Craigie on Main
Marc’s cousin Seth was in town this weekend for our ritual Consortium Weekend, a time where we don’t do a whole hell of a lot besides eat, relax, talk about food and plan future meals together. This particular Consortium Weekend was a particular success, because we hit up some of the most delicious restaurants in our immediate area. Marc and I were familiar with pretty much all of them, except for Craigie on Main.
Craigie on Main USED to be Craigie Street Bistro, which is where Ten Tables opened up a Cambridge location. Craigie Street moved into the former Bertucci’s in Central Square, Cambridge, thus giving themselves more space, and a location with MUCH easier parking. We had never been there before, in either location, but having Seth in town is as good an excuse to eat an extravagant dinner as anything I’ve ever heard.
Craigie’s main claim to fame is its fresh, local, and whole ingredients. Menu items change, based on what is market-fresh that day. The menu that is available to view online is only a suggestion of things that might be offered. If you base your restaurant selections on the menus you see online (something I have been known to do), Craigie on Main might seem a little daunting, as you aren’t necessarily sure what you’re going to get, but if you’re adventurous, you won’t be sorry.
As far as atmosphere and service go, Craigie on Main is a haven for foodies. The waitstaff is knowledgeable and checked in with us quite a few times about the menu, the drinks, and made suggestions for a side that we might enjoy. Besides that, Craigie features a sparkling open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs hard at work. I had prime seating for kitchen spying and was particularly transfixed with the saucing/plating preparation. It was really fantastic to see everyone working so perfectly in sync. It must be super difficult to maintain your professionalism when you’re in front of a dining audience every night, but the staff maintained it with great aplomb.
Enough with the atmosphere — onto the food. As I mentioned previously, Craigie on Main prides itself on cooking with and serving local, seasonal foods. The menu changes regularly, based on what’s good and what’s fresh, and the local sources are proudly listed on the menu. Just as you’d expect and have probably heard from a variety of sources, food that is cooked with local, super-fresh ingredients makes for AMAZING meals. I can only speak to my own experience with the details of my dish, though I assure you that Marc and Seth enjoyed what they had as well.
For an appetizer, I had grilled Spanish octopus, served with cipollini onions, fresh hearts of palm, and chorizo sauce. I’ve never had grilled octopus before, only sushi-style octopus, and I am SO glad that I ordered this. The octopus was soft yet meaty, and the grilled flavor paired with the chorizo sauce made for a really intense bite. I also have never had fresh hearts of palm before — only the canned marinated ones that I don’t love that much — and they were completely fantastic. They added a creamy balance to the spicy sauce and they were FANTASTIC. Marc had a vegetable and sausage ragout with a poached egg, and Seth had tempura cod cheeks. For our main course, Marc had steak injected with marrow, Seth had pork two-ways (pork belly and pork confit), and I went the vegetarian route and had a Moroccan haroseth stuffed vidalia onion, with forest mushrooms, spring vegetables and a savory carrot jus. Though the onion was good, there’s no way it could have touched the deliciousness of the grilled octopus appetizer. I could have eaten that as an entree, no doubt.
As our waiter suggested, the three of us ordered a side of toasted brioche and marrow bones. This was my first marrow experience, and I can’t say I was wild about it. I had to forget what I was eating, because it kind of grossed me out. Seth and Marc went to town, though, and LOVED it. The whole concept of eating marrow on toast has a certain decadence to it that you wouldn’t normally find at any old restaurant. I just can’t say that it will be something I’ll be indulging in, myself, after this experience.
We skipped dessert, which is generally OK with me, but the people around us had extremely interesting, yummy looking desserts. There are lots of prix-fixe options at Craigie on Main, as well as 6- and 10-course tasting menus for parties who are interested in indulging in a quality meal (at a higher price, of course). Craigie on Main also has a bar menu, with much more resonably priced meals, sandwiches, and appetizers, proving that you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to enjoy a delicious meal. If you’re a foodie, this location is surely worth a stop.