Route 24 is one of those state roads that feels more like an interstate highway, as it quickly zips people from the Boston area to places such as New Bedford, Fall River, Newport, Rhode Island, and of course, Cape Cod and the Islands.
Because it is typically used as a point A to point B” road, towns just to the east and west of the highway are often overlooked, especially since a large rest area near the Route 495 intersection is where many stop for a break rather than having to search for places off the exits.
As a result, there are lots of hidden gems for food and drink just off Route 24 between its start at Route 128/93 and the Route 495 intersection, along with good outdoors places to walk off some of the calories afterwards (or before if you’re looking to build up an appetite).
And because this area is south of Boston, those who crave bar pizza have a number of choices nearby — and you’ll also find at least two breweries off the beaten path that cater mainly to locals.
To simplify things, you can separate the communities to the east and west of Route 24 using a couple of other roads that run parallel to the highway — Route 28 to the east and Route 138 to the west.
The former passes through cities and towns such as Randolph, Avon, Brockton, West Bridgewater, and Bridgewater before approaching Route 495 (although it doesn’t actually cross that highway until Middleborough) while the latter goes through Canton, Stoughton, Easton, and (just south of Route 495) Raynham and Taunton. Both of these roads have countless restaurants and bars either along them or close by, including some with that unique regional version of pizza that seems to be all the rage these days.
By now, you may be asking what, exactly, is bar pizza, anyways? Well, it is an individual pan pizza with a cracker-like crust — and one that sometimes almost seems like shortbread — along with cheese and slightly spicy sauce that extend all the way out to the outer edge of the crust. The cheese, by the way, is either a blend of cheddar and mozzarella or all cheddar, and locals and those in the know typically ask for “burnt” or “laced” edges, in which a bit of extra sauce is added to the outer edge and, combined with the cheese, creates a char at the edge of the crust for extra flavor and texture.
Some popular toppings include linguica (many Portuguese-Americans live in this area), baked beans (don’t laugh until you try it), hamburger, salami, anchovies, and banana peppers. Oh, and never, EVER eat bar pizza with a knife and fork unless you want locals to stare at you as you eat; the crust is stiff enough and the slices small enough so that you don’t really need to do so, anyways.
Most people have probably heard of such popular bar pizza spots as the Lynwood Cafe in Randolph, Cape Cod Cafe in Brockton, and Town Spa in Stoughton, and while all are outstanding choices — and all fairly close to Route 24 — it can be fun trying to find the truly local hangouts that few outside the area know about.
Examples of these spots on or near Route 28 include Hoey’s at the AMVETS post in Randolph, which is basically a pizza window within a social club and is about as hidden as they get; Ben’s Pour House in Avon, a friendly hangout with a great side porch for those who don’t want to eat indoors; and Home Cafe in Brockton, whose bar pies rival those of the more famous spots mentioned above. Heading down Route 138, you’ll find Big D’s Neponset Cafe in Canton, a neighborhood joint that nobody seems to know about and which is a favorite of Kerry Byrne, the founder of the popular South Shore Bar Pizza Social Club on Facebook; Buddy’s Union Villa in Easton, an old-school roadhouse that does burnt edges particularly well; and an outlet of Cape Cod Cafe in Raynham which isn’t nearly as well known as the original in Brockton but is an excellent choice for bar pizza in the area where Routes 24 and 495 meet. (Other locations of Cape Cod Cafe can be found in Halifax and Bridgewater, by the way.)
If you’re not in the mood for bar pizza, plenty of other dining options can be found near Route 24. East of the highway on or near Route 28 are La Scala, an upscale Italian restaurant in Randolph that has been feeding locals forever; JJ’s Caffe, an award-winning breakfast and lunch spot in Brockton that is run by Cape Verdean immigrant JJ Fernandes, who is a former executive chef at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston; Niko Bar and Grill in West Bridgewater, a Greek restaurant that has an ownership connection to the much-missed Christo’s in Brockton; and Emma’s in Bridgewater for those looking for a family-friendly spot that serves comfort food at reasonable prices (and also offers an excellent version of bar pizza).
Heading west of Route 24 along Route 138, you’ll find Hillside Pub, a closet-sized spot tucked away just north of Route 128/93 in Canton that is known for its Irish and American fare; Stoughton House of Brews, an eclectic place on the western edge of Stoughton Center that has a comfy back patio and features infused drinks, spicy nachos, “smash” burgers, and more; The Great American Pub, a family-friendly Raynham spot known in part for its wings, burgers, pizza, and steak tips; and a few minutes west of Raynham in Norton is a local watering hole called Wendell’s Pub, which needs to be noted here for its wings, which some call the best in all of Massachusetts if not New England (and the tenders are equally as great).
As you’ve probably figured out by now, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and maybe a beer or two along either side of Route 24, but what if beer is what you want to focus on?
You’re in luck, as two terrific breweries — one east and one west of the highway— happen to reside in this area, including one just east of Route 24 in Bridgewater called Black Hat Brew Works. Hidden away in an industrial park on Scotland Boulevard (and almost within walking distance of Emma’s), this tiny brewery features a small patio off to the side while also serving snacks and meals from a food truck parked out front.
Black Hat isn’t exactly a household name, but their beers are very fine, including everything from a blueberry kolsch to classic hazy New England IPAs and a rich coffee stout that is perfect for colder days.
A few miles west of Route 24 is another hidden gem of a place, with Shovel Town Brewery residing in a quiet area on the edge of historic North Easton village, and it also has a small patio where people can hang out with food and drink. Shovel Town has some truly outstanding beers including an almost shockingly great peanut butter coffee stout, a refreshing Czech pilsner, a slightly sour cranberry ale, and solid takes on New England IPAs while offering such food options as truffled tots, pretzel sticks, panini, and flatbreads.
If the weather is decent and you’d like to get outside before or after having some food and drink, there are three sprawling outdoor areas to choose from, all of which are within minutes of Route 24.
Right at the start of the highway is the Blue Hills Reservation, and a particularly beautiful part of it that includes Ponkapoag Pond is almost within sight of the highway. One easy way to get to the pond is by parking at the Donovan School just off Route 28 in Randolph and crossing over Route 24 via a horse bridge, then walking the loop around the pond, including (if it isn’t too wet) a spectacular bog boardwalk just off the northwest section of the loop that literally takes you nearly halfway out into the pond.
Not too far from Shovel Town in North Easton is Borderland, a state park that includes more than 20 miles of trails, several gorgeous ponds, and an historic mansion that dates back more than 100 years.
Finally, right around where Routes 24 and 495 meet is Massasoit State Park in East Taunton, a mostly wooded reservation that features both ponds and cranberry bogs, including one scenic bog that sits right across from the park headquarters.
Route 24 may not seem like the most interesting of roads, but getting off this rather unassuming highway can quickly lead you to lots of great options for food, drink and more, and if you’re curious about bar pizza, definitely take a ride to this area south of Boston to see what the fuss is all about.
It is best to call any of the restaurants/bars mentioned above in advance to find out what options they have for indoor and outdoor dining and takeout/delivery as the weather starts to cool down and also because of the ever-changing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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