Where to State Park, a new Kendall Square establishment specializing in “food, drinks, amusements” from the team behind Hungry Mother.
What for A dive bar experience, as interpreted by the people who brought you Hungry Mother’s upscale, French-influenced Southern food. They have referred to it as that restaurant’s “(obnoxious little) sister bar.”
The scene State Park has wood paneling, wood tables, red leatherette chairs with brass nail heads, and a plethora of neon beer signs. Amusements are plenty: pinball, pool, table shuffleboard. There is a jukebox, of course, and ’80s music plays – the Cars, the Cure. Groups of tough chicks cluster at the bar, along with staffers from other restaurants and tattooed guys in T-shirts with band logos. People coming in from the cold bring the lingering smell of clove cigarettes. Behind a table of men with scarves and pierced lips, there is a diorama the owners made themselves. The bar is populated with wrestling action figures; taxidermied animals cavort here and there. On the way out, a sign instructs: “Next time bring your wife.”
What you’re eating Food that’s proud to be American, with a Tennessee drawl. Think pickled eggs, pimento cheese, pork cutlet sandwiches, and Memphis BBQ spaghetti. Order fried chicken or cornmeal catfish “Nashville hot” and prepare to have your head blown off. For spice fanatics, it’s glorious, and you can always order a glass of buttermilk if you need it.
Care for a drink? There are pitchers of Pimm’s cup and cocktails like the Green Walnut, made with caramelized rye. But in this setting, it feels right to drink a can of Hamm’s beer. Add whiskey, “a secret from the wife” suggested on the menu.
Overheard People arguing about the rules of table shuffleboard. People cheering, clustered around the pinball machines. “Are you killing it?” someone asks his friend, who is hammering away at the Attack From Mars pinball table. “No, not at all,” he replies, dejected. Another person is having better luck with the Addams Family machine. “I got you a free game, by the way,” he crows. At the bar, some are reliving childhood rec-room traumas: “They used to hold me down and sit on me and spit. They tortured me.” The word “irregardless” is deployed ironically. “He is hot, but he is dumb,” a woman tells her friend. “Don’t mistake me for being charming,” a man warns everyone at his table. A server has sad news for the people who have just arrived. “We are out of chicken,” she says. They groan. Maybe it is for the best, however. A woman who has just finished eating leans back in her seat: “I feel really bloated, like I’m full term.”
1 Kendall Square, Cambridge. 617-848-4355. www.stateparkcambridge.com.
Devra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.