On a recent pilgrimage to the mainland, team Hungry Native’s first stop was at the Cambridge fixture Cragie on Main, for Sunday brunch.
Chef Tony Maws and his team have been racking up an impressive amount of hype and awards over the past few years, including a reputation for serving one of the best burgers to be found anywhere. Their focus is on using the best ingredients (locally sourced whenever possible) that they can find, and reflecting that, the menu changes daily.
The spacious dining room features walls lined with French themed art, inviting booths and, most importantly, an open kitchen, allowing a clear view of the chefs at work.
We started our brunch in proper fashion, with a couple cocktails. Cragie offers their Bloody Mary a few different ways, EA went with one made with house infused spicy vodka. The drink was indeed very spicy, but also very flavorful, with just the right amount of acidity. In addition to the big pepper flavor, we also thought we could detect a hint of Indian spices in the mix. Garnished with a stalk of pickled celery and a sharp and spicy pickled onion, this is a Bloody Mary that you’re sure to remember. KD’s choice, the Savannah Unknown, is made from aged Jamaican rum, Averna (an Italian digestif), Punt e Mes (a type of vermouth), and grapefruit. It had a wonderfully complex flavor, deep and rich, with a subtle caramelized sweetness offset by citrus and a bit of bitterness. If you want a cocktail to evoke a feeling of being ensconced in a plush leather chair, surrounded by warm wood panelling, The Savannah Unknown is a good choice.
Our meal started with a complimentary House-Made Doughnut, served with confiture du lait, a sweet, thick caramel sauce. The doughnut was freshly fried but not oily at all and dipped in granulated sugar. The dark brown crust remained crispy even when covered in the rich sauce. Light and airy, the interior of the doughnut wasn’t excessively sweet, but combined perfectly with the sugar on the outside. We loved the caramel sauce, sopping up every last bit of it from the plate. It was sweet and rich, but not tooth ache territory, with a faint nutty character, perhaps of almond or hazelnut.
When a restaurant offers sides of Smoked Pork Belly, you know you’re in the right place. Salty, smoky and fatty, this version was topped with chopped chives and sported some great grill marks. It had a range of textures, from the crispy charred bits, to the chewier meatier part and the succulent layer of fat. The pork had a slightly sweet glaze or sauce that didn’t really stand out on its own, but brought just enough sweetness to contrast the richness of the belly and round out the flavors.
The Grass-fed Beef Cheek and Smoked Tongue Hash came with a slow-poached, farm-fresh egg nestled in the center and topped with extremely thin crispy onion rings. The egg was perfectly poached, jiggly on the outside, with a bright yellow yolk that ran instantly when pierced, forming a custardy sauce that combined with the hash. The beef tongue had a slight smoky quality, while the tender braised cheeks brought a beefy flavor and a bit of unctuousness. With some crunch and sharpness from the onions and the sweetness provided by the carrots in the hash, this dish had a bit of everything, each bite revealed a new flavor combination.
Our favorite dish was definitely the House-Made Pork Schnitzel with fried egg, lentils de Puy and pig foot jus. Again, the egg was cooked perfectly, with a creamy, runny yolk and bright whites that had just a kiss of crispiness around the edge. The Schnitzel had just the right amount of salty, crunchy, golden brown fried exterior, remaining moist and juicy on the inside. Add some hearty, nutty earthy Lentils du Puy and the incredibly flavorful pig foot jus, and you have a dish that anyone would love. What pushed this one over the top was the small addition of the bitter greens and sharp, peppery slices of radish, dressed with an acidic vinaigrette, providing counterpoint to all the richness. The salad added a bit of brightness, allowing one to dig back into the rich, porky goodness with renewed vigor.
Cragie on Main is also known for their seasonal tasting menus, offered in either six or eight courses, and of course, the aforementioned burger. Their bar area is quite popular as well, and serves food until 11 p.m.
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Editor’s note ~ At Hungry Native, our restaurant reviews are by no means comprehensive, we may have visited a particular place many times, or perhaps only once. For the most part, we focus on specific dishes. We try to judge restaurants for what they are, rather than compare them directly. No review should be taken as a blanket endorsement of an establishment but rather a guide to what we found especially good or interesting.
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