An Early Taste of the Sips and Snacks at the Automatic Bar in Cambridge
For David Cagle’s next act, the veteran bartender is creating what he hopes will become the ultimate neighborhood hangout in Kendall Square. The Automatic is now on track for a November 1 opening, and Cagle and his team are previewing the fun cocktails, bar snacks, and vibe tonight at Hojoko.
“The base we’re jumping off from is a complete lack of any sort of pretension,” says executive chef Ian Andreotta, a former cook at Deep Ellum and sister taco bar Lone Star in Allston, who has been keeping his chops up lately at Little Donkey. He’s working closely with co-owner Chris Schlesinger, the legendary chef who opened East Coast Grill, the Blue Room, and Back Eddy in Westport, to develop the menu.
“It’s stuff that Dave, Chris, and I have always had a fondness for, like what we go for when we’re drinking,”Andreotta says.
Eventually, the Automatic will be open daily at 11 a.m., with a behind-the-bar selection including bread and butter pickles, bags of chips, and good beef jerky, plus small plates like buffalo fried sweet plantains, Narragansett Lager-steamed peel-and-eat shrimp, Korean-style chicken wings, pickled sausages, Frito Pie from Hell, spiced with East Coast Grill’s famous Inner Beauty hot sauce, and street food favorites like a meaty doner kebab on a sesame torta roll with traditional veggies and tzatziki.
“The idea is to get people wanting to try a little bit of everything. It’s bright, fresh flavors, a little funky,” Andreotta says.
Tonight, he’s bringing complimentary bites to Hojoko’s Industry Night, including plantain chips done up Cool Ranch Doritos-style, grilled shrimp with plum hot sauce and fried ginger, and a smaller version of the doner kebab.
Cagle, a constant presence behind the stick at the late, great B-Side Lounge, is harkening back to his early days as he develops the cocktail menu.
“It’s a lot of classics, but also a lot of iconic, ’90s drinks that people are probably going to laugh at, until they have them and they’re awesome,” he says.
Take a frozen blue margarita, one of the tipples he’ll pour at Hojoko. In an Island Oasis machine, he’s blending fresh-squeezed lime juice, a French peach liqueur, tequila, orange bitters, and agave syrup tinted blue with butterfly pea powder, an all-natural food dye. Cagle is also shaking up the Tommy Noble, a gin and Pimm’s classic he created at the B-Side Lounge, and “a really awesome cosmo, if you can imagine,” he says. It uses Cape Cod cranberry juice (tonight’s batch happened to be pressed yesterday), orange curaçao, and Prairie Organic Spirits vodka. There will also $3 Sixpoint beers at Hojoko tonight.
“We’re having fun,” Cagle says. In that vein: The owner will reprise his role as a vinyl DJ tonight, bringing some old school punk and gangster rap records from his own collection to soundtrack the party. At the Automatic, vinyl will be the only way to play tunes.
BHaley Designs is in the final throes of construction; the Automatic required a gut renovation of the former Atasca Restaurant. The new look of the 76-seat space is mid-century modern, with unusual lines, powder blue Herman Miller shell chairs, and teak and walnut accents throughout. Cagle had advised he wants the bar to look unlike any other, and he shared abstract images of muscle cars, 1950s surfboards, and 1980s skateparks to help the designer understand the vision.
Cagle hopes to schedule final inspections for next month. At first, the Automatic will be open nightly at 4 p.m., with bar snacks available until 1 a.m. Eventually, Andreotta will introduce a late-night menu, followed by lunch service, as well.
The Automatic: Industry Night, Tuesday, September 20, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., Hojoko, 1271 Boylston St., Boston, Facebook event page.
The Automatic, 50 Hampshire St., Cambridge, theautomaticbar.com.