After a decade spent helming the kitchen at Myers + Chang (and winning a James Beard Award for it), chef Karen Akunowicz chose South Boston for her first solo restaurant, Fox & the Knife. Inspired by a year Akunowicz spent living in Modena, Italy, the fare includes flavorful house-made pastas; cheesy, herby focaccia; and a charred broccoli “Caesar” salad that may forever change your relationship with vegetables. Should you find yourself overindulging, don’t worry—a well-curated amaro cart is on call to provide whatever digestif you require. In 2021, Akunowicz expanded her footprint in Southie with the opening of Bar Volpe.
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In the last decade, few neighborhoods have changed as drastically as South Boston—and much of Southie’s evolution has been delicious. From an award-winning Italian enoteca to a neighborhood bar for Southie's fun-loving crowds, here are the best restaurants in South Boston.
Housed in a former department store, cavernous Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant is where you want to bring a large group—particularly one in search of wood-fired pizzas and comfort food like French Onion Soup and Ritz cracker-topped Truffle Mac & Cheese. Lincoln’s popular brunch runs seven days a week with Insta-worthy creations like Chronic Bacon (cornflake-crusted French toast bites with maple cider-braised bacon) and Fruity Pebble Pancakes; and it’s great for football Sundays, too. We appreciate the tavern’s dedication to late-night eats, with options like wood-fired chicken wings available until 1 a.m. most nights. The first venture from Southie’s Broadway Restaurant Group, Lincoln sister spots include Loco Taqueria and Southern-inspired Hunter’s Kitchen and Bar.
A longtime Boston favorite for dumplings, Mei Mei has a Southie eatery these days that offers glimpses behind the scenes. The Factory Cafe has glass windows onto the production floor and a counter-service menu of fried-to-order dumplings, house-made dipping sauces, and scallion-pancake sandwiches. Located in the renovated Iron Works Building (also home to Castle Island Brewing and Shy Bird), it’s like a brewery taproom but for dumplings, with innovative, seasonal flavors like Cumin Lamb and Cheddar Scallion Potato always in the works. The factory also produces packaged dumplings for sale and hosts dumpling-making classes.
Southie’s beloved gourmet shop American Provisions (see below) got into the restaurant game with this neighborhood wine bar. Gray’s Hall reflects the AP influence via the daily Gray’s Board, composed of a rotating selection of charcuterie, cheeses, and house-made accompaniments; and in the selection of natural wines by the glass and bottle. Besides the board, the tight bistro menu highlights seasonal cooking, such as Gulf Shrimp with ramp butter, Caramelized Onion Dip with smoked trout roe and Ruffles, and Sweet Corn Arancini. Full meals include the irresistible Gray’s Burger, a Feather Brook Farms beef smash-burger with lacto-fermented hot sauce-spiked special sauce.
Raucous Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar guarantees oysters, on-point margaritas and tacos that range from the expected (Carne Asada) to the surprising (Buffalo Chicken). Find us going for the beefy, cheesy Birria Tacos served with a truly slurpable slow-simmered consommé; and either the Coco Margarita of the Little Devil, depending on the mood. Either way, it’s a good-time vibe at the bar—Loco is sister to Lincoln Tavern, after all—or the sidewalk patio. Don’t miss whatever laugh-out-loud #relatable message is scrawled onto the A-frame sign at the entrance (sample text: “Your soulmate is the person who tolerates you when you’re hungry”).
Castle Island Brewing Company
With beers like Castle Island White Ale and Keeper IPA, Castle Island Brewing Co. has been a Boston presence since 2015. It only recently debuted a taproom in its namesake neighborhood (well, about three miles west of the South Boston landmark), anchoring a newly redeveloped electrical-switch plant. The industrial setting lends no shortage of vibes (think: corrugated-metal mural walls illuminated by neon electric bolts) and plenty of room to meet up with friends, including a dog-friendly patio. Longtime favorite Castle Island brews are on draft, along with taproom exclusives; but the pièce de résistance is a Southie newcomer: Bardo’s Pizza, the on-site restaurant lighting things up with thin and crispy, good-greasy, South Shore-style bar pizza.
South Bostonians struck by Formaggio Kitchen-envy can cure themselves with a trip to American Provisions, where they’ll find a wide-ranging yet tightly edited selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and specialty food items with an emphasis on local makers. That’s not to say all delights are take-home only: Satiate immediate hunger with a fruity-filled pastry, buttery croissant, or by ordering from the sandwich menu. We love their version of a classic Italian made to order with salami, prosciutto, mortadella, and hots. The wine selection here is also worth a trip (to sip on-site, head next door to Gray’s Hall), and don’t forget to order your holiday pies.
With fun food that ranges from heirloom quinoa-veggie bowls to can’t-miss burgers and “Ron Swanson Brunch” creations like a Chipotle Pulled Pork Scallion Pancake Quesadilla, Moonshine 152 is a little bit extra—and a lot inclusive. Chef-owner Asia Mei debuted the place (and her uniquely craveable take on the veggie burger) on a prominent corner of Dorchester Ave. after her Boston-based career arc from Hamersley’s Bistro line cook to executive chef at Franklin Southie, a neighborhood mainstay which Moonshine replaced. The friendly staff, well-crafted cocktails, and creative bar-and-kitchen cuisine—from weekend brunch until 10 or 11 p.m.—have made Moonshine a beacon of the new Southie.
Whether we’re stopping by for breakfast and espresso on-the-go or sharing a bottle of Beaujolais over a whole-rotisserie chicken dinner, Shy Bird meets the moment. The signature chicken is not only spit-roasted but also expertly fried: We love the bite-size buttermilk-brined SB Dunks with all the house-made dipping sauces. Weekend brunch, everyday lunch, and dinner add more poultry-centric sandwiches and salads to the menu, plus sides like Creamy Mac & Cheese and steak au poivre with irresistibly herby fries. The all-day cafe has a range of beverage options, including coffee, wine, draft beer, and food-friendly cocktails and mocktails.
A 2022-newcomer to South Boston, Fresh is likely familiar to folks who’ve ever searched for a stellar sandwich on Nantucket. The deli-bar and liquor store has been an island mainstay since 2008, beloved for sandwiches such as The Mambo #4 with prosciutto, burrata, truffle honey, and arugula on house-made focaccia; plus fresh fruit smoothies, salads, and curated bottles of booze to-go. The South Boston shop offers all of that and a full bar. Creative cocktails including Smoke Break (mezcal, honey, lime, salt) join the fun, along with a dinner menu served Tuesday through Saturday featuring seasonal cuisine such as a Bar Steak with house chimichurri; Burrata and Artichoke Dip served with toasted sourdough; and more.
This restaurant on the corner of A and W. 3rd streets in Southie is surprising in a few different ways. Formerly a counter-service pie shop, the small spot is now Lenox Sophia, a fine-dining destination offering modern American tasting menus by chef-owner Shi Mei. Omnivores and vegetarians alike are treated to five courses of farm-sourced dishes, such as King Trumpet Mushrooms sauced in elderflower miso, Tagliatelle with Italian summer truffles, and Monkfish atop succotash with onion soubise. What makes this hole-in-the-wall extra unexpected is the lack of liquor license. Lenox Sophia is one of the few Boston restaurants that allow guests to BYOB wine and beer.
Eric Twardzik and Emily Millian contributed reporting.