State Park

By Eric Twardzik   Cambridge · Bar · $$

Imagine a dark bar with faux wood-paneled walls and seating that’s seen better days. There’s a pool table lit by a Tiffany-style lamp declaring “Miller Time.” An old LaserStar CD jukebox lingers in the corner, waiting for quarters.

This bar may sound like something out of the rural American heartland, but it sits at the beating heart of Cambridge’s start-up scene. It’s State Park, and it’s unlike any bar—dive or otherwise—you’ve ever been to.

The idea of a bar with a self-conscious dive aesthetic operated by an acclaimed local restaurant group (which includes Café du Pays and Mamaleh’s) sounds like a risky proposition. However, State Park nails it by presenting a menu that’s not afraid to get creative, but never takes itself too seriously.

Classic cocktails like the Tom Collins or Pimm’s Cup are available by the pitcher. A “Shot & a Beer” section of the menu elevates the divey tradition of the Boilermaker by pairing cheap beers with shot-sized cocktails. (Not all shots are so fancy, though; you can opt for a Budweiser and Fireball sans judgment.)

While the surroundings feel tailor-made for sharing pitchers of ‘Gansett, the cocktail menu stocked with strong, simple drinks deserves attention. The Furlough combines lemon juice, navy-strength gin, and homemade falernum to satisfying, wait-until-it-hits you affect. Rye, walnut liqueur, and Amaro Meletti turn the Green Walnut into a dark, boozy brooder of a whiskey drink.

But nothing captures the essence of State Park quite like its eponymous cocktail, a bottle of Miller High Life spiked with booze: It’s at once familiar, unexpected, and undeniably fun.

Forget laundry; save your quarters for State Park’s games, which include a pool table, a CD jukebox, and two pinball machines.

There’s no charge to play shuffleboard, but you’ll have to write your name on the chalkboard and be present when it’s called.

Hungry? A truncated late night menu replaces the dinner menu at 10 p.m., and Frito pies are available after midnight.

Must Haves

  • Wondering why that bottle of Miller High Life seems so strong and tastes a bit like an IPA? That would be the addition of 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye and the herbal amaro Braulio.

  • Oaky, nutty, chocolaty—this rye cocktail is the type of drink built for lingering.

  • Acidic citrus, high-proof gin, spice-packed falernum, and a float of Peychaud’s on crushed ice makes the Furlough feel like the world’s simplest tiki drink.

Fun Fact

There’s a story behind the seating’s wear and tear: Much of it was salvaged from The Paddock, a notorious Somerville dive that shuttered in 2012.

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