Proposed Mexican eatery gets support from Lower Mills civic activists

The opening of a small taqueria on Dot Ave., proposed by the owners of the Lower Mills Tavern, received a hearty blessing from the Lower Mills Civic Association at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night, teeing up the restaurateurs to make their pitch to the Licensing Board on Wednesday morning for an all-alcoholic permit.

Brian O’Donnell and his wife, Taniya Nayak, laid out their proposal for a vintage-style Mexican street food-inspired taqueria that would settle into a 1,153-square- foot space at 2297 Dorchester Ave. thay formerly housed Dark Horse Antiques, which recently moved to a new space just steps away on Washington Street.

Diners can expect tacos, burritos, small plates, and shareables, paired with Mezcal- or tequila-based cocktails and craft beers, said O’Donnell, who noted that space could handle about 50 people.

Nayak, a former HGTV host and the creative mind behind her husband’s restaurant designs, said she drew inspiration from the antiques shop. “What we had done over at Lower Mills Tavern is we really wanted to honor the history of the space,” Nayak said. “And what we’re hoping to do here at the taqueria is to reference the history of that space, where it was the Dark Horse antique shop. So we’re going for an antique, vintage vibe and we want it to feel like it’s connected to the history of the antique store.”

Operational hours will mimic those of the Lower Mills Tavern, O’Donnell said, with the taqueria open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Closing times will be either 1 or 2 a.m., with the kitchen open until around 11 p.m.

The project already has gained more than 200 signatures of support, the vast majority of whom are from the neighborhood, O’Donnell said. The civic group voted unanimously to support O’Donnell’s license application and congratulated him on the restaurant concept.

In other matters:
A proposal to subdivide a lot at 55 Sturbridge St. for the construction of two three-family houses was not met positively by the association. City Realty has proposed taking the approximately 6,600-square foot lot and dividing it into two smaller lots, each housing a three-story property with three two-bedroom rental apartments. The team asked for civic support for multiple variances to allow the greater-than-zoned density on a street primarily consisting of one- and two-family houses.

Civic members voted unanimously against the project as it stood, citing excessive density in light of two larger development proposals nearby. The City Realty team said it could delay its Zoning Board hearing and asked if a two-family proposal might be better received. Civic group president Michael Skillin said the group would need to see amended plans before it could make any determinations.

The meeting’s developments prompted a broader discussion among the civic’s members about the city’s approvals of projects in the neighborhood. One member said the design standards and levels of community input to which developers are being asked to adhere have become too loose.

“Our biggest concern is that too many things are being rubber-stamped,” Skillin said. He referred specifically to tonight’s meeting for an 18-unit apartment building on River Street, which concerned the community when it was brought to them one year ago and has gone unaddressed publicly since.