Frank Poindexter and his family are South End royalty. Together, they run Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club, a New England live music institution that Poindexter’s grandfather, Joesph L. Walcott, founded in 1947. Walcott, a Barbadian immigrant, became the first Black owner of a nightclub in Boston when he opened Wally’s — and he used to eat breakfast with Martin Luther King, Jr., when he lived in Boston, according to Frank.
The 76-year-old club has been home to countless historic moments both on the stage and off. Famed artists including decorated jazz saxophonist Donald Harrison, legendary jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, and the Roots bassist Mark Kelley have performed at Wally’s, and the club has long supported student musicians from nearby schools including the Berklee College of Music.
Frank, along with his brothers Lloyd and Paul, are the general managers of the club. Their mother, Elynor Walcott, is the owner. Here, the longtime South End resident shares his picks for a perfect day spent eating in the neighborhood:
Breakfast: Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe or Mike’s City Diner
For Poindexter, the perfect one-day eating itinerary starts with settling into a diner stool at 100-year-old South End institution Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe or its rollicking, younger neighbor, the nearly 30-year-old Mike’s City Diner. The order? Red meat is off the table for Poindexter, so he goes for a pile of home fries, perhaps with egg whites and a salad, he says. And if he’s grabbing a sandwich at Charlie’s, it’s going to be a toasted tunafish on wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
Coffee break: Render Coffee
Render is a local coffee staple in Boston, and the original South End location of the chainlet (which now has outposts in Downtown Boston, the Seaport, and Charlestown) is a welcoming spot for high-quality caffeinated drinks, according to Poindexter. When he’s looking for a cup of coffee, he’s headed to Render.
Lunch: Petit Robert Bistro
When lunchtime rolls around, Poindexter grabs a seat at Petit Robert Bistro, a chic, all-day French restaurant on Columbus Avenue. The salads are unbeatable there, Poindexter says, and no order is complete without a helping of the restaurant’s crispy french fries.
Dinner: SRV, Mida, or Franklin Cafe
Chef Michael Lombardi’s Venetian-style pasta destination, SRV — an acronym for Serene Republic of Venice — is one of Poindexter’s favorite dinner spots in the neighborhood. It’s easy enough to put together a knockout meal of pasta, salad, and a side there while skipping the red meat, and they also have great non-alcoholic drinks, according to Poindexter. “They have really great service and really good food,” he says. “The gentleman who owns that place has done a remarkable job.”
But the pasta game is competitive in the South End, and Poindexter is also partial to chef Douglass Williams’s cozy neighborhood spot, Mida. The Italian restaurant is another go-to spot for superb handmade noodles. “If I get a taste for pasta, I’ll go there,” Poindexter says.
However, if the night calls for something other than Italian food, he’s posting up at late-night hangout Franklin Cafe on Shawmut Avenue. The pub is a well-known industry hot spot open until 2 a.m. every night. “It’s where all the chefs go for late-night food,” Poindexter says. His order typically consists of fish, salad, and french fries, paired with an off-menu non-alcoholic drink of pineapple, cranberry, and pomegranate juice with a splash of simple syrup.
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