Where to The stylish, 160-seat Lily P’s, which specializes in fried chicken and oysters.
Why Who wouldn’t walk a mile for great fried chicken? This meat is tender and moist under a thick crunchy coating you can pull off and eat like a piece of candy. Before cooking, the Bell & Evans chicken pieces are brined, dredged with seasoned flour, chilled for a day, dipped into buttermilk, dredged again, and cooked in a $12,000 Henny Penny pressure fryer (KFC is said to have invented the method). If you’re a solo or duo, and not interested in watching TV at the bar, grab a stool overlooking the work area and you can get a real show as a meticulous cook pulls chicken from a vertical warming oven (pieces sit here after they emerge from the pressure fryer so the meat can rest), dips them into a sauce, and arranges them carefully around a tray alongside quite a good slaw and pickles.
The Back Story Chef-owner Chris Parsons, who also runs The Oyster Club in the Back Bay, always had the idea of opening a chicken place, even while he had Parsons Table in Winchester. He had spent a year at the Johnson & Wales campus in Charleston, S.C., then worked with a team who cooked Creole food in Colorado. The Massachusetts native (he grew up in West Bridgewater and Dover) added oysters because he wanted the restaurant to feel like New England and needed something besides chicken to set in the middle of the table for sharing. Lily P’s is named for Parsons’s daughter, who celebrated her 15th birthday recently over fried chicken with girlfriends. As compensation for not having a restaurant named for him, son Timmy has eponymous chicken tenders on the menu (he also got the guitar of his dreams).
What to Eat Fried chicken, of course, which is exceptional and comes in original, hot, or black pepper-honey. You can get a lunch special (until 4 p.m.) with two pieces, or at dinner four, eight, or 16. Tucked into a soft bun is a boneless thigh (dark meat, hallelujah!), including The Lily P fried chicken sandwich, layered with pimento cheese and chow-chow (a cabbage-y pickle). A sweet cornbread, served as a little loaf with a spicy, jammy spread, is crumbly and cake-y, like nothing we’ve ever had before. Also on the menu: fried catfish sandwich, burger, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, fresh and roasted oysters, peel and eat shrimp, arugula salad with toasted pecans.
What to Drink Full bar (and plenty of seats around it) that includes cocktails such as Binney Street Smash, a riff on a Mint Julep, along with craft brews and a wine list that’s heavy on bigger brands and should be more exciting.
The Takeaway Parsons wanted a restaurant where you could take the kids or stop by after work and play shuffleboard or darts and just hang out. He’s got it. It helps that Lily P’s is on the street level of Sanofi Genzyme; plenty of other high-tech, biotech, and pharma companies are in the area. The casual vibe comes with an attentive and chatty staff. Even if some of the menu items seem like fast-food staples, the ingredients are tops and they’ve been given an up-to-the-moment fine tuning.
50 Binney St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-225-2900, www.lilypschicken.com. Fried chicken $12 at lunch (2 pieces and sides) to $69 (16 pieces with sides).