“Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet …”
The Ballad of the East and West”
Rudyard Kipling, 1889
by Rick Winterson
First, a bit of local history: Way back, Broadway was split into West and East Broadway at Perkins Square; the two east-west segments were (and still are) each about a mile long. Over the years, West Broadway came to be known as “Big Broadway” because it was a much more popular place to go. East Broadway, even though it had its own movie theater and a bowling alley, was called “Little Broadway”.
Times changed, as they always do, and the attractions along “Big Broadway” began shrinking. For many reasons, East Broadway became the place to go. South Boston Online still makes its home here.
But over the past ten years, West Broadway has revived. It is popular and bustling once more. Now, East Broadway may be experiencing its own pattern of new growth.
One of these days, take yourself a walk along both Broadways. That’s two miles and 45 minutes or so of walking. South Boston Online has accompanied this article with a few photos that we hope contrast the old and the new things you’ll see. But experience them all for yourself – we couldn’t possibly squeeze everything into a single article.
Start at Broadway Station. Notice that Amrhein’s, South Boston’s oldest restaurant (1890), nestles comfortably among newcomers like Stephi’s The Maiden, and Worden Hall. Look west to the skyscrapers in Copley Square; glance at the Gothic Sts. Peter and Paul Church, now containing striking condos – old mixed with new.
The new branch of the City of Boston Credit Union shares a wall with Rondo’s. Online wonders how many of the Credit Union’s staff buy their lunchtime subs there. The residential developments up to D Street are many and still building. West Broadway is even the home of the Catholic Collaborative, a new type of Catholic Ministry Center covering many churches. And would you believe that Whitey’s Croke Park made “Best of Boston” this year? Ah, the old and the new.
From E Street to Perkins Square, there are too many new establishments to name completely, but credit is due to Sweet Tooth Boston for starting that trend to the west. The newest of the new includes Certified Meatball Company, Caffe Nero (“Black Coffee”), and GoGarbaj (opens in September). Check your pronunciation (Go Gar ‘BAJ) on that last one. But old favorite Cafe Arpeggio has been there a while, and it serves good ice cream as well.
Around Perkins Square, Salsa’s is becoming a sushi shop, as yet unnamed. And construction on Mike and Darlene’s news store/lottery and Dunkie’s will soon bring us something or other that’s new. On your walk, climb the hill that begins East Broadway and note that old favorites Java House and South Boston Bowlarama are still there to greet you. Charlie Federico’s Bike Shop serves you at Emerson and East Broadway.
From there on, East Broadway becomes quite a mix of old and new, but relax, it’s a downhill trek to L Street. You’ll see locavore American Provisions, two blocks from the Stop & Shop anchoring East Broadway near L Street. Old South Boston favorites like Porto Bello and Cranberry Café are across East Broadway from the (much) newer Roza Lyon and Paramount. And there are always new nail shops. As a visible commentary on the times, note that Starbucks has moved in at L and East Broadway, while Bailey’s right across the street has closed.
And The Playwright has temporarily closed, as has the Boston Beer Garden. But they’ll reopen later this year, sporting names like “Boomtown” and “The Broadway”. Oh well, perhaps that will lead to more new enterprises along East Broadway. At this time, South Boston Online will have to say that West Broadway is once again “Big Broadway”. Perhaps we should arrange a South Boston Olympics between East and West Broadway in 2024. How about beach volleyball matchup with the two Broadways in Perkins Square, on sand trucked in from M Street Beach?