Southie’s favorite pastime is fighting about Southie. Arguments about who gets to park where, who gets to drink beers on the beach, and who gets to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade are really all the same fight about the neighborhood’s place in 21st Century Boston. And restaurants are definitely a topic of contention. But not every small plates place or pub needs to be at the center of a tired “old versus new” argument about “the real Southie.” Sometimes, they can just be good places to grab a bite to eat.
When you’re tired of taking stances about changes in Southie, try one of the twelve places below. Because (and we really can’t believe we have to say this) eating tacos is better than fighting about them any day.
Moonshine 152 sits on the very outer edge of Southie, just a block from the train tracks and highway overpasses that make the South End feel several dystopian miles away. But we’re sort of glad that this part of Southie isn’t the most walkable, because if it were, Moonshine 152 would always be packed. The menu here is vaguely based on Asian street food, but you’ll also find things like stuffed avocados, fried chicken and waffles, and dirty rice with ginger, sausage, and duck liver that we think about ordering every time we come. It’s a small, casual place with good cocktails, and if you live nearby, you should be in here a couple of times a month.
If you told us that Cafe Polonia is an exact reproduction of a little bed and breakfast in the pine-covered hills outside Gdansk, we’d believe you (and that’s not just because it stocks a ton of Polish beer you probably won’t find anywhere else). This tiny little cabin of a restaurant in Andrew Square is where we want to wait out every snowstorm, with the help of some potato pancakes and sourdough soup. It helps that it’s pretty cheap, too - plenty of dishes on the menu, like the Vienna pork chop, will fill you up for under $20.
There are three types of bars in Southie: (1) well-worn pubs that have been the setting of an Affleck movie and are now patronized by a mix of older people and recent grads from Sharon who think that drinking in a place with Keno makes them honorary members of the Winter Hill Gang, (2) the big meat market restaurant bars on Broadway where at least 14 people lose their phones every night, and (3) GrandTen. This garage bar/distillery is neither a place where scally caps are required, nor somewhere that doubles as live-action Tinder - it’s just a chill place to come and drink great cocktails. Everything that ends up in your glass is made on site, there are comfortable old couches and weird portraits of Maggie Gyllenhaal, and if you get bored, you can hit up the foosball table or play a little Mortal Kombat. It’s the best place to grab a drink in Southie.
If there’s a nerve center for all the millennials with consulting jobs who, depending on who you ask, are either ruining the neighborhood or revitalizing it, it’s Loco Taqueria. It’s a really lively place dominated by a big bar, where just about everyone is drinking a margarita while enjoying a mostly gluten-free menu. The tacos with soft, thick corn tortillas aren’t the best in Boston, but thanks to loud crowds, a big bar scene, and Tuesday night specials where tacos are under $3, this place is really fun.
It is really hard to see the giant steak and cheese sub at Rondo’s and not get it. But then again, that’s also true of the chicken parm sub, the buffalo chicken parm sub, the meatball sub, and a bunch of other massive sandwiches at this old-school counter-service place on West Broadway. If you need a quick lunch and a reminder that a good sandwich is among the only things in the world that you can always count on, this is your spot.
Depending on when you go, there are times at Lincoln Tavern when you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by guys in backward TB12 hats leaving their phone numbers on the check for their waitresses. But if you can handle that scene, you’ll find that Lincoln Tavern is the rare restaurant that provides something for everyone. They serve brunch every morning, with a fun menu on Friday where they try out more experimental things like a poke bowl served with a runny, sunny side up egg. If you need a place for a group dinner, this is one of the biggest restaurants in Boston, with a solid gastropub menu and good thin crust pizza that everyone will enjoy. And if you want to party, on Friday and Saturday nights it’s the most popular bar in the neighborhood, with bouncers at the door starting around 8.
The rooftop at Coppersmith is only one story up, but it’s one of the best in Boston. The outdoor area is huge, and it makes the most of it with mini golf, corn hole, and drinks served out of an old RV. Nothing on the trendy gastropub-type menu (of things like short rib grilled cheese and truffle parmesan tots) is going to become your favorite food any time soon, but it’s good enough to keep you happy while you drink and have a good time.
Located in the heart of the Tinder Triangle formed by places like Loco Taqueria, Lincoln Tavern, and Cappo, Fromage is the quiet older sister who just wants to have a glass of wine and then curl up on the couch. Ignore the weird blue lighting that makes you feel like a tropical fish being gawked at by a group of 10-year-olds on a field trip, and you’ll find that this is one of the best places on Broadway to have a calm night out or catch up with friends. It’s a wine bar first and foremost,, but if extensive bottle selections or flights aren’t your thing you’ll also find good craft beer and a menu of small plates and charcuterie that go well with whatever you’re drinking.
Roza Lyons on East Broadway has the feel of an Irish pub, with regulars crowding into a homey space to drink first and snack on bar food second. But it replaces the shamrocks and IRA murals for hanging plants, strings of Christmas lights, and an indoor trellis that makes the place look like a bar you’d consider building in your basement for a few minutes before remembering that you’d have nowhere else to store the gym equipment that you’re definitely going to start using again someday. There’s nothing special about the menu, which covers everything from buffalo chicken empanadas to fettuccine bolognese, but it’s a great place to grab drinks with friends for a few hours.
We’re pretty sure that Southie has the least amount of sushi per capita of any Boston neighborhood (though we’ll wait for the next census to confirm that). But Fat Baby provides decent rolls, bowls, and snacks in a space that feels more like an izakaya than a standard neighborhood take-out sushi joint. This is a place where you come when you’re prioritizing a good time, and food is more of an afterthought, but that said, you can’t go wrong with the pork dumplings and Green Monster roll with torched yellowtail.
The bad news about Sullivan’s on Castle Island is that it’s closed during the winter. The good news is that, from June-September, it’s more quintessentially summer than an American flag tank top. This little clam shack is the only place in the city of Boston where you can eat a box of whole-belly fried clams with your toes in the sand. And while we’re not going to pretend that Pleasure Bay is South Beach (or even the M Street Beach) that’s never a bad thing.