Dorset Hall in Neponset draws big crowds with savory fare

Kerry Byrne Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The hottest table in town isn’t at a trendy boite in the Seaport, Somerville or the South End.

It’s at Dorset Hall, a sparkling 2-week-old contemporary American tavern in Neponset, an underserved neighborhood at the southern tip of famously thirsty Dorchester. Wait times for tables passed 2A hours each of the past two weekends — even though the large eatery seats 270 guests across two terraced floors.

“I think I have a sense for seeing what something could become,” said owner Paul Adamson. “I drive past a place and get a feeling. I just knew that this space (a former Boston Party Rental storefront) would be a great place for a bar.”

Guests savor accessible fare from executive chef Robert Kearney that hits a fat sweet spot of culinary populism somewhere between pub grub and gastro chic. Nice enough for date night, casual enough for beers with the boys.

The grass-fed beef in the tips and rib eyes is locally sourced from Maine Family Farms. The burgers are ground in-house by staff butcher Ronnie Critcher. The menu will soon include his chorizo, Irish bangers and other house-made sausages.

The thick russet potato French fries are hand-cut each morning. The chicken under a brick boasts humanely raised birds from Murray’s Chicken. The weekend-only oysters are sourced from East Coast shellfish farms, currently Blue Points from Long Island Sound.

Credit Dorset Hall’s instant popularity to the foresight of Adamson and partner Mark Cummins, two Ireland-born real estate developers and restaurateurs who always seem ahead of the next wave.

Adamson professes a “voracious appetite for food and for business,” and they have parlayed those passions into a growing empire. The duo began gobbling up cheap real estate in what was then still rough-and-tumble South Boston in the mid-1990s.

They opened their first pub, Shenannigans Bar & Grill, on West Broadway in 1996. As their well-timed real estate investments exploded in value, Adamson and Cummins opened a second pub called Assembly in 2012, in a gentrifying neighborhood of new restaurants in North Quincy. Now, Dorset Hall in 2016.

A trace of Ireland meanders through each location: Many the staff are Irish and they pour pints of Guinness alongside a small selection of American craft beers such as Notch Left of the Dial IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin and Allagash White. But Irishness is merely an accent, not a focus, that wears comfortably on all three communities.

Adamson and Cummins have bigger plans than just feeding their Neponset neighbors. They’re bringing in new residents, too: The iron going up this week above Dorset Hall is a future 22-unit apartment complex.

“People here can walk to a good neighborhood pub for the first time in ages and that’s exciting,” said Adamson.

(Dorset Hall, 367 Neponset Ave., Dorchester, 617-533-7114,