Dorchester is losing an institution this month; by June 1, Moe Hill will have driven his famous M & M ribs truck from its current parking place along Geneva Avenue to a new location on Hampden Street in Roxbury.
Moe Hill, 72, has been serving ribs out of the well-traveled silver truck for 23 years, first at a site at the corner of Columbia Road and Quincy Streets, and for the last three years on a lot on Geneva Avenue to the rear of the ABCD Family Service Center. But developer Joe LaRossa purchased that lot three years ago (around the time that Moe himself moved to the space), and LaRossa recently erected four new homes, pushing Moe's bustling smokehouse operation to a sliver of land just off the street. LaRossa has offered to sell Hill that land, and while Hill says LaRossa has been a great landlord, he politely declined.
"I appreciated the offer, but it's just not big enough for what I want to do," said Hill, as he looked back towards the site that on Monday held his large storage container and several large grills.
The new, larger site is owned by Brookline Ice and Coal Company, and while he'll have to pay rent, which LaRossa did not required, he thinks the location just off Melnea Cass Boulevard and near interstate 93 will help business.
"People will be able to come right off the expressway, and there I am," said Hill. "My customers from Medford, Lawrence, Lowell &endash; it's going to be easier for them."
While the location may be new, Hill promises that his famous ribs recipe will not change.
"My wife, Marian, taught me how to cook, but to every dish I either added or took something away," said Hill, referring to the other half of the M & M partnership. "Now its my own recipe."
Born in North Carolina, Hill joined the army at 14 years of age. He was out by 19 and a half, and moved to New Jersey; he came to Boston in 1961. Hill worked for years at a paper factory in Charlestown, which was later converted to a Bakery. He left 23 years ago to cook ribs fulltime, and it didn't take long to develop a customer base in Dorchester, where he now lives just blocks from the Geneva Avenue site.
"When I first left Columbia Road, business was slow," said Hill. "You could look out the truck windows and count cars you could fall asleep!"
He says traffic has picked up along Geneva Ave since then, as has business. He attributes a recent boon to the stand's appearance on the Phantom Gourmet, a popular weekend television round-up of Boston's best restaurants.
"I've been in this business a long time. When I retired, all I saw was dollar signs," said Hill. "Now I want to make people happy. I like to see people smile, young kids smile when they come up and order food."