BOSTON – There was a time (let’s say a decade ago) when Savin Hill would have been the last neighborhood many businesses would have considered launching a new venture in. Particularly restaurants. It wasn’t that it was unsafe, despite popular misconceptions. Or inaccessible. It simply lacked any sort of commercial retail appeal. Chop shops, yes. Greasy spoons, yes. Midscale sit down dining options which don’t use the adjective famous in quotation marks? Not as much.
But the past ten years has seen a small but growing transformation in the neighborhood. Yes, you can still find some of the best Caribbean food in the city on the outskirts of Savin Hill. And yes, you can still get your Escalade detailed with the sort of fine exterior trim that tells the rest of the world, “I have Daddy issues.” But you’ll also find the likes of dbar (yes, the joke writes itself), Harp & Bard and Savin Bar & Kitchen—the latter run by Ken Osherow, who’ll be opening Ghost Pepper, his restaurant group's latest venture, on October 1st.
“This area is really on the up and up,” Osherow told the Dorchester Reporter this week. “It’s really growing and people want to be here...This corner is like a village now.”
“We want to bring a Mexican kitchen and tequila bar to the Savin Hill neighborhood,” co-owner Driscoll DoCanto explained to Eater earlier in May.
“The space overall will be bright, with pops of color, elements of natural wood, and concrete… like nothing else in the area.”
Except that while Latin cuisine has never been hard to come by in Dorchester, authentic Latin cuisine is becoming increasingly rare, thanks to both redevelopment and retail booms. In fact, you may be more likely to find a decent pupusa at a food court than any of the nouveau fusion hot-spots promising a “genuine” Latin experience… in the heart of Copley Square for $37 a plate (offenders won’t be named since they deserve as little publicity as can be humanly afforded.)
Which doesn’t mean that any reinterpretation of Latin cuisine will be a unilateral disappointment (and they’re infinitely more preferable than an overgrown frat boy’s stereotypes of Mexican culture.)
Nor is there any reason why it can’t coexist alongside the anonymous taquerias many of us grew up with. Masa being a great example. In fact, in terms of “authentically creative” interpretations of Latin food… they’re the most creatively authentic. And Osherow and DoCanto had enough foresight to tap executive chef Dante Funes to oversee Ghost Pepper’s menu. Funes’ background is impeccable; a Honduran-born chef trained in French cuisine and who apparently harbors a desire to be a pastry chef. It’s precisely that sort of dichotomy which has made Masa so memorable, even if it isn’t necessarily what many people would dub traditional.
So even if chicarrones in an almond mole and a tostada with tuna tartare don’t exactly strike you as the typical entree you’d find either in Oaxaca or Chelsea, you should be glad it exists. You should want it to exist. And whether or not you’d pay for it should be a moot point because you don’t have to. You should know where to find authenticity, be it in Savin Hill or The Neighborhood Formerly Known As East Somerville. And sometimes even novelty can breathe new life into gastronomical imports despite your stubborn preconceptions. It's one of the basic principles of evolution. And what goes for biology should also go for food culture.
But other times, you’re just paying $16 for a margarita and a handful of stale torilla chips. Ghost Pepper? Please provide us with the former.
Ghost Pepper is located at 120 Savin Hill Ave in Dorchester and is scheduled to open on October 1st. Hours will be Sunday - Thursday from 3:00 pm - 10:00 pm and Friday - Saturday from 3:00 pm - 11:00 pm. For more information, visit ghostpepperboston.com.