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Last call at the Ashmont Grill

The Ashmont Grill, which opened on Talbot Avenue in 2005 and has become a premier Dorchester restaurant and, more importantly, an anchor of the Ashmont neighborhood, will close in the coming weeks, according to its co-owners and investors. The news – first reported by the Boston Globe last Sunday – comes as a disappointment to his many fans, a group including this editor.

The Grill’s employees and owners — like so many in their industry who have persevered and innovated despite the ravages of the pandemic — deserve credit for keeping it running for as long as possible. The team that manages the grill, led by manager Tara O’Riordan and original chef and founder Chris Douglass, also runs the popular Italian bistro Tavolo, just a block away in the Carruth building on Dorchester Avenue.

Both restaurants are excellent and consistently rank in the top five restaurants in this part of town, quite an achievement given the influx of new establishments opening in recent years. The two restaurants share some employees and investors, though Tavolo is co-owned by Jim Keefe and Patrick Lee, who own Trinity Financial, the development firm that built the Carruth and Treadmark buildings across the street.

As Commonwealth magazine author and Ashmont Grill investor Michael Jonas wrote in his own column this week, the Grill holds a special place in the heart of the community because men and women from Dorchester helped found Douglass nearly twenty years ago to help fund its launch. Douglass, who lives nearby, was already an acclaimed and successful chef and ran the popular South End restaurant Icarus. But he and his original supporters, including Jim Keefe, had the vision and courage to say that Dorchester deserved a new dining option, an improvement on the old bar it replaced.

At its peak, probably around 2010, the grill was constantly bouncing. It was a favorite of Governor Deval Patrick and many of his Milton neighbors, along with the Dorchester regulars, some of whom sat at the bar for more than a few days each week or lounged on the special outdoor patio.

Crowds have lessened in recent years, partly due to the pandemic, but also due to the proliferation of other, similarly styled, higher quality restaurants both in Dot and on the outskirts of town that are newer and perhaps more appealing to younger diners.

The move to close shop allows the team to focus on keeping Tavolo strong. The hope is that a new group of owners will emerge to either relaunch a version of the grill or reinvent the space for a restaurant. Or perhaps the property will be sold and redeveloped for a mix of apartments, perhaps with retail or restaurant space underneath.

It would be amazing if another up-and-coming restaurateur stepped up to reinterpret the grill’s friendly vibe — perhaps a fusion spot that could reflect the diversity of the bustling neighborhood outside.

Whatever comes next, we hope the folks stepping in do justice to the grill and the good people who have made it a special place for the past 18 years.
It was a great run.