Roxbury restaurants seem largely overlooked by Boston food writers. Is it their informality? The cuisines, like Dominican and soul food, that are less familiar to white diners? Their location in poorer neighborhoods, where more-prosperous Bostonians fear to tread? Whatever the reason, chowhounds seeking authentic regional foods at budget prices ought to be delving deeper into Roxbury.
I’ve begun filling the blank spaces in my Roxbury culinary map at Pepper Pot, a storefront just east of Dudley Square that serves up big Styrofoam boxes of Jamaican cuisine for lunch and dinner (but not, despite the signage, breakfast). Jamaican patties ($1.50), flaky pastries filled with minced beef, pork, or chicken with a mild chili-fire snap, are a great start. (The latter two taste house-made, while the beef looks factory-made.) Judging from the steady stream of 3 pm business, these are popular after-school snacks for local teens.
The generously sized platters include deliciously herb-seasoned white rice with a few red beans, a side of sautéed shredded cabbage and carrots, and fried plantain slices. Curried goat ($6/lunch; $9/dinner) is outstanding: long braising makes the potentially tough goat meat fork-tender, and produces rich, brown/yellow, mildly spicy curry gravy. Folks who like it hotter can add a couple dashes of Grace, a Tabasco-like Jamaican chili-pepper/vinegar sauce. You’ll want to watch out for bones, not just for your dental work, but also for the occasional piece of shank filled with luxurious marrow.
Jerk chicken ($6/$9) is another winner with its three perfectly juicy chunks of bone-in thigh meat in a dark, allspice-heavy dry rub, again with intriguing complexity but not much fire. Other attractive options include stewed fish, curried shrimp, oxtails with butter beans, and for vegetarians, channa (stewed chickpeas). Jamaican soft drinks include ginger beer and grapefruit soda ($1.25). With plentiful street parking and an MBTA hub nearby, Pepper Pot is an easy-to-reach and worthy launch pad for your own exploration of Roxbury’s great neighborhood restaurants.
Pepper Pot, located at 208 Dudley Street, in Roxbury, is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 am to 10 pm. Call 617.445.4409.