In 2008, the six-year-old nationally renowned Craigie Street Bistrot relocated from a cozy basement near Harvard Square to a larger space - with a much larger kitchen - on Main St. in Central Square. The restaurant's name changed accordingly to Craigie on Main. Over the past three years, chef/proprietor Tony Maws has continued to please diners, particularly carnivores, with his intense focus on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients and French-influenced dishes. Offerings change daily to reflect the best that can be found at the market, and Maws is a firm believer in the 'nose-to-tail' philosophy of using every part of an animal whenever possible. Indeed, Food & Wine even named Craigie to its list of the 10 best restaurants for carnivores in the world, and Craigie is the sole representative of the United States on the list.
Perhaps the best way to experience the restaurant is by ordering the Ultimate Craigie Experience (their name, not mine, although - spoiler alert - I definitely agree). At $115 per person, the tasting menu includes eight generously-sized courses of the chef's daily creations. Plan to devote a night to it: my table of five diners spent around four and a half hours enjoying the experience. The non-vegetarian tasting menu is heavy on seafood and meat, but you can request a vegetarian menu instead. We had both non-vegetarians and vegetarians at our table, and both sequences of dishes were equally fantastic. You'll likely want to add on a drink or two, as well. The creative cocktail list and award-winning wine list were both carefully crafted with the overall food philosophy in mind in order to effortlessly pair with the ever-changing menu. The wine list is especially notable for its focus on lesser-known wines at very reasonable prices.
The wonderful thing about the food at Craigie is that you can absolutely taste the high quality of each individual ingredient, and they all come together seamlessly in dishes that play off the freshness and flavors of the season. Our late October meal, for example, touched on rustic autumn ingredients such as local beets, cheese pumpkin, wild hare (in a ragout with lentils), wild boar (sausage), local forest mushrooms, cock's combs, and quail.
The quail was the savory highlight of the meal, strikingly presented with a leg and claw reaching upwards from the plate. In a deliciously Frankensteinesque mash-up of animals, the quail was wrapped with pork belly and stuffed with boudin noir - blood sausage. On the sweeter side, everyone received a different dessert. The chocolate mint affogato was a big hit, particularly due to the hot espresso poured over it at the table.
The service at Craigie on Main is impeccable, and the ambiance is charmingly rustic while still giving off a special-night-out vibe. You'd feel equally comfortable in jeans or a suit jacket; we saw both. The view of the kitchen is spectacular. In fact, it's really the centerpiece of the space, always interesting but never distracting.
If the Ultimate Craigie Experience is a bit too much of a commitment for your next night out, try the slightly smaller Craigie Experience (six courses) or a three-course prix fixe, or just order straight off the menu. There's also a well-loved brunch menu for your Sunday morning needs.
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.
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