Craigie on Main

By Molly McDonough · 11/26/2016    Cambridge · French · New American · $$$$

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.

Burger - Craigie on Main

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 four prix fixe plates rather than get bogged down with one course. First-timers may wonder how a place where you can sit at the more casual bar for a burger is also a gem of innovative gastronomy in its tasting menu-only dining room, but Maws’ tricks manifest themselves throughout. 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 over 15 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.

To try the burger or dine a la carte, head to the more casual main bar room, a.k.a. COMB. For Craigie’s signature four-course, $85 tasting menu, get a table in the dining room.

Speaking of the burger, come early (before 6) to snag one. If you’re waiting for a friend before ordering, a friendly server might just put one on hold for you.

Check Craigie’s Eventbrite for upcoming events, such as whole-hog dinners, a Passover seder class, and a weekly buffalo sauce-themed event series leading up to Superbowl Sunday.

Must Haves

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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