‘Only in New England’: Despite cold and snow, Sully’s castle island opens to eager crowds

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Still, snow on the ground and a bitter breeze swirling off Pleasure Bay have done little to deter the hundreds of customers who swear by Sully’s, as it’s affectionately known.

“It’s been a long, cold winter without this place,” said Jeanna Tamas, a South Boston resident who stopped by for the reopening with her partner Talen Carvalho. “It’s rejuvenating. Like a breath of fresh air.

Tamas and Carvalho, like many others in South Boston, have been Sully regulars since moving to the neighborhood. Sully’s must-do experience is a food stop after a walk with their dog, Baxter, who happily nibbled on a hot dog while his owners finished their meal.

The overflowing tables at Sully’s on Saturday represented a snapshot of New England’s population that is hard to come by elsewhere. There were the newcomers to the city – many of whom were college students – lining up for their first taste of the famous fried seafood alongside the longtime residents, who, in thick Boston accents, remembered the original appearance of the restaurant.

“We saw him on the news and decided to come for a nice walk and have lunch at Sullivan’s,” said Mike Kelliher, who was sitting on a bench in the sun with his wife, Carol.

“Although I’m pretty sure we just canceled the march,” Carol said.

This year marks the 71st for Sully’s, which opened in the shadow of Castle Island’s Fort Independence in 1951, advertising ‘frankfurt’ and ‘hamburg’.

Today, the restaurant is a local treasure known for its fresh fried seafood, but especially revered for its hot dogs.

A man questioned a family member while eating on Saturday afternoon: “You only have one hot dog? Just one? I have six!

Sully’s closes in November or December each year, usually reopening the weekend following the school holiday week in February.

A lot has changed at Sully over the years. The current version is the third building to house the restaurant on the property since its inception. The menu is now displayed on flat screen TVs. Customers can order online. And a new location with a reduced menu is open year-round in the Hub Hall.

This year, not much has changed during his break. A new mural depicting the Castle Island landscape has been painted under the iconic “Sullivan’s” sign inside and a gluten-free ice cream option has been added to the menu, operations manager Kizito Paganini said.

“We have a very loyal clientele who love the place,” Paganini said. “We try not to force too many drastic changes on them. It’s the same food they’ve had for years and the experience of coming here that they love.

Despite the snow lingering on the ground on Saturday, loyalists remained convinced that Sully’s is the Punxsutawney Phil of New England and that this year, like every year before, no shadows had been seen. Among the believers was Mayor Michelle Wu, who posted a photo on Twitter of her two young boys happily holding a cardboard box full of fried food.

What makes Sully so special is hard to pinpoint. For many, it’s nostalgia.

“I’ve been here a million times, it’s like,” said Liam Naughton, who came to the reopening on Saturday from his home in Weymouth with his girlfriend, Lizzy Tran. “I grew up in Southie coming all the time with my grandfather. There’s something about a meal at Sully’s that makes me feel at home.

But it may have been a man walking a pair of dogs on Saturday who, after gaping at customers who sat wrapped in coats and happily eating their food, expressed Sully’s best phenomenon: “Only in New England.”


Andrew Brinker can be contacted at andrew.brinker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker.

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