After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, an Italian barber walked into an East Cambridge shoe building and turned it into a bar: Pugliese's. This pub stayed in the same family until mid-2011, when new ownership rebranded it as Lizzy's, a cocktail bar and dedicated grill with a sense of humor.
I walked into Lizzy's on a Wednesday, hoping the chicken and whiskey waffles (doused in bourbon, topped with two huge pieces of fried chicken, and smothered in sausage gravy; $9) I saw on Facebook had landed a permanent spot on their ever-evolving menu. They're still a weekend brunch special, so I skipped directly to liquor.
After perusing a full page of cheeky $8 cocktails, I chose a bright green lip smacker called the Corpse Reviver (Cointreau, gin, and Lillet) — a tough decision after reading about the Main Squeeze (bourbon, blueberry syrup, and cinnamon) and the Chupacabra (tequila, fernet, falernum, and grapefruit bitters). I sipped it while marveling at the cozy and eccentric atmosphere inspiring me to get drunk mid-afternoon.
Mirroring that mix of comfort and eclecticism, Lizzy's menu is an international jackpot, with everything less than $10. The $8 appetizer list boasts a world tour of Chinese pork steamed buns, Mediterranean flatbread, roasted duck sopes (a take on a Mexican dish), and grilled Sicilian pizza ($10 with sausage). The chicken wings come from Mayflower Poultry, the next-door butcher shop with the iconic "Live poultry, fresh killed" sign.
Sandwich options include an Italian-meat-and-mozzarella stromboli ($9), a Buffalo chicken po' boy ($9), and a thick Monte Cristo ($9) you can watch being grilled by Lizzy's new chef/owner (a former co-owner of Deep Ellum) at the far end of the bar.
Poor college students can appreciate the PBR on draft for $3 or bottles of Miller High Life and cans of Bud and Bud Light for $3.50. Narragansett and Black Label cans are on display next to two shelves of high-end whiskeys. The most expensive draft on my visit was Green Flash West Coast IPA ($6.50) — a delicious alternative in the absence of Harpoon.
On my chilly Hump Day visit to Lizzy's, I ended up swigging at the bar with two young professionals on my right chatting politics and electric toothbrushes, two rugged old regulars on my left talking jealously of a friend's 23-year-old girlfriend, while three hipster coeds lunched happily at one of four hightop tables behind us. The soup du jour was potato bacon ($5), served in bowls big enough to fit a whole face. I didn't try it, but one of the younger guys needed both hands to hold the bowl and guzzle the last drops. It's clear the Lizzy's crowd wouldn't judge him.
LIZZY's, located at 635 Cambridge Street in East Cambridge, is open daily, 10 am–1 am, and serves brunch until 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Call 617.491.9616.