Lower Mills: River Town Charm South of Boston

An explorer's guide to the Boston-Milton bordertown

Getting to Lower Mills—south of Boston on the MBTA Red Line then a couple of stops on the 1940s throwback Ashmont-Mattapan trolley—is half the fun.

Once the charming old bone-shaker has delivered you to the Milton light rail stop, the real voyage of discovery begins. The skyline of Lower Mills, which sits either side of the Neponset River at the Boston/Milton border, is defined by the old Baker chocolate factory, now converted to residential and business use. A sweet ghostly aroma of cocoa bean still leeches into the skies on summer nights, apparently. So breathe deeply and explore.

Culinary Americana

Once you've arrived in Lower Mills, you'll find a bunch of great dining options.

Bred, located on the main drag (Dorchester Ave.), has the burger/sandwich market well covered, with tang-tastic specials like the jerk chicken BLT with housemade cilantro aioli, and an almond-milk-based smoothie named after Tom Brady. Steel & Rye, which occupies a former garage near the Central Ave. trolley stop, does a great job of fulfilling its mission to "present a culinary version of Americana," with Ichabod oysters to wild Atlantic halibut and buttermilk-fried chicken, while Ester has an amazing patio and serves fresh produce from its rooftop vegetable garden.

Steel & Rye (©Mike Hodgkinson)

Mid-Century Modern

Old chocolate factory aside, the past also resurfaces in several other must-visit Lower Mills locations. Lovers of art deco and mid-century modern objects should make a beeline for Streamline Antiques on Washington Street where Bakelite bracelets and colorful Czech vases share shelf space with vintage barware and World's Fair cufflinks. The Ice Creamsmith has been serving great, fresh homemade ice cream in small batches since 1976: every neighborhood should have ices this tasty.

Streamline Antiques (©Mike Hodgkinson)

Dropkick Clam Chowder

Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys cut his teeth as a bar owner with McGreevy's in the Back Bay, and in 2016 the musician added Lower Mills Tavern to his boozer portfolio. It's a handsomely designed gastro-pub with large open windows during the summer, an excellent selection of craft beers and New England ciders, including Champlain Orchards 'Original' from Vermont and a menu that nails its clam chowder and Guinness beef stew.

Azul@88 is a modern Mexican pop-up at 88 Wharf, a great spot for riverfront margaritas and killer guacamole and the Flat Black Coffee Co.—established in Lower Mills in 2003—is now known citywide for its excellent specialty coffees. The in-store coffee grinder is, in itself, a thing of wonder.

Clam chowder at Lower Mills Tavern (©Mike Hodgkinson)

Birder Paradise

The Neponset River is perhaps Lower Mills' greatest asset and a stroll along the Neponset River Trail offers an instant, all-natural hit of relaxation and treats for birders, including swallows, cormorants and the occasional bald eagle. The path is lined with prettily fading wildlife murals and is easily accessed from the Central Avenue trolley stop.

Back at street level, Boston School of Music Arts offers music, performance and songwriting classes, while Milton Hill Sport & Spa can get you moving with zumba, pilates and cycling classes before sending you to chillsville with a hot stone massage.

The Neponset River Trail (©Mike Hodgkinson)