Dorchester is a charming hodge-podge of a nabe that is hard to understand in one glance. Its northern section, bordering on South Boston, has a largely urban, commercial feel, while the southern region retains a more residential atmosphere. In-between, one can find almost anything else: from a wide array of culinary and diversionary options, to one of Frederick Law Olmstead's most celebrated parks. As the oldest and largest nabe in Boston, Dorchester has something to offer everyone.
Dorchester's got diverity, affordability, and charm to spare
Dorchester deserves a little love. As a whole, it tends to get a bad rap, but like the badly behaved, yet good-hearted cousin your family talks about in hushed-tones each time you get together, it actually has a lot going for it. There are many little enclaves within the whole of Dorchester—each with its own idiosyncrasies and reputation. TakeLower Mills for instance: it’s got a sweet little Main street with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants all within strolling distance of one another. Just around the corner, however, near Codman Square, the neighborhood reputation suffers from gang and drug related violence.
Housing varies incredibly from housing projects in places like Bowdoin, Geneva and Franklin Field to stately Victorian homes in places like Ashmont and Savin Hills and Melville Park.
Perhaps the most celebrated part of Dorchester is the diversity of its residents. The city website boasts that it is, in fact, Boston’s most culturally diverse neighborhood with “large pockets of African Americans, Irish, Vietnamese, Caribbean, and South and Central American residents.” Culture sharing is fun for everyone, especially when it involves food; and there’s certainly no shortage of ethnic food offerings. One of the best Cape Verdian restaurants I know is Restaurante Cesaria on Bowdoin Street, offering dishes that will lead to a euphoric explosion of your world view: Portuguese sausage with tomato, and FRIED GOAT! And did I mention it’s also a piano bar?
Dorchester is well connected via MBTA public transit options. It’s connected toDowntown Boston by the Red Line “T,” as well as several bus lines.
Named by Puritans after the original English town, Dorchester is Boston’s oldest, largest, and quite possibly most diverse nabe. From working class residents to old school Kennedy legends, and ethnic populations from all over the globe, Dorchester is the true patchwork quilt of Boston.
Since Dorchester is so multifarious, it’s difficult to represent a good reading on the mood of the place. A great way to get a feel for this vast area is to drive up its main stretch, Dorchester Avenue, which cuts through an abundance of the smaller pocket nabes that make up this place. You’ll see traditional urban Boston (both classy and trashy) mixed with quaint suburban spreads.
Dorchester’s known all over for doing green space right, thanks to 527 acre Franklin Park, designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (he also designed NYC’s Central Park and Prospect Park). Recently, there’s also been a public movement to transform Dorchester’s ugly vacant lots into gardens—healthy, delicious, adorable.
A last bit of praise: for folks inkling to live the suburban life while still pinching a few pennies, Dorchester is a fine choice. Its mixed population keeps real estate prices here cheaper than they are in Boston border burbs. You get a less expensive home plus a prime location right in the city.
Ashmont Hill, Dorchester
We moved to Ashmont Hill roughly 2 years ago from the South End and have loved every minute of being here. We (my husband and I) are active professionals in our early 30s and have really enjoyed the great restaurants (shout out to Tavolo, Ashmont Grille, Mud House,The Ledge, Sea Breeze Grille, etc.), all the parks and running trails and, most importantly, the really great neighborhood atmosphere. We’ve made a bunch of great friends and our toddler son has had his own little playgroup practically since birth.
People here are really excited about being part of an diverse up-and-coming neighborhood made up of a variety of professionals (a lot of uni professors, architects & designers, artists, and entrepreneurs) and are extremely welcoming of new people coming in.What's awesome
It’s a 5-7 minute walk to Ashmont Station, a 5 minute drive to get on 93 N or S, the restaurants are great, the parks are fabulous, there’s a great variety of age groups in the neighborhood — from grad students to retirees), there’s an amazing nursery school in the neighborhood, you don’t need to have a car, there’s a farmer’s market at the Ashmont T in the summer, the people are friendly and the architecture is gorgeous (Ashmont Hill is often used in movies because of the number of beautifully renovated Victorians).What's not so awesome
Having lived in the South End, we were used to urban living and have found this neighborhood to be pretty much the same in terms of safety (“feel safe but don’t be stupid”) but people’s perceptions of Dorchester (which is ALWAYS clumped together into one big blob instead of dissected down to its actual neighborhoods — Savin Hill, Jones Hill, Ashmont Hill, etc.) can be kind of frustrating. If you move here, be prepared for a few dumb stares when you tell them where you live.
I started visiting Dorchester a fair amount after a friend and her boyfriend bought a house in the nabe. Before that, I hadn’t had much of a reason to visit but now that I have, I can’t stop visiting-funny how that works! The nabe itself isn’t much to look at, even when the sun is out, everything seems sort of grey and grubby. That being said, there are also some great parks in the nabe that add a little greenery. I have to admit, grey doesn’t really bother me that much (gloomy, yes, grey, not so much) and there are several bonuses to Dorchester:
*Cheap Real Estate-my friend bought a house with a basement and three additional floors, they have done a bunch of work on the place but they have a huge kitchen, sitting area, dining room, powder room, two bedrooms and study which could also be a spacious bedroom. They also have a back yard with room for a little garden
*Close to public transportation
*Several “locals,” as the Brits like to say-ie, dive bars
*Street parking-while it isn’t the best, it’s better than a lot of areas in Boston
The only negative about the nabe is that it looks a little run down and there are still some bad parts of town. Once you get inside, however, the houses are great and it’s like a little paradise. I foresee Dorchester becoming a really lively little nabe since so many people are taking advantage of the cheap real estate-first come the residents and then the happening little town!
If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now And You Would Have Nothing To Do.
Having grown up in Dorchester, I treat her as if she were my own sister. I can pick on her all I want but, you had better not say a word about her. To be truthful, aside from and issues with in my family, my childhood here, at times, was idyllic… Particularly the time I spent in the neighborhoods that line the Neponset River.
Neponset, while in Dorchester, is referred to as “Neponset”. As in : I’m from Dorchester, well, Neponset. This statement usually gets the response of “oh, sure, it’s a whole different world from the rest of Dot” ( Dorchester’s beautiful nickname). This reputation is well deserved. Neponset is clean, family friendly, extremely close to Boston and good old 93. It’s very much and old fashioned Boston Irish Catholic neighborhood. The streets are packed with trick-or-treaters on Halloween and it glows bright with lights at Christmas. The Pope John Paul II Park provides the perfect place to walk a dog, fly a kite (I’m talking serious 50 foot tail kinda kites) and go sledding.Neponset is old skool Dot, to the extreme.
Not much to do as far as night life goes, there’s Sonny’s, kinda Italian but, a 100% Irish clientele, Gerard’s is right next door, it’s a spa (or corner store depending on where you hail from) but, it h as a restaurant in back. Barf. No thanks.
The rest of Dorchester is one of those places that hip people and young professionals are moving into and fooling themselves into thinking that it’s a vibrant, diverse community and that’s what has killed it’s vibrant diversity. However, I guess it’s better than the burnt out crack den it used to be.
I really do love Dorchester, when I go home to visit, I get all excited but, honestly, 3 hours after i arrive, I usually feel trapped and return to my little apartment on theNorth End.
In closing: some areas are GREAT for families but, single women, afraid of dark streets at night and young people afraid of being stranded with nothing to do, no one wanting to visit you and 40 dollar cab rides from the downtown area it’s so conveniently located by… Steer clear. Fa realzies!