The Automatic

By Molly McDonough   Cambridge · Bar · $$

After a long day of curing and inventing, the wunderkinds of pharma and tech staffing Kendall Square’s gleaming office buildings are just like the rest of us: They want to unwind with booze, delicious junk food, and nostalgia. And at The Automatic, they find it all in spades. Amidst mid-century modern digs with sleek surfaces of turquoise and wood paneling, a vinyl soundtrack spins and a stack of bygone board games sits awaiting, as servers pass with Frito Pies and  Klondike bars.

As those many retro layers draw us in, the drinks seal the deal. Expect twists on classics, like the Tommy Noble: a floral, citrusy gin-and-Pimm’s-based sipper first popularized by co-owner Dave Cagle at B-Side Lounge in the early 2000s. Alternatively, you might try a classier riff on something you thought you’d never order, like the Frozen Blue(ish) Margarita (a frosty concoction that looks like melted Welch’s popsicles yet is all refreshing citrus-salt on the palate), or the Mudslide (it’s got Hershey’s syrup—but also hazelnut-infused vodka).

If you think an emphasis on expert mixology pushes The Automatic too far into uppity territory to become your regular after-work dive, just ask to see the Shot and a Can menu. A “shot du Jour” might top the list, but don’t let the French fool you: It’s served alongside a can of ‘Gansett, it’s titled The Sketchy, and it’s $5. How many other spots around here offer a menu with six ways to chase booze down with cheap beer? Or encourage you to dip French fries into your boozy milkshake? The Automatic’s aim is simple: to help the neighborhood unwind.

Bartender making drinks at The Automatic

Let’s talk snacks. We love glorified Frito Pies and all, but the simple perfection of the Flat Patty Burger has us hooked. It’s made in the style of In-N-Out with standard fixins and a secret sauce. Sold sans fries for $8, it’s not a huge commitment, either.

Venturing out with a crew? Call ahead and ask to reserve the “mafia booth;” it seats about eight.

The Automatic is a great place to imbibe, but it’s not just for booze drinkers. Non-alcoholic drinks are offered for teetotalers, and a kids’ menu is available, too.

Must Haves

  • Despite that strange purple glow, this is a top-notch marg with the right balance of lime, salt, and booze—just the zing you need to cut through the bar’s fatty snacks.

  • Made with Pimm’s and gin, we love how co-owner Dave Cagle sums up this retro orange-hued cocktail: “It tastes like it’s been around forever.”

  • The Automatic’s chocolaty, herbal twist on a Sazerac combines tequila, Peychaud’s and mole bitters, a Green Chartreuse wash, and agave syrup.

Fun Fact

The Automatic is a labor of love from vets of two now-shuttered Cambridge institutions: Chris Schlesinger founded East Coast Grill, while Dave Cagle once manned the bar at B-Side Lounge.

Navigate the Boston food scene like a pro!

Subscribe to receive intel on Boston’s best bites right in your inbox.

Thank you!