South Shore Bar Pizza | Lynwood Cafe in Randolph, MA
Like any good American, I love pizza, and have since the day I was old enough to chew. In the 30 odd years since then, my pizza tastes have expanded from thin Papa Gino’s and thick Greek-style “House of Pizza” slices to brick oven Neapolitan-style slices with blobs of fresh mozzarella and gourmet-topped flat-breads. Add in homemade pizza and the occasional thick-square Sicilian bakery slice, and I thought I had Massachusetts pizza pretty well covered.
It was only when I met my boyfriend John that I realized what I had been missing.
Not having grown up in the section of Massachusetts stretching south and east of Boston to Cape Cod (known as the “South Shore“) like John did, I had never had South Shore bar pizza, the variety found in (as the name implies) many of the bars and pubs throughout the region. Cooked in 10-inch individual, well-seasoned pans, bar pizzas have a crust that’s often described as “cracker-like,” with a good balance of crispy and chewy, and a browned layer of cheese (a mozzarella/cheddar blend) that stretches all the way to the edge, forming a charred and lacy border. With just one visit to John’s hometown bar pizza spot, the Central Cafe in Middleborough, I was, as the saying goes, hooked.
A few miles north, the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph is often considered the most legendary place for bar pizza, although other contenders include Town Spa in Stoughton, Cape Cod Cafe in Brockton, and the unfortunately-named Poopsies in Pembroke. With its nondescript exterior, and just slightly less-so interior, the cash-only Lynwood delivers flavor without fuss, and for its generations of loyal customers, that’s just fine. A handful of tables and booths make up the dining area, with a jukebox in the corner and a few neon beer signs on the walls. It’s a basic bar that dates back to 1949, and looks like one, but the pizza is anything but.
Inside, we study the laminated, single-sheet menu and keep it simple with a plain cheese for my sister, and a mushroom and onion for me. It was only after I ordered a beer that I encountered my first ever Lynwood disappointment. This being a bar, a beer seemed the most appropriate and delicious beverage to wash down my pizza, but after asking for ID (at 32, this happens less than it used to, but still plenty enough), the waitress informed me that Lynwood does not accept out-of-state drivers’ licenses as a form of ID. This hadn’t happened on previous visits, and since the bar is well-known and within an hour’s drive of both Rhode Island and New Hampshire, where I live, it seemed especially confusing, but there you have it. Take note — If you want a beer with your bar pizza at Lynwood, bring your Massachusetts ID, or settle for soda.
The pizzas, as always, were bar-pizza perfection. Bar pizza slices are small, sturdy, and splendidly greasy.
Meat-eaters like John often go for toppings like linguica (a Portuguese smoke cured pork sausage) or salami, and for those that like to live on the edge the menu also includes a Baked Bean Special. Considered a “love it or hate it” kind of pizza, it comes topped with Boston baked beans, onions, and salami. I didn’t order one, but another friendly patron did, and he let me snap a pic. That’s another thing about Lynwood — we weren’t there 5 minutes before he and his companion asked about my camera and offered up suggestions for other acceptable bar pizza spots.
Takeout orders at Lynwood are sandwiched between two paper plates and tucked into brown paper bags for the journey home, and leftovers (if there are any) get the same treatment. No cardboard boxes here. I know of a few spots beyond the South Shore mimicking the “bar pizza” style (City Slickers Cafe in Somerville is a Boston-area favorite of ours), but for many fans, only the “real deal” will do, and that often means a trip to Lynwood.
Are you a South Shore bar pizza fan? If not, which style of pizza is your favorite, and where’s the best spot for a slice?