The Automatic (Cambridge, MA)


#1

Given how much time I spend at the B Side and I miss East Coast Grill, it’s amazing that I had not been into the Automatic before now. I will definitely be back often however. It’s a rarity to find a new place that has excellent food, drink and atmosphere without trying to pick your pocket. I suppose it’s no surprise that these guys have pulled it off.

The atmosphere was lively and the space cozier than expected given its location in a larger building. It’s more of a bar than a restaurant, but strikes a nice balance. The booth seating was very comfortable, and I will look forward to sitting at the bar on my next visit.

The drinks were all well made and reasonably priced (relatively to the neighborhood in which they are located) at $10-12 for their specialty cocktails. The Tuco Ramirez (mezcal, ancho reyes, mole bitters), and Double Wide (rye whiskey, coke syrup, lemon peel) both satisfied, and unsurprisingly they have the standards down cold as well.

The portions are small (we ordered a 2nd wave), but the food is all delicious and priced accordingly. The Crispy Shrimp and Pork Dumplings (Chinese black vinegar, sesame oil) went before everyone got one. Their griddled burger is just about perfect as are the fries, crisp outside and fluffy inside. We ordered the standard fries, but really regretted not ordering the freaky fries with a marrow bone when we saw it land on the table next to us. The pork tacos (special) were excellent, while the kale and mushroom tacos were just OK. The kale could have used more seasoning and I think the mushrooms may have been portobello, which I don’t find very flavorful. The food parading by to other tables all looked worthy; looking forward to trying some skewers, the Korean fried chicken sandwich, the Cubano and Frito pie on future visits. During the summer on the patio, the frozen desert selection of various candy and Klondike bars will do nicely. Someone mentioned they sometimes offer a special Big Mac burger, which I’d love to try given how excellent their standard burger is.

Service was friendly and competent as would be expected with these 2 masters of hospitality at the helm. Dave Cagle was running the room while we were there. It’s nice to see a newer place so grounded to providing great food and drink at a fair price. I’ll be frequenting the Automatic from here on in.


#2

This place had been on my radar for sometime and then inexplicably dropped off. Thanks for the nudge.


#3

The menu is certainly interesting, but our experience here was less stellar than uni’s.

It’s a very noisy space, and not only did we find conversation at the table difficult, it was hard to hear the waitress recite specials, etc. She had an equally hard time hearing our order. We were in a booth next to the long communal hightop – perhaps the booths at the back are quieter. We also found our booth cramped, and hard to slide in and out of.

We started with the slightly spicy, garlicky plantain chips, beef jerky, and cumin-inflected popcorn. All were pre-packaged, and brought to the table in their packaging, but were excellent, nonetheless. We shared the crisp, cornmeal-encrusted fried brussels sprouts next, and the sweet potato humus. Both were also very good, although the humus came in two tiny metal-shot-glass type containers, topped with roasted cauliflower, making it hard to scoop with the supplied pita triangles.

Mains were a bit disappointing: the rotisserie chicken was dry, although the accompanying fries were pretty good, and the goat stew was very salty, and not quite as fall-off-the-bone as I’d like.

The menu has lots of interesting-sounding things on it, so I do plan on braving the space again to try more of their food.