Where to: The Pearl, a stylish seafood-focused restaurant in Dorchester’s South Bay shopping center.
Why: You’re craving raw bar, camaraderie, and a happening scene. You also need a few things from Target.
The back story: The Pearl is part of South Bay’s evolution from convenient place to run errands to mixed-use hangout. You’ve still got your Super Stop & Shop, Home Depot, and Old Navy, but now there’s also an AMC movie theater, luxe apartment building The Andi, and new restaurants like this one. The Pearl stands out, an independent business operated by four locals — Mika Winder, Malik Winder, Luther Pinckney, and Teda DeRosa Pinckney — who grew up together in Roxbury.
What to eat: Start with a dozen local oysters, or go all out with a raw bar platter. The Pearl serves 4 to 6 people and includes raw and grilled oysters, shrimp cocktail, king crab legs, and a grilled lobster. Spicy crab dip is rich and tongue-tingling. There are scallops with bacon-asparagus risotto, shrimp scampi, and many ways to consume lobster: with vodka sauce over pasta or in mac and cheese; poached in butter and served in a warm lobster roll; as part of the Seafood Trinity, with mussels, clams, and shrimp in house-made curry. For those who don’t want seafood, there’s a burger and a roast half-chicken. Brunch brings everything from brioche French toast with whiskey-glazed pecans to seafood Newburg over cheese grits.
What to drink: The Pearl Potion is a summery, just-sweet-enough combination of Pearl plum vodka, Cointreau, basil simple syrup, lime, and white cranberry juice. The Boston Bramble Drink (B.B.D.) combines Uncle Nearest whiskey and blackberry puree. For a refreshing take on the French 75, try the Changed 75 Thymes At Least, made with ginger liqueur and rosemary-thyme simple syrup.
The takeaway: The glam exterior has a Miami vibe. The outdoor seating is packed with people of all ages. Everyone at the bar is talking and laughing together. The crowd is among the most diverse I’ve ever seen at an upscale Boston restaurant. And the hourlong wait on a Thursday night shows just how overdue this neighborhood was for a place like The Pearl.
20B District Ave., Dorchester, 617-288-8810, www.thepearlsouthbay.com