West Roxbury is Boston’s leafiest, most family-friendly neighborhood, a slice of suburbia within city limits.
Its blossoming dining scene reflects bedrock values, spiced by new upscale options and growing diversity. Where else can you pick up your team’s Little League baseball jerseys then order banh mi, burritos or barbecue all on the same city block?
“West Roxbury holds onto a sense of family and community,” said Caitlin Laubenstein, a bartender at brick-lined West on Centre, a popular spot for birthdays and baby showers, or tasty burgers and steak tips after the kids’ ballgame.
“We do very fresh comfort American cuisine,” said West on Centre chef Gabriel Cheung. Try his teriyaki salmon, 13-hour hickory smoked pulled pork or braised chipotle chicken pizza. The restaurant offers a downstairs function room, patio garden and stone-hearth fireplace.
Boston author Dennis Lehane wrote part of “Moonlight Mile” sitting at his favorite high top. Roslindale native and “Orange Is the New Black” star Diane Guerrero attended a baby shower at West on Centre on Sunday.
Shuffle across the street to Porter Cafe, which offers upscale gastropub fare and an impressive list of craft brews.
Order pan-seared pork schnitzel with fresh apple slaw and chunks of bacon, or the beer-battered fish & chips with fresh cod, one of the most popular dishes in West Roxbury. Wash it down with Smuttynose Brewing Co’s. new session brew Bouncy House IPA or a pint of Samuel Adams Behan Pilsner, a special one-off from the Boston brewery available only at the Brendan Behan in Jamaica Plain and here at Porter Cafe.
In the space of the next block, you can pick up pie or self-serve frozen yogurt at new-to-West Roxbury Mangia Neapolitian Pizzeria; enjoy critically acclaimed Nepalese cuisine at Himalayan Bistro; order “distinguished” burritos at Los Amigos, one of West Roxbury’s most popular spots for family takeout; savor “downhome Southern BBQ” at The Red-Eyed Pig; and experience Vietnamese street food at Banh Mi Ngon.
“Downtown West Roxbury has changed dramatically in recent years,” noted longtime resident Michael Barsamian, who founded the Lord’s & Lady’s chain of hair salons on Centre Street in 1971.
Just a few blocks south are West Roxbury landmarks Anna’s Hand Cut Donuts, Rox Diner and Tony’s Place.
Anna’s owner Kosta Keskinidis is often seen making doughnuts in the wee hours of the morning, even opening the doors at odd times for neighbors working the overnight shift.
Rox Diner serves artisan-inspired breakfast and lunch, including seven kinds of eggs Benedict and some of the city’s best burgers, made with a short-rib beef blend.
Tony’s Place has served chicken parm and pizza and catered countless West Roxbury celebrations since 1969.
Former neighborhood favorite West Roxbury Pub closed last year. The space is being renovated and will open later this year as Eat with Jack O’Neill, a contemporary Irish pub.
West Roxbury’s best dining experience might be found across from Highland commuter rail station at cozy Masona Grill, which specializes in Peruvian dishes from chef-owner Manny Sifnugel. Order his popular crispy eggplant Romana with fresh ricotta and plum tomato ragu. Sit at the bar and sip a chilcano de ginger, a Peruvian cocktail. Then pick up a jar of Masona Grill’s house-specialty hot pepper sauce to go.
“Residents of West Roxbury are very proud to be from West Roxbury,” said Barsamian. “It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to eat.”
West on Centre Barbecue Steak Tip Sauce
3 T. white vinegar
16 oz. ketchup
1 1/2 T. liquid smoke
3/4 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. brown sugar
2 3/4 T. molasses
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 dash favorite hot sauce
Pinch of kosher salt
2 pinches fresh ground black pepper
2 T. tomato paste
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot. Slowly heat until the sauce begins to bubble. Let cool and then refrigerate. Toss steak tips or other meat with sauce. Unused sauce can be refrigerated for several weeks. Makes about 32 ounces of barbecue sauce.
Masona Grill Chilcano de Ginger
4 oz. pisco
2 oz. ginger beer
Dash of fresh-squeezed lime
Dash of bitters
Dash of simple syrup
Mix together all ingredients. Pour into a tumbler over ice. Makes 1 cocktail.