Worth the Hype? The Craigie on Main Burger
By Estefania Lahera ‘20
This burger is over 6 years old, and you’d have thought the hype would have died down already.
This burger is still as highly recommended on the food internet; indeed, it has even been elevated into an icon of the Boston food scene. Articles by Eater, Boston Magazine, a cover on Bon Apetit Magazine, and more, all attest to its greatness.
But when was the last time that this icon was objectively reviewed?
Instead of accepting its greatness, I felt it was my responsibility as a foreigner to the Boston food scene, immune to the hype and build up, and see for myself.
If you know anything about this burger, you know that they only serve 18 every night and only on the bar side of the restaurant. Thus, I specifically called two nights before asking for a reservation on that side of the restaurant. Dedication, if I do say so myself.
I went on a rainy Sunday. It was a good day for a burger, the sort of day when you just want something warm and comforting, classic but not boring.
“We know you want the burger,” the hostess says when I arrive, ready for me, “do you want us to put one on hold for you now?”
Yes. Yes, I do.
But seriously though, the service was friendly and efficient. The restaurant is small, which makes it easier for the staff to look after you properly. They are knowledgeable about the menu, and willing to offer their opinions if you ask, which I always do.
PRO TIP: Sit on the bar side and get access to the full dining room menu as well as the more affordable bar menu. And the burger, of course.
The bread basket, by the way, was excellent. I judge a restaurant by its bread basket, because it’s an integral part of the experience. It the restaurant serves stale, inferior bread, it might as well not give anything at all. I’d rather not have bread than regret biting into a dense, coarse brick. Thankfully, Craigie’s 3 varieties, a lovely crusty French baguette, a more ciabatta like roll, and a flax-speckled, nutty multigrain, were all fabulous. My favorite was the multigrain with flax for its depth of flavor, though you can’t go wrong with the other two.
We also order the octopus. It was a solid dish with a nice punch of flavor, a sort of smoky paprika flavor that worked well. Was it mind blowing, stunning, omigosh I’ve never eaten anything better in my life? No. But I think it was the only time in my life that I’ve had octopus cooked perfectly, absolutely ZERO chewiness. And that is admirable.
Now, onto what you’ve been waiting for: the burger.
This restaurant has a burger cult following. An hour into our meal, having arrived the moment the restaurant opened, we hear the bartender call out: “only one burger left!” and the entire restaurant cheered.
Clearly as popular as ever, this burger sold out within two hours of opening that night!
And it must be a very complex burger, because it took forever to come out, long enough for me to go through an entire bread basket (because I’m a carb-lover and I’m not ashamed).
I waited patiently, and it finally arrived.
Let’s just stop and appreciate that for a moment. It’s definitely a looker, is it not?
Now, the most important part: taste.
That’s about it.
It was good, because how can a burger be bad? But was it the transformational experience that everyone promised? No, not really. Everything, the bun and the bacon and the grind of beef, are all made in house. If you’re going to make it in house, you would do well to make it less generic in my opinion. The bread was good, but it wasn’t special. Why not make the outside crispy if you can, and the inside soft and pillowy? A nice squashy bun is lovely and works, but I could get the same at the supermarket, even organic at whole foods. The bun was good, sure, good quality and it held its shape and structure reasonably well, but that’s all.
The ketchup was fine, a nice spice to it, not memorable. I’m also not a ketchup person.
The meat was very, very medium. It lacked a good sear, and was quite pink throughout the center. The flavor was also lackluster. If they’re not going to have enough salt and seasoning, at least make sure the beef grind has enough complexity to stand alone. But it was just a temperate beef flavor, which was fine as I personally like the taste of meat. But if could have been better, you know?
The cheese I couldn’t even taste, so I can’t really judge, but the lettuce and other dressings (a sort of pickled onion) were nice. That’s sort of all I can say. Nice. The bacon, which was house cured, was also good. Again, good. Not great. But good.
The salad complimented the burger, but was by no means necessary.
The fries, to my surprise, were excellent! Big, chunky wedges cooked perfectly, with a soft creamy inside, a super crispy, crackly outside, and aggressive but refined seasoning. Why couldn’t the burger be cooked like this?!
The final verdict?
Go to Craigie on Main if you can afford the splurge, but ignore the hype and get something more interesting. Go for the bread, the staff, the chance to try something awesome. The menu has so many interesting ideas. phytoplankton garganelli? What is that? duck rilletes? Sounds very classical French but I’m sure they’ve taken an innovative spin on it.
I, personally, will be back for the whole pigs head.