Going back in time about 10 to 15 years, if you had told your friends that you were looking forward to a nice meal out in Milton, they might have looked at you as if you had two heads. Fast forward to today, however, and such a statement doesn’t seem so silly anymore, with the opening of such restaurants as Abby Park, 88 Wharf, the Plate, Novara, and a casual upscale place near the Dorchester border called Steel & Rye. It feels like a true destination spot and is impressive enough to rival some of the best restaurants of its kind within the city of Boston—and it has certainly helped put Milton on the map as far as dining out is concerned.
When people think of Lower Mills, many probably tend to picture the quaint little commercial district at the southern end of Dorchester by the Neponset River. But Lower Mills also extends onto the other side of the river into Milton where there are similarly impressive historic buildings, including an old ambulance garage on Eliot Street in which Steel & Rye is housed. The dark and atmospheric space is a massive one, with huge windows, a high ceiling, a long bar taking up an area to the right, and a large pizza oven set up next to the bar, while much of the rest of the space is used for dining. A private room sits in the back next to the open kitchen, while another private space can be found to the left. A relatively spacious patio sits out front by the parking lot during the warmer months, and yes, the restaurant does actually have a parking lot (a rarity in or near Boston), though it fills up quickly, often causing patrons to have to park along the street.
Steel & Rye is one of those spots that caters to food lovers and drink lovers alike, with the restaurant having the sort of balance between the two that makes it a great place to go to just for food, just for drinks, or a bit of both. The food side tends to lean toward seasonal New American fare that includes locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and includes a mix of small, shareable plates and larger main dishes. A few highlights (depending on the season and the specials offered) include an unusual plate of fried olives whose perfect matching of brininess and crunch makes one wonder why more restaurants don’t offer this; crispy confit duck wings that are almost too rich, if there is such a thing; a plate of charred calamari and steamed mussels that is so over-the-top in deliciousness that it could convert those who don’t like seafood; a tender BBQ pork shoulder pot roast that would be tremendous on its own, but which is made even better by the addition of lobster mushroom ragu; an unusual smoked pepper fusilli with corn, garlic chips, and fresh crabmeat; wood-fired thin-crust pizza that has a nice char from the high heat and toppings such as fennel sausage and squash blossoms; a beef ribeye that is much more expensive than most menu items here, but the $40+ price tag is well worth it considering the quality of the cut of meat, which comes from Painted Hills Natural Beef in Oregon; and for those who are looking at the other end of the price range, a juicy Niman Ranch burger with Vermont cheddar cheese and house-made potato chips. Steel & Rye has some excellent beer and wine offerings (including several local options among the former), but this is really a place to splurge on cocktails, as the folks behind the bar take pride in the drinks they make and are equally at ease making cocktails found on the menu (Roselle, Save The Streetcar, Harkness Table, Alpinista) as well as off-the-menu options (the basic Old Fashioned is anything but basic, and if you like cognac and rye, ask for the New Orleans-inspired Vieux Carre; you won’t regret it). Brunch is served on weekends, with everything from corned beef hash and potato pancakes to waffles and omelets offered.
While Steel & Rye hasn’t single-handedly put Boston’s southern neighbor on the culinary map, the restaurant certainly has caused some buzz since opening in Milton a few years ago. If you’re looking for a memorable dining and drinking experience that also includes free parking, a lack of long lines, and little in the way of showiness or pretension, this stately and charming eatery will surely impress.
STEEL & RYE. 95 ELIOT ST., MILTON. STEELANDRYE.COM