos. The impressive beverage menu is sure to catch your eye, with more than 50 beer draughts and bottles, an excellent wine list, and a whimsical cocktail list.
Cedar Grove (via the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line)
This 66-acre park is accessible via the Mattapan Trolley, which operates on the high-speed line running through Dorchester, Milton, and Mattapan. The park, built on what had once been a landfill and a drive-in movie theater site, is open dawn to dusk year-round. In 2001, the area was restored and renovated into a spacious park that offers beautiful views of the Neponset River Estuary. It has picnic facilities, soccer fields, play areas, walking paths, a restored salt marsh, and lots of greenery. Visitors have reported seeing snowy egrets and great blue herons, among other wildlife.
2180 Dorchester Ave.
Created in 1891, Dorchester Park provides a 30-acre oasis amidst the surrounding urban sprawl. Featuring two ball fields, two tennis courts, a tot lot with swings, and a mini forest with scenic pathways, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2008. Although something of a hidden gem, local families and dog owners enjoy the clean, well-maintained space, which hosts seasonal events, including a popular classic car show and a family fun day each September.
Lower Mills and Milton (via the Ashmont-Mattapan High Speed Line)
Sweet Life Bakery & Café
2243 Dorchester Ave.
As its name implies, this is both a restaurant and bustling bakery. There’s no missing the quaint café, adorned with a vibrant mural on one of its exterior walls, titled Walter Baker’s Mill, circa 1900. The impressive menu includes breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch. It draws big crowds on weekends. Brunch, served Friday through Sunday, offers a range of classic egg dishes—several variations of eggs Benedict and build-your-own omelets—pancakes, French toast, sophisticated sandwiches, healthy salads and wraps, and juicy burgers. If you just want coffee and a quick confection, head to the bakery, with treats like cupcakes, cookies, pastries, French macarons, and over six varieties of bread, baked fresh daily. Note: the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
2255 Dorchester Ave.
This intimate, inventive burger and sandwich joint has a small but creative menu and reasonable prices. Carnivores will enjoy the Maui Burger, a grass-fed beef burger topped with grilled pineapple, pepper jack cheese, crispy onions, sweet plantains, grilled ham, and barbecue sauce, served on a potato bun, or the Marley Sandwich, a potato bun stuffed with jerk chicken breast, romaine lettuce, red onion, grilled bell pepper medley, habanero pepper jack, and house-made aioli. Vegetarians have plenty to choose from, as well, like the BRED Impossible, an Impossible Burger topped with pickled onion, arugula, and two aiolis, served on a sesame brioche bun, or one of the eatery’s salads. Sides like Parmesan truffle fries, sweet potato fries with cinnamon, and plantains can be paired with any meal. Order a smoothie like the Blue Magic, a combination of blueberry, granola, wildflower honey, and oat milk, to wash it all down.
Cake Pops Boston
2267 Dorchester Ave.
This tiny confectionary boutique is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. The whimsical cake pops—balls of fully cooked cake, crumbed and mixed with buttercream icing and dipped in a chocolate or candy coating—start at $2.50 for everyday flavors, like chocolate, cookies and cream, sweet cream, and red velvet, and rise up to $6 for rotating flavors, like cherry chip, cinnamon toast crunch, Meyer lemon, and sugar cookie. Cake pops can also be made to order as a fun gift or unique centerpiece for events and parties and customized to color, theme, or flower, as well as holidays, people, animals, bugs—even vegetables. The shop offers candies and chocolates too.
Lower Mills Tavern
2269 Dorchester Ave.
Serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, Lower Mills Tavern was purchased by Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys in 2015 and completely revamped. Today the hot spot, especially popular for dinner and drinks, offers a range of options, from pizzas to sandwiches and salads. Try the creamy chicken tortellini or the brown sugar salmon topped with a kohlrabi and apple medley. The impressive drink menu includes nearly 100 whiskeys, more than 50 beers and ciders (10 on tap), a small but distinguished wine list, and several distinctive seasonal craft cocktails. There’s also live traditional Irish music every Tuesday, an Acoustic Thursday night, and a live music series Saturday nights.
The Ice Creamsmith
2295 Dorchester Ave.
Founded in 1976, the Ice Creamsmith is a neighborhood staple, famous for homemade ice cream, produced in small batches. The quaint shop makes over 10 flavors, including staples like sweet cream, mocha, chocolate chip, and strawberry, and a number of special monthly flavors, posted on the window. Although the shop closes for the winter, there are still prepacked quarts available every Thursday from 3 to 7 pm until Christmas. Over a dozen “mixins,” including cookies, coconut, jelly beans, and chocolate-covered raisins, can be added to any order. There’s a selection of frozen yogurt and dairy-free sorbets, and a variety of treats and beverages like old-fashioned banana splits, cream sodas, and floats, as well as ice cream cakes, pies, and cupcakes.
Yellow Door Taqueria
2297 Dorchester Ave.
This trendy taco joint brings a real flair to Dorchester Avenue. Designed by co-owner Taniya Nayak, known for her work on HGTV, it has an inviting vintage vibe and is known for delicious tacos. Try the carnitas tacos with pork confit, Cotija cheese, salsa verde, refried beans, red onion, and cilantro. Other standouts include a shrimp ceviche with peaches, and watermelon salad: baby leaf lettuce, Cotija cheese, fried garlic, pomegranate seeds, and citrus vinaigrette, and a scallop frito taco, served with pickled jalapeño, celery mayonesa, pico slaw, prickly pear molasses, and fried tortilla strips. The extensive drink menu has dozens of tequilas along with beer, wine, and a select cocktail menu.
Flat Black Coffee Company
1906 Dorchester Ave.
This coffee spot says it’s Boston’s “largest independently owned roaster, retailer, and wholesaler of specialty coffees.” The Lower Mills store was the chain’s first, opened in 2003 (there is one other location in Downtown Boston). The name comes from the Australian term for an Americano, and Flat Black is dedicated to serving high-quality, single-origin coffees in the spirit of Australia’s thriving coffee culture. The cozy interior—yellow walls decorated with coffee sacks, and old-fashioned coffee grinders and a coffee tree—has a distinctly “Down Under” vibe that will transport you to the outback. It offers a variety of teas and coffees from Africa, Central and South America, and the Pacific Rim.
Steel & Rye
95 Eliot St., Milton
Steel & Rye, an award-winning restaurant and bar steeped in the Americana spirit, is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. The spacious dining room serves modern American cuisine with a twist, like wood-fired pizzas, house-made pasta, and entrees like sourdough dumplings, with roasted wild mushrooms, Dutch gouda, and egg yolk. Be sure to leave room for the seasonal desserts like almond cake with apple-cranberry compote and chocolate napoleon. The large bar has a generous selection of beers, wines, and craft cocktails. Recommended: the Hot House, tequila, Cocchi Rosa, grapefruit, Thai chili, basil, and lime. Reservations are recommended, but not required.
Getting there: Take an MBTA Red Line train to JFK/UMass, Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Shawmut, or Ashmont stations.
Click on the points in the map above for more information on the places listed in our guide to the Dorchester neighborhood.