Located in the heart of life sciences and engineering between CambridgeSide Mall and Kendall Square, quirky and cozy Lily P’s, named after the chef and the owner’s daughter, is the place to drop your corn bean bags, listen to the bluegrass and feast on buttermilk batter. fried chicken. The website says “Chef Chris Parsons brings fried chicken and fun to Cambridge” and rightfully so.
Lily P’s is a large outdoor eatery in one of the new office/lab buildings that have popped up in the area over the past eight years or so, and the entire restaurant is floor-to-ceiling glass that overlooks the cityscape. . To the right of the entrance is a casual dining room. Directly in front of you is a 1950s swivel chair diner that, for those familiar with retro, is a touching sight. To the left is a winding bar with hi-tops of various sizes that can accommodate groups of two to 12 people. In the far corner is a platform for throwing darts. There’s more seating outside in the patio, this corn court and the life-size Jenga tower.
But let’s get down to the basics: Lily P’s is all about chicken, and there are many ways to cook it – various sandwiches and fried chicken platters from the original homemade recipe or the Nashville Hot or Black Pepper Honey version. On my last visit, I skipped the fried and ordered a grilled variation of the Matterhorn sandwich (ham, Swiss and Dijon sauce). The bun was airy and light, the chicken was juicy and tender, and the ham and swiss roll with crispy iceberg and dijonnaise mixed together for something hearty and filling. Homemade chips or french fries are added to sandwiches, but there are other options that you can substitute, and I would like to draw your attention to salad and pickles. I’m not a big coleslaw fan, but Lily’s has a reason to go: its mayonnaise and vinaigrette mix with lots of freshly ground peppers is a winner, and it doesn’t drown the coleslaw, which has always been a nuisance to me.
Considering you can get tired of birds after Thanksgiving, Lily has a gumbo; oysters (the restaurant is positioned as an institution with chicken and oysters, and fried oysters in oil with garlic sauce are divine); and a seasonal menu that currently includes a shrimp and salmon burger. It’s good, but it’s hard to beat the Matterhorn. The short but compelling list of cocktails offers a neat Old-Fashioned in the Gun Fighter (strong bourbon, cane sugar and necessary bitters) and my favorite Vermonster (Up n’ Down pumpkin bourbon, maple syrup, orange essence and bitters). Both are perfect for fall.
On Tuesdays, this dart-throwing alley becomes a playground for the all-too-rare local bluegrass. And of course, if you find yourself in CambridgeSide, Lily’s can be the perfect place to escape the holiday shopping craziness and refresh yourself with a vermonster and a tray of fried oysters.
Lily Pi (50 Binnie St.Kendall Square, Cambridge)
Reviews, essays, short stories and articles by Cambridge writer Tom Meek have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper, and the literary magazine SLAB. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.