To bike or to walk? Always a pivotal question for borderline North End dwellers about to embark on a jaunt to one of Hyde Park's many eateries. On this particular hazy weekday night, we went with walk.
After ducking under overgrown trees and skipping across cracked sidewalks, my dining companion and I arrived at SunRay Cafe. The patio was filled with spandex-clad, beer-swilling bikers and white-wine-guzzling hybrid drivers. We pried open the restaurant's door and thanked the gods of freon for central air.
My dining companion, a self-proclaimed pizza expert, ordered the Bridgeport IPA ($3.50) from Portland, Ore., and studiously thumbed the small laminated menu. I selected a glass of Our Daily Red ($4.50), a fruity, organic California blend. After tossing around several ideas, we settled on a medium pie ($14.25), half Pomerelle Peak and half Schweitzer Shredder. The pizza expert and I agreed that the menu's abundant alliterative allusions to area alps were hokey, to say the least.
We grabbed our lettered wooden block and picked a shady spot on the patio. In the center of our table was a colorful, finger-painted coffee can filled with an array of flowers. After a short wait, the Big Springs salad ($7.25) we'd ordered as an appetizer arrived out the cafe's back door. Our server set down the salad, but neglected to bring extra plates and knives. He apologized, set down some plates (but no knives) and we hungrily divvied up the medley of spinach, mushrooms, red onions, walnuts and boiled eggs. After a few mouthfuls, the expert and I noted that the smoothie-consistency raspberry vinaigrette was too tart for our liking. Even with the dressing, the salad seemed dry and disjointed, with the untoasted walnuts and sliced button mushrooms coasting blandly atop the floppy leaves.
Before we had put away much of the salad, our pizza came steaming out onto the table. The Pomerelle Peak half of the pie was a garden of green, with chopped basil, spinach and green peppers atop a sprinkle of cheese and a healthy smear of pesto. The Schweitzer Shredder, on the other hand, was a red sauce pizza with peppers, artichokes, mushrooms and olives sandwiched between a mound of cheese and some sickly looking uncooked tomatoes. Though the pizza expert noted that he prefers his crust less doughy, I found it to be an excellent balance of crunch and soft, stretchy pull. Dough preferences aside, we overwhelmingly agreed that the pesto pie was the best part of our meal.
Back inside, I checked out the political ramblings on the cafe wall and questioned the girl behind the counter about SunRay's new breakfast menu. She said, bluntly, that she did not work mornings and if I wanted to find out about the breakfast pizza, I should come back the next day. Whoo whee, I've toiled in many a sweaty service-industry job and would've fake fainted before suggesting this to a customer. At my request, the girl handed me a breakfast menu that listed the medium breakfast pizza ($13.95) as coming with salsa, eggs, bacon, potatoes and cheese.
Anticipating that our meal wouldn't mature with age, we opted not to tinfoil any leftovers and hopscotched around the patio's propped up bicycles. As we sauntered past the Hyde Park pillar, Riebe's Shoe Shop, we concluded that SunRay Cafe doesn't feel like the institution its pizza predecessor was. But if you crave a quick, hearty slice after a long bike ride or want a place to throw back pitchers of microbrew with a group of friends, SunRay is your joint. If it's superior pizza you're after, there are a slew of other spots around town that make it to the upper crust.
—Tara Morgan is contemptuous of comestibles with cutsey countenances.