Welcome to State Park, Kendall Square’s new high-concept dive
We’ve been talking about how Kendall Square is the new dining hub of the city for so long now, it’s become a cliché. But State Park, the latest opening in the neighborhood, makes it seem like they’re running up the score over in Kendall. Who’s the city manager, Bill Belichick? With the wealth of options in One Kendall Square alone you could go out to dinner or drinks every night of the week for months, on a rotating basis, and never end up repeating yourself.
Good neighbors don’t always guarantee success, however. State Park has inherited a space — most recently home to Think Tank — in which businesses have had trouble staying open in recent years. But, given the already overwhelmingly positive reception, and the fact that the same people behind much-lauded Hungry Mother around the corner own State Park, that’s a streak that will likely be broken. “I don’t believe in curses,” co-owner Alon Munzer, says.
What he does believe in is our collective appetite for high-concept eating and drinking — and for good reason. State Park is a retro-fitted, pre-worn, high-dive style bar and restaurant that feels like a natural extension of the type of sophisticated casual model that’s proved so successful for the likes of Highland Kitchen and Trina’s Starlite Lounge. Think of it as a dive bar for patrons who have aged out of, or haven’t yet aged back into, dingier, scarier dives.
That means pickled eggs, beer nuts, barbeque pickles and tobacco onions on the snack menu (next to Hungry Mother-style, southern-influenced dishes), and a beer and a shot menu that pairs classic cocktails with domestic bottles of beer (a Toronto and a High Life; a Manhattan and a Rolling Rock). They sold 11 and a half cases of High Life in one day this past weekend, Munzer says. (That’s a lot.)
“We wanted it to have a certain feel, so we sourced out a lot of interesting materials,” he says of the beer signs, booths, pinball machine, pool table and other accoutrements that create the space’s casual feel. “You can come in and get a higher quality cocktail and beer, and higher quality food, or you could just come in and get a can of Budweiser, play pinball and have a good time.” It’s the type of bar, they imagine, you might visit after a day in Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia, where chef Barry Maiden is from.
The difference here, Munzer says, is that the bigger space is meant to be an impromptu meeting place for guests. “Hungry Mother is a smaller place, and more often than not you need a reservation, have a longer meal. At State Park we want it to be more affordable, more casual, but with same quality and same standards.”
On the cocktail side those standards have always been high at Hungry Mother, and the opening menu here follows in that fashion, but with a more playful spin. Pitchers of Cape Codder, Tom Collins, Pimm’s Cup and Jack and Coke cocktails are offered. “We serve smaller glasses with it, it’s more interactive that way. You pour it together and share with friends,” he says. The State Park special cocktail is a High Life with rye, Braulio Amaro and lemon. Elsewhere the menu is broken down between Trust Tree cocktails (each with an ingredient derived from trees), like the Green Walnut, made with rye, Amaro Meletti, and Nux Alpina, or the Pine, made with rye, Zirbenz and smoked cinammon syrup.
Aside from being very good, it’s all very on trend. And, despite the overall aesthetic being a little too on the nose – if there were a single funny thing left to say about the dreaded H-word this would be the time to do it – this could be your favorite new bar. I could definitely seeing it being mine.