Friday, August 1, 2014

The New Southie

Whenever I move to a new place, I typically walk the area within a day or two to get acquainted with the local scene. It has taken me almost a month to do it since my return from Jordan, but I set out on foot this evening to come to know South Boston. Hmm. It is changing rapidly.

I started out on West Broadway near the MBTA subway station. I first saw Amrhein's restaurant, which is supposed to be a Southie mainstay. Now I know where it is. It looks decent with a bar, a casual dining area, and a restaurant.

Across the street from it is Stephi's at Southie and the Franklin at Southie. Not too far from it is a large restaurant called The Stadium. This area is right on the doorstep of the Innovation District and it is very clear that the development will continue right up Broadway. All the signs are rather clear.

Noticeable is the youthful energy of the area. Boston's nightlife rests on the edge of Southie with elegant dressers and smart restaurant-goers. The sidewalks are great because they are three cement panels wide, which could comfortably fit 8 or 9 people walking adjacent to one another.

Proximate to those restaurants are Shenanigans, the Clock Tavern, Williams, and Lincoln - also with an upbeat atmosphere and seafood-continental dining. Many Chinese take-out and Italian pizza places fill up the block. New storefronts and urban grocers cater to the young crowds that sleep in Southie and work in Boston.

Closer to the intersection of West and East Broadway where Dorchester Street meets are restaurants called Stats, Salsa's (Mexican), (the future Fromage) and the Junction with a neighboring Yoberry frozen yogurt. Many shops closed up early. I'm sure that will change as people realize the potential for profit.

One of the signs that tells a person the area is changing is the package store with the following slogan on it: Ireland unfree will never......  The rest of the motto is blacked out. Even the tensions that once marked Southie are now gone. Today is the era when a former IRA terrorist can shake hands with the English royalty and a mature Gerry Adams works for peace.

The sidewalks are buzzing with evening walkers. People are leisurely taking a neighborhood stroll and everyone feels safe. No longer do you see only ruddy complexions, but today you'll see many Asians, notably the Vietnamese, African Americans, and the youthful middle class worker. One older Asian woman was lounging on her front steps with a full glass of white wine and a half-empty bottle next to her as dramatic Romantic music serenaded her from her front parlor. You can simply tell people are enjoying this part of the city.

As I walked up East Broadway, there was a definite change in climate. The streets because much quieter and the gas lamps that lined the lower part of the street gave a genteel feel to the area. Brownstones showed elegance that rivals the South End, but the landscaping in certain areas still needs more finesse. It will come. Renovations are constant and owners have pride in their buildings and the neighborhood.

East Broadway retains the old charm of Southie with its middle class amenities. In West Broadway, it is not a stretch to close one's eyes to imagine what Southie was like in the 1970's, but those vestiges of an old era will be transformed in short order.

Before arriving at L Street, the Playwright Restaurant, Telegraph Hill, and the Boston Beer Company offer diners nice entertainment. I haven't checked out the side streets and the major connecting roads yet, but I'm sure there are quaint establishments popping up on those major intersections. Tasty Burger just opened; the Sidewalk Cafe, a host of Italian restaurants, and also many seafood old-time restaurants line the side streets.

Now, the way I make the area my own is to find a comfortable coffeehouse. Of course, there are many Dunkin Donuts, one Starbucks, and a number of independent coffeehouses. Cafe Arpeggio looks very good. It is quite large and it has a number of leather sofas where people will hang out for an extended period. I'll have to try it out.

However, the Amsterdam Cafe looks like it could be it for me. It appeals to me, not merely because I am 1/4 Dutch, but because it looks casual and has a nice aroma that filters out the door. Their sandwiches look tempting too. There may be a rival to it. Near the gate of the Innovation District, KO Pies appears to be a trendy little place. I'll have to stop there and absorb the atmosphere.

Yet, that is challenged by the very last place I saw. It is on East Broadway and it is called American Provisions. It feels deep, dark, and rich with coffee bean barrells and all sorts of coffee paraphernalia in the store with plenty of comfortable seats.

I know the work I have set out for me within the next couple of weeks.


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