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Phantom Gourmet: Ester In Dorchester

DORCHESTER - She grows her own vegetables, makes her own salt and vinegar potato chips and bakes some of the best apple crisp you'll ever taste. Her name is Eleanor, but her restaurant is named Ester.

For Dorchester native Eleanor Arpino, there's no place like home. This hard-working restaurateur has been in the hospitality industry since she was 15, and after decades of overseeing the busy dining scene of downtown Boston, she decided to take all of that restaurant know-how and bring it just blocks away from her own home - at a place called Ester.

"I knew that the neighborhood needed a neighborhood place, to be run by a neighbor," Eleanor said.

Located on the Dorchester-Milton line, Ester has a little something for everyone, whether you want to cozy up at the bar, eat al fresco on the back patio or sit down in their intimate dining room. When it comes to the menu, they offer all the stuff the locals love to eat.

"It's a place where the food is wonderful and something that you want to eat two or three nights a week," she said.

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Housemade Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips at Ester (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

There are bar snacks like housemade Salt & Vinegar Chips or bite sized Truffle Goat Cheese Croquettes, and an ultra-fresh Caprese Salad which features tomatoes and fresh basil that Eleanor grows in her own garden – right on top of the restaurant's roof.

"We have over 5,000 square feet of vegetable beds and it's awesome. We're growing all sorts of things and it's really cool because we're getting things as early as mid-May and we'll get things well into the end of November," she said. "The yield is unbelievable, but really it's about the fact that it just makes sense."

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The rooftop garden at Ester (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Once all of that yield is harvested and transported down the ladder and into the kitchen, it makes its way into dishes like the Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad tossed with lemon and olive oil. Cherry tomatoes are plucked and plunked into the Mussels with a buttered beer broth. Banana peppers are picked, pickled and served on top of crispy calamari.

"The banana peppers are from our roof and we pickle them ourselves, so you pick up the salt from the banana peppers and not in the calamari. It makes it a much nicer experience as far as eating fried food, and it allows you to really taste the calamari," Eleanor described.

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Calamari with banana peppers at Ester (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

While they don't grow the corn themselves, it's certainly tasty nonetheless.

"We grill it rather slowly and we brush it with tons of butter, and then we brush it with a garlic aioli and we grate Cojito cheese on it. The combination is to die for, and it's super, super messy which I think is definitely part of it."

Entrees are equally as exciting, like the Bell & Evans Chicken over a Yukon gold mashed potato with pan jus, or the Boneless Berkshire Pork Loin with veggies fresh from the rooftop on a bed of parmesan polenta.

The Steak Frites features a tender bavette steak, sliced and served alongside Ester's hand cut fries and topped with a deliciously cheesy butter.

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Steak Frites with bleu cheese butter at Ester (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

"We serve it with a bleu cheese butter," Eleanor said. "We do not serve it with ketchup, because you dip your French fries into the bleu cheese butter and our French fries are spectacular. We do French fries that have rosemary, parsley, parmesan and salt and pepper, so they're awesome."

Dessert is impressive as well, with creamy Greek Yogurt panna cotta topped with fresh berries, and the Fruit Crisp which changes depending upon what's ripe.

"It's always fresh fruit, and when you order it, we literally then bake that fruit for about 15-20 minutes. It's nice and hot and bubbly, and then you get a scoop of vanilla ice cream - so it's awesome."

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Season fruit crisp at Ester (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Pretty much anything you order at Ester is going to be awesome, because this local lady wants to give her neighbors the best experience she can.

"We live literally a two minute walk from here. The joke always is it has to be a success because I don't want to move, and I don't want to have to wear a disguise."

With a restaurant like Ester, Eleanor won't have to relocate anytime soon.

"It's really how you make people feel. I can't think of anything better than someone feeling so good that they can't wait to come back."

You can find Ester at 2261 Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester, or online at

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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