If you like classic old-school restaurants and bars that have tons of character and have been around for decades (or even centuries), there are plenty of options within the city limits of Boston, including some famous spots (Doyle's in Jamaica Plain, Jacob Wirth in the Theater District) and some not-so-famous ones (Corrib Pub in West Roxbury, Cappy's Tavern in Readville). But there are also some restaurants in the suburbs that fit into this category, though they are generally few and far between. One such place has been around since before World War II and is still mostly invisible to diners in the Boston area. This restaurant and bar--Lewis' in Norwood Center--is a neighborhood joint in the truest sense that is also a real throwback, and has some good food to boot.
From the street, Lewis' Bar and Grille looks like a mix of a cheesy nightclub (mainly because of the sign) and a rough-and-tumble bar (mainly because of a distinct lack of windows). But it is definitely closer in character to the historic (and laid-back) political hangout Doyle's in JP than a tacky dance club or scary dive. Indeed, the dining section of Lewis' has the well-worn wooden floor, the attractive bar, and the cavernous feel of the main room at Doyle's. Lewis' also has a snug within the dining area that comes complete with couches and comfy chairs where folks can enjoy drinks while watching games on the TVs. And separate from the dining room is a long, narrow bar that is a nice spot to grab a beer and perhaps one of those signature Lewis Burgers.
And what exactly is the Lewis Burger? Well, it is a char-grilled hamburger with a rather unusual topping--egg salad--along with lettuce, tomato, onion, ham, and mayo. And it is just one of several unique items on the menu at Lewis', which also includes handmade frisps (a delicious cross between a waffle fry and a ridged potato chip), shrimp limoncello pizza, baked salmon in an orange, vodka, and honey glaze, and a New York sirloin topped with gorgonzola cheese. Also on the menu are lean and tender turkey tips with tangy teriyaki sauce, a delicious (and fresh off the boat) baked haddock with a Ritz cracker stuffing, and bite-sized fried macaroni and cheese balls. Nightly specials can get quite interesting, with options including an excellent field green salad with blackberries; a plate of delectable mini cheese chili hot dog sliders with pieces of pickles mixed in; and a chicken and tortellini soup entree that is fresh, healthy, and out of this world. Dessert options are pretty decent, including a chocolate explosion that is made with dark chocolate and includes ice cream and whipped cream. The beer list isn't anything to write home about, but the trademark drink at Lewis'--an OVC, or orange vodka collins--is made with freshly squeezed orange juice and is well worth getting.
It is a bit odd that Lewis' Bar and Grille remains a hidden gem even after being in business for many, many decades (it has been around since 1939). This may be due in part to its slightly out of the way location, or perhaps its drab and slightly tacky exterior. But the food is often excellent, the prices won't break the bank, and the historic, salt-of-the-earth feel of the place is a big plus to lovers of these types of dining spots. Sure, it might not quite be a destination restaurant, and if you live in Boston you may have better options for places such as this, but Lewis' Bar and Grille has more than enough character to satisfy nearly any fan of classic old-school joints.
Copyright © 2009-2013, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).