Craigie on Main

If you saw her on the cover of Bon Appétit in 2010, it was probably love at first sight. Oh, the afternoons we’ve spent daydreaming of the vinaigrette poking out from her fluffy milk bun, of the voluptuous medium-rare patty bursting out beneath her just-melted square of Vermont cheddar. Infatuation reaches a whole new level upon tasting, as spices and sauces meld into the background and we dive into meat in its purest, most luscious form—meat as it should be.

Of course Chef Tony Maws makes a good burger: He’s got crazy skills in haute cuisine, so he’s full of fancy tricks. That patty is a varying mix of three cuts of grass-fed beef, with bone marrow and suet (the white fat surrounding kidneys and loins) thrown in. Slow seasoning is crucial, but to avoid the parching effect of salt on the meat, Maws dehydrates savory miso and mixes that in instead. The result is so good that the kitchen only releases 18 burgers each night, lest the diners never try anything else.

And they should try everything else. This is the kind of place to linger over three or more prix fixe plates rather than get bogged down with one course. First-timers may wonder how a place where you can sit at a bar and eat a burger is also a gem of innovative gastronomy, but Maws’ tricks manifest themselves up and down this menu. There might be grilled octopus so tender it actually shreds with a fork, thanks to the 36-plus hours it spent sous vide in olive oil. Or a course of pasta rendered dark green from the addition of local dehydrated phytoplankton, surrounded by shellfish in an oyster cream sauce—a whole marine ecosystem in a tiny dish.

Why head here in a city where trendy new restaurants churn out innovative plates left and right? Because Maws has been doing this for 13 years, and he’s still booked every night. It’s like one of those brasseries, the institutions where reliably brilliant food happens on unassuming street corners in France. With its tall windows, little lamps, and framed art deco, Craigie feels a bit like one—but it never shoves the francophone thing down our throats (merci, Maws). Instead, we get a bit of what the French do best: the deep brown sauces that grace rare cuts of meat, the burger-frites-salade combo, the prix fixe concept. And the rest of the credit goes to the impressive Craigie team, who somehow keep those surprises coming, year after year.

Wine pairings aren’t offered with the tasting menus, except for on special occasions (i.e., Valentine’s Day or New Year’s).

Craigie’s award-winning brunch shuttered its doors in 2014. Catch its resurgence on holidays (Easter, Mother’s Day) or head over to Maws’ more casual Kirkland Tap & Trotter between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. every weekend.

Come early (before 6) for a burger. If you’re waiting for a friend before ordering, a friendly server might just put one on hold for you.

Must Haves

  • We could compose a tome about these varied, innovative, complex, and abounding creations. Try the ever-smooth A Drink Has No Name—or peruse seasonal selections, like wintertime’s buttery-savory-spicy Lion’s Tail. (If you need more convincing, beer and wine are on the pricey side here—so cocktails end up on the affordable side).

  • Because bone marrow and Bon Appétit.

  • Maws takes snout-to-tail cooking to a whole new level with this confit, crispy-baked literal pig’s head on a plate. Served Peking duck style with pancakes and hoisin.

  • Usually two raw fish-based courses, a pasta course, a meat course, and dessert. Expect all the frills (amuse-bouches, tiny post-dessert desserts, silverware replaced six times, a color scheme extending from course to course).

Fun Fact

We know you’re wondering where those amazing rolls come from. Fortunately for us, not France—they’re from Iggy’s Bread, which you can visit near Alewife.

Tastes of Craigie on Main

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