Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Dorchester (2024)


Jerel Ferguson, a community garden coordinator, takes us through his perfect day in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.

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By Annie Jonas

In’s Perfect Day series, we’re talking to a local expert in each of Boston’s 23 neighborhoods about how they’d spend their perfect day. See what makes this city so special to your neighbors, and share your perfect day with us at [emailprotected].

Dorchester is Boston’s largest and most populous neighborhood, and has the diversity of its cultural pockets to show for it.

Among those pockets are Four Corners, Codman Square, Ashmont, and Fields Corner, each with its own history and distinct flair. From the Polish Triangle to Little Saigon, Dorchester’s cultural diversity makes it an incredibly vibrant place to live, work, and spend time.


Long-time resident and green space advocate Jerel Ferguson has called the neighborhood home for 27 years, and said its medley of cultures is what makes it special.

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“It’s extremely diverse. And I think that’s why a lot of people come here, because they know that they’ll be able to find their tribe,” he said in an interview with

Ferguson was born in Mattapan, raised in Roxbury, and settled in Dorchester. He has always been a nature person, but felt it was out of reach as a young person. It wasn’t until he got older and explored the Blue Hills Reservation that he was instantly hooked, and decided to pursue a career in forestry.

“I learned how to hike, learned trails, listened to the sounds of nature. It guided me deeper and deeper into the forest, and deeper and deeper into the person that I am today, learning about the trees, learning about different plants,” he said.

Since then, Ferguson has held many roles in the “green industry,” as he calls it. He’s currently the community outreach manager at Speak for the Trees, an urban forestry organization that works to increase the number of trees in underserved and under-canopied neighborhoods, such as Dorchester.


He is also the community garden coordinator for two gardens: the Sunset Garden at Woodward Park (20 Woodward Park St.) and the Folsom Street Community Garden (25-27 Folsom St.).Dorchester has 27 community gardens, according to the city’s community garden and urban farm directory.

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There’s so much to explore and enjoy in the neighborhood, Ferguson said, and not enough time to do it all. Even so, just exploring a fraction of the neighborhood’s food, culture, and energy is plenty.

Here’s how he’d spend a perfect day in Dorchester.

Morning | Afternoon | Evening | Map | Share your perfect day in Boston

Morning: Breakfast at home, Vietnamese coffee, and gardening

Ferguson’s perfect day in Dorchester takes place in early spring when the neighborhood’s trees are full and green, the birds are chirping, and the air is cool. The first thing he’ll do is open the windows of his house in Upham’s Corner to let the breeze, birdsong, and local sounds trickle in.

Then, it’s time for breakfast. On this perfect day, Ferguson is in no rush and has the time to make breakfast at home. He’ll make a smoothie and head to his front porch to enjoy it.


“I’ll sit on my porch, play some music, light some incense or some sage or some aromatherapy type stuff,” he said.

If he’s not making breakfast at home, he’ll head to Upham’s House Of Pizza (566 Columbia Rd.). The restaurant has been in operation since 1979 and offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu.

“They have a great breakfast menu. If I don’t have time to cook, I will make the time to go buy breakfast from them specifically,” he said.

Ferguson’s favorite breakfast dish is called The Hungry Man, which comes with two pancakes, two scrambled eggs, two sausages, and two strips of bacon. He also recommends their corned beef hash, which he described as “amazing.”

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For coffee, he’ll head to Dot Cafe (1459 Dorchester Ave.) in Fields Corner, a Vietnamese restaurant serving up affordable, quick Vietnamese dishes and American breakfast. He’ll order a Vietnamese coffee for his morning pick-me-up.

Ferguson called the drink “so rich, sweet, and so flavorful,” and considered making a quick pit stop for it during our call.

“I’m actually thinking about going right now just talking about it,” he said, laughing.

If you’re looking for an espresso drink, Ferguson recommends home.stead bakery & cafe (1448 Dorchester Ave.), which is just across the street from Dot Café. He recommends their lattes, cappuccinos, and mocha lattes.

Home.stead was named by Boston Magazine as the Dorchester Best Shop 2017. The cafe is a woman and minority-owned business that supports local non-profits and displays a selection of art by local artists in-store.

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Before the day gets too hot, Ferguson will head to one of his two community gardens: the Sunset Garden at Woodward Park (20 Woodward Park St.) and the Folsom Street Community Garden (25-27 Folsom St.).


Going into the summer season, he’ll plant all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, including: collard greens, tomatoes, watermelon, rosemary, three different kinds of basil, Italian parsley, chives, onions, potatoes, and more.

“Really anything I can kind of like get my hands on,” he said.

To Ferguson, gardening — and especially community gardening — is meant to bring people together and serve his neighborhood. It’s also a family affair; his twin teenage sons will help him in the garden on this perfect day, just as they have been since they were two years old.

“Being in the garden, getting my hands dirty, enjoying my little bugs and my birds — it’s all definitely part of a perfect day,” he said.

Afternoon: Lunch at Lambert’s market, South Bay Mall, and a walk in Franklin Park

After a couple of hours working in the garden, Ferguson is sure to have worked up an appetite. For lunch, he’ll head to Lambert’s Rainbow Market (​​777 William T, Morrissey Blvd.) for fruits and veggies galore.

The 65-year-old market has locations in Dorchester and Westwood, and offers a New York style deli, salad bar, soups, sandwiches, groceries, and garden center at each location. Ferguson will head to the salad bar, which he called “top notch.”

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Afterward, he’ll take a drive to the South Bay Center (8 Allstate Road) for some shopping, ice cream at J.P. Licks, and maybe a movie if time permits.

And no afternoon in Dorchester would be complete without visiting the neighborhood’s “crown jewel,” Franklin Park (1 Franklin Park Road).


The park is a partially wooded 527-acre parkland in the Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, and Dorchester neighborhoods. It is Boston’s largest park, and home to the Franklin Park Zoo. It also has areas for active recreation and sports, as well as six miles of roads and fifteen miles of pedestrian and bridle paths to explore.

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Ferguson will take a walk around the William J. Devine Golf Course, which is a 2.2 mile scenic loop path. The golf course is the second oldest public golf course in the nation behind Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City.

Then, he’ll make his way toward Scarboro Pond, home to a large collection of water and migrating birds. Ferguson recalled even seeing deer in the park, despite it being in the middle of the day.

He also recommends checking out the Codman Academy Microforest (45 Norfolk St.). In 2022, the 4,855-square-foot triangular space was transformed by the nearby Codman Academy Charter Public School and Speak for the Trees, where Ferguson currently works, into a micro healing forest. This forest includes dozens of trees, a walking path, and a shed for educational activities.

“The trees have grown significantly over time, and the micro-forest is pretty nice,” Ferguson said.

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Evening: A seafood dinner and a Guinness nightcap

Ferguson’s perfect evening looks like going to bed early, even though he knows it’s not the most exciting way to end the day.

“Going to sleep is pretty boring, but if I have a really long day out, I just want to relax,” he said.


Even though he’ll call it a day, that doesn’t mean you have to; there are plenty of spots in the neighborhood for late-night dinner and drinks.

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For dinner, he recommends The Pearl (20b District Ave.), located in South Bay Center. The seafood restaurant and raw bar offers bi-valves, crab legs, and seafood towers, alongside classic seafood plates like crispy calamari, shrimp scampi, lobster macaroni and cheese, and cold and warm lobster rolls.

Ferguson’s favorite dish is the restaurant’s specialty, Malik’s Chargrilled Oysters, which are topped with garlic parmesan butter.

He also recommends Comfort Kitchen (611 Columbia Rd.) in Upham’s Corner for dinner. The restaurant was a 2024 James Beard Award nominee and offers customers light café fare during the day and a full dinner and drinks menu at night. Its highlights the flavors of the African diaspora and is described as “global comfort food” on their website.

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For drinks, head to Dorchester Brewing Company (1250 Massachusetts Ave.) and choose from one of 20 draft lines for a pint. Ferguson will opt for a Guinness draft, but he also enjoys the occasional mixed drink (his favorite is a Manhattan).

Find all of Jerel Ferguson’s recommended spots below.

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