Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville- Dinner

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Kirkland Tap & Trotter has been on my list of new places to try for the past year. I’ve been meaning to go to but haven’t had a chance to stop in until now. This new American style restaurant is supposed to be a more casual version of Craigie on Main, with an emphasis on simple, perfect food that you can eat daily.

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It’s loud, with a lively bar scene, people chatting and knocking back drinks while they play fun, funky classic music in the background. They have a decent sized bar area with a fair amount of standing room.

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The decor is really great. The restaurant feels casual, with open brick and beams, mismatched chairs, vintage signs and specials written on chalkboards. There are no table cloths, and the barstools are simple. There’s an open kitchen, which looks out onto the bar area and dining room. There’s a communal table with views of the kitchen and vice versa. You can come here for a drink and some bar snacks and be satisfied, or you can come with a group of friends, and gorge like kings.

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The second room is much quieter and an ideal place if you want to chat with your dining companions and hear them well.

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Kirkland has a strong bar program. They also have a secret underground beer list, which is full of hard to source beers. I’ve personally got my eye on the Cantillion lambic as a must try for next time.The wine selection is excellent and manageable.  The beer selection is dominated by smaller craft breweries, which I think is wonderful. They have about 8-10 beers on draft and a much larger number of bottles. Their cocktail list focuses on lesser used liqueurs, with most or all of their drinks being creative originals.  The bartenders and servers are all knowledgeable about the drink list and can point you in the right direction if you aren’t sure what to drink.

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Beer Battered Softshell Crab pickled ramp tartar sauce $16

I won’t deny that I am a softshell crab fiend. Since they’re in season now, there’s no reason not to get this appetizer given the fact it turned out to be very delicious. The beer batter crust has a nice crunch and is not too heavy. The crab isn’t very big but it is freshly made.

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Green Chile Chicken Wings cotija cheese, cilantro, pepitas  $14

These chicken wings are like a Mexican version of Parmesan garlic wings with a healthy kick from the green chile. They can be messy but they are worth every sloppy tender bite.

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Burger and Beer Special $16
Grass-fed Cheeseburger kimchee Russian dressing, emmantaler (beer not pictured)

We originally got the KT&T email newsletter announcing their new burger and beer special would start on Sunday, June 22nd. The special was what drew us in to come check it out. That and watching the World Cup of course. You don’t get to pick your beer however, it’s already chosen ahead of time. This Sunday, it was High and Mighty’s Beer O Gods.

The burger is made of grass-fed beef. It has an earthy, mild funk to it that tastes completely unique and pleasing. The seasoning is just right and the loosely packed texture of the patty makes it succulent and tender. The kimchee Russian dressing didn’t have much kimchee flavor but had plenty of Russian dressing taste instead. The Emmanthaler cheese is tasty and lightly melted. The house-made pickles and mace ketchup are pretty much successful Craigie copycats along the way. The burger at Kirkland similar in many ways, yet identical in others to Craigie on Main’s version. Best part is no reservation is required and no fighting for a bar seat just to have one of the 18 available for the evening!

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Sirloin Tip Brochette grilled avocado $32

This was delicious. The warm grilled rich avocado went well with the cilantro salsa verde and grilled medium rare beef. My dining companion wanted to eat my half too but couldn’t. The only issue we could have with this entree is that the portion size was much more like a much more like a generous appetizer than main.

The service in the bar was good even though it was slow at times due to playing the World Cup USA vs Portugal match. Once we were seated in the second room to officially start dining and the game was over, service was great. Our server was peppy and yet casually friendly without being too over the top.

If we lived in the area, we definitely would be frequenting Kirkland Tap & Trotter several times a month. That’s how much we enjoyed our meal. We can’t wait to come back and explore more of the menu, come back for more specials, like $2 grilled oyster night, or try brunch here in the future.

Kirkland Tap & Trotter
425 Washington Street
Somerville, MA

Kirkland Tap & Trotter on Urbanspoon

Craigie on Main, Cambridge- Burger & Brunch

Craigie on Main is a new American bistro located in Cambridge that emphasizes  tasting menus, nose-to-tail dining with local, seasonal ingredients and also has a nationally recognized burger. Much of the Craigie burger’s popularity is built on the fact that every component made in house- from bun to ground meat to ketchup. Much more is a result of its scarcity- 18 burgers are only available in the bar each night. One way to get around the nightly 18 burger limit is to order one during Sunday brunch. Brunch is a very popular meal at Craigie. We arrived a little early and because the restaurant space is small, the waiting area is non-existent. Since it was a beautiful day, we waited outside, however, when the weather is not so cooperative, standing around by the door in the bar would be difficult. If you haven’t been, it truly is a spectacular space despite the size with the open kitchen right when you walk in, well lit, and very appealing.

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Bloody Mary 10
Hemingway’s favorite Corpse Reviver
Choice of spicy vodka, gin, tequila, vegetable-infused vodka, gin

I started out with my favorite brunch drink, the Bloody Mary with spicy vodka. This is a Bloody Mary with lots of vegetable matter floating in it. It’s plenty spicy, lots of grated, fresh horse radish, and ginger, as well. I really liked how intense and real the tomato flavor was in the base, which made the drink so much more complex. The spicy zip was just what I wanted and for someone who enjoys spicy foods, very delicious but not over powering.

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Local Grass-Fed Beef Burger 17
Shelburne Farm cheddar, mace ketchup, house-made bun, crispy potato fries
add fried egg 3, add house-smoked bacon 3

After trying this burger over the weekend, I can see why it is so popular and one of Boston’s best burgers available. It’s not a creative kind of burger. It’s a burger where all the classic elements are done right. The only thing many people may object to is the cost. Quality anything costs, right? The bun is baked to a dark golden brown right on the premises. There are sesame seeds on top. I’d like it a little better if there were just a little smaller in size and less dense. The burger patty is eight ounces of house ground beef from 2 different small-farm suppliers. Maws utilizes four different beef cuts or parts: beef shortrib, beef suet, flap meat and bone marrow. The proportions are top secret and the components vary slightly depending what is on hand each day. No flat patties here. The thick burger patty arrived cooked exactly to medium rare and gushing beef juices. Flavor includes dehydrated miso for a “subtle” umami flavor boost and some gaminess, which I enjoy.

There is fennel slaw, tart pickles or mace ketchup on the side, ready to be added to your preferences.

Bacon is a $3 option worth considering for its salt and crunch factors but I prefer it without the bacon. Let’s face it, I prefer to drink or have a dessert or two as my extra calories.

The fries are more like potato wedges, crispy and accented with tiny herbs and scallions. The texture was perfect, highlighting the contrast between crunchy shell and mealy interior. Highly enjoyable fries overall. Lightly dressed greens provide a healthy backdrop for the burger’s umami funk.

The burger is the kind of delicious that you remember for days after.

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Grass-Fed Beef Cheek, Brisket, and Smoked Beef Tongue Hash 18
slow-poached farm-fresh egg, crispy onion rings

The hash was one of the best things I ate at brunch besides the burger. Normally hash is tasty diner or hangover breakfast or brunch food. At Craigie, they make it into something special and take the hash to the next level by reinventing it. The melt-in-your-mouth beef was flavorful and spoon-tender soft. There was corned beef, tongue, perfectly diced home fries and fried onion strings on top.

The service at Craigie is impeccable, whether you are in the bar, in the main room or at the chef’s table. This is one the reasons Craigie is always a stand out for me. Everyone we interacted with, was impeccable, attentive, and made us feel like a special meal even if we were just eating burgers and brunch.

Craigie on Main
853 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Craigie On Main on Urbanspoon

Commonwealth, Kendall Square, Cambridge- Super Burger Bros Level 3 Pop-up

We really like to read about food as well as eating or writing about it. One of the blogs we like to read is the Boston Burger Blog.  It focuses on great burgers in the Boston area and is written by Chef Richard Chudy. Along with former JM Curly Chef, Samuel Monsour, they have a highly anticipated cookbook that will be published in April 2015 from Union Park Press. To celebrate their new endeavor, for the next year, they are hosting a monthly series of pop-ups along with guest chefs.  We missed Level 1 at Chops and Level 2 at Tavern Road but were determined not to miss Level 3.

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Level 3 was held at Commonwealth with Chef and owner Steve “Nookie” Postal, a former Fenway Park executive chef, on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 9 PM. The event was free to attend, with no reservations at Commonwealth necessary and you could RSVP on Facebook if you so desired. Commonwealth is a restaurant-market hybrid with warm, relaxed, rustic-yet-still-modern decor. You can stop in for a family-style Sunday meal and then leave with dairy, farm fresh eggs, New England cheeses, fresh local produce, jams, ice cream or house made specialties. They also run a great $1 oyster special on Sundays. The new outdoor patio space, which seats 100 and recently opened this spring, looks like it will get a lot of use during nice summer days and evenings.

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We came with two other dining companions so we could try all three burgers. There was quite a crowd waiting for the 9 PM start which was exciting. Note that you could only order items from the designated pop-up menu and the Commonwealth drink or dessert menu. We looked longingly at the ice cream on the dessert menu but we were here for the burgers.

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For sides, we got the onion strings and duck fat fries. Both were perfectly made. The onion strings were thinly sliced, lightly salted and thinly battered so they were very crisp. The duck fat fries were carb heaven. If you haven’t had duck fat fries yet, I urge you to try them. Any protein or carb tastes better cooked in duck fat! They had a crisp golden exterior and a mealy tender interior that were addicting. We finished them by the time we were half way through our burgers.

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Juicy Lucy with queso American, spicy ketchup, pickled watermelon, radishes, S&S English muffin

This was my least favorite of the three because of the smaller compact size of the beef patty and the thicker English muffin. The English muffin brought this burger more into sandwich territory for me and it would have been better if it was toasted. It was a good burger, but the other two burgers outshined this one. All the other burger elements were tasted good together and I really enjoyed the pickled watermelon.

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Mason Dixon Mashup with Johnny cake oysters, mignonette ketchup, Pop’s slaw, grilled leeks, and sesame seed bun

This was my second favorite of the night. The medium-rare burger patty was well seasoned and cooked to my tastes. The Johnny cake oysters were really tasty with the coleslaw. The best part about the tangy sweet coleslaw was that it didn’t have too much mayo. Grilling the leeks added a special touch that made them similar to a large scallion when you ate it.

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Chicken Fried Pork Belly Club with red remoulade, smoked heirloom tomatoes, grilled romaine, vidalia jam and white bread

This burger club was my favorite of the three offerings. The flavors were delicious together. I was surprised to see two generous thick cut slices of chicken fried pork belly on top of the burger. The fried pork belly gave the burger an edge because of the unctuous rich fat. Combining this with meaty burger, remoulade sauce, sweet onion jam, and tangy sweet tomato and my mouth was in positive sensory overload. It was incredible. The only suggestion I could make to take this burger club to the next level would be to toast the white bread well to give it some crunchy stiffness. This would make sure the soft white bread could stand up to the meat juices, cheese and sauces.

Were these three burgers worth storming the castle for? Yes!

We can’t to see what these two chefs cook up for July and hope to see you there. We’ll also be back to try Commonwealth’s dinner and brunch along with their Sunday $1 oyster special. The new patio looks too nice not to!

Commonwealth

(Kendall Square)

11 Broad Canal Way
Cambridge, MA 02142

Commonwealth on Urbanspoon

Mo’s Grill, North Beach, San Francisco

We stopped by Mo’s Grill for some bfast and waiting 30 minutes for our seats. We were told to get the famous Mo’s burgers, french toast or the old-fashioned pancakes (BMH’s Good Ol’ Fashioned Banana Pancakes), but we were in an omelette mood. Lined in the front of the grill were all the ingredients, mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce and Hass Avocados.

Mo’s has a chill environment, neon lighting and bar stools. The main dining room area was packed and is a popular weekend brunch and lunch joint.

Our omelettes took a bit, however when the Mexican omelette arrived full of  sausage, scallions, jalapeño, salsa and cheese with a side of potatoes with bits of scallion and a toasted English muffin.

The egg scramble with scallions and cheese were great with the sides of toast and potatoes.

 

Next time, we will definitely try Mo’s Bacon Cheeseburger, California Burger or Blue Cheeseburger.Mo's Grill on Urbanspoon

The Kitchen, Boulder

The Kitchen was one the highlights of our visit to Colorado. The space was open, light and beautiful. The food was quality. Yes this is weird, but visit the restroom. We learned that The Kitchen is owned by a former colleague of British Jamie Oliver, and we even loved the Pangea Organics Canadian pine and white sage bathroom soap!

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The chandelier in the enter of the dining room was eye catching and just lovely._MG_5517

We love that The Kitchen donates 20% of sales from Monday night Community Night._MG_5518

We enjoyed a glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit and organic orange half and half per our waitress’s suggestion. It was perfectly sweet and tart for $4.50.

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The highlight of our Colorado visit and the best meal we had was The Kitchen’s Lamb Burger with Colorado lamb, pepper relish, al latte bun and perfectly seasoned steak fries for $15. We got a side of mayo and those fries were some of the best steak fries we have ever eaten. The salad was lemony and lightly dressed, perfect to compliment the juicy slightly sweet burger. Bar none one of the best burgers ever eaten. Best lamb burger ever eaten hands down._MG_5527

The rest of the menu looked so good and we would certainly return to try the rest of the menu another visit.The Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Park Tavern, North Beach, San Francisco

Park Tavern is one of the best meals we have had in San Francisco and every course was spot on. We would love to hit up the bar and try other parts of the menu that we didn’t have the room or dining partners to get a taste. We deeply respect what they deem as must visits in the North Beach area and Park Tavern was named. The night was a perfect to walk around and enjoy an illuminated Washington Square.

Park Tavern was twice suggested from two extreme food enthusiasts of SF on independent conversations.

The lighting was low, ambiance buzzing and we could tell that Park Tavern was the right place to be that evening because the patio, bar and dining room was packed. Definitely get a reservation in advance. Park Tavern’s ambiance reminded us of Gramercy Tavern in New York City.

The tree motif on the entrance wall was enchanting. We really loved the gold etching and various shapes and sizes.

Despite having a reservation for Friday at 9:30pm, we waited 15 minutes  to be seated. It was worth the wait.  We had a corner table past the open kitchen,  nestled where there was only one table to our right. For a small group, this was one of the best seats in the house for groups who want less bustle and to watch the kitchen in action. It was entertaining to see the expedited Dungeness crab dip, salmon roe and yukon gold chips, Maine lobster bisque and Poulet Rouge (roast chicken). 

We loved the Parks And Recreational Drinking section and three drinks really stood out to us as unique. The Golden Gate Haamonii Shochu, Genmaicha Tea, lemon, tart cherry liqour and cherry bitters for $13. Also, the Buena Vista with St. George dry rye gin, Laird’s Applejack, apple-rosemary, bitters, Allagash White for $13 looked intriguing. Finally, we ordered the Mclaren was Hendrick’s gin, cucumber juice, lemon, ginger beer for $13. It was light, refreshing and really enjoyable to drink. Since one of us was under the weather, the brown Crueset mug with Mighty Tea Mint and a bit of Honey for $3 was comforting and hit the spot.

After we put our order with our friendly and knowledgable server, we enjoyed a nicey warmed, crusty pain d’epi (Epi baguette) with butter.

We had to order two deviled eggs, with bacon, pickled jalapeño and chive at $2 each. The deviled eggs had a creamy yolk center, but not overly dressed in mayonnaise. The crunchy, salty bacon with bits of micro chives and tang and heat of jalapeno were perfectly balanced.  These were really the best deviled eggs we have ever had. We saw pairs of deviled eggs flying out of the kitchen and we were jealous and wanted more.

The Brussels sprout chips for $7 were nicely crisp, had lightly singed edges and were well seasoned with a brightness of lime. We finished the entire bowl.  We hope to make these ourselves since we have attempted roasted brussel sprouts before.

We split a Young leek & broccoli soup, house cured lardons, black pepper and parmesan crisp for $13 and it was a nice gesture for the kitchen to split the portions. The soup was not overly creamy, very aromatic and very enjoyable to sip. The parmesean crisp with lardon added a nice salty element which was appreciate after a few spoonfuls. Really tasty.

We had to order the “Marlowe” burger with caramelized onion, cheddar, bacon, horseradish aïoli and fries for $14. The fries were nicely seasoned, especially with the creamy bite from the horseradish sauce.

The star was the Marlowe burger. It was really special. The pattie was perfectly juicy, nicely seasoned, had a nice crunch from the fresh, shredded lettuce, crispy bacon, melty cheddar and we loved the sweetness of the caramelized onion. So good. We would have this again hands down.

We would return to the bar area (with the comfy, tavern flair and moouse antlers to sample other items on the menu. We really wish we had room for dessert and the Creme brulee peaked our interest, as well as October’s Birthday citrus sponge cake with tangerine buttercream.

Park Tavern is a well oiled machine, especially with the volume of patrons. We were impressed. The food was comforting and exceptionally executed. Overall, our service is stellar.

The only pause in our experience was having to wait to get part of our meal to take home. The bus boy bused our table and offered to wrap up leftovers to go. After we grabbed our check and paid, we reminded our server for our take home box. She was trying to get the last order of the evening from a large group into the kitchen at 11pm, so we ended up waiting an additional 10 minutes for her to attend to the large group first before returning to be reminded. Other than the small pauses in waiting, we were more than content and happy to sing praises.

Park Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sam’s, North Beach, San Francisco

Sam’s has been on the list and we were glad we stopped by the 618 Broadway at Grant Ave Pizza and hamburgers joint. The restaurant is opened until 3AM every day and is in the perfect spot for late night munchies. There are rambunctious patrons and shenanigans.

The Sam’s Special includes a hamburger with fries and a coke for $8.99. It looked pretty tempting, but we wanted MORE.

The menu features burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, fried items, rings, fries and pizza. Cash is preferred and patrons must pay immediately after one orders.

We went for a Bourdain Special which included a domestic beer, double cheeseburger and a side of fries for $14.99. The toppings, bacon and cheese were an additional surcharge, bringing the bill up to $17 or $18 bucks. Avocado is an additional $1.25. The fries were really nicely seasoned and had garlic flavor. We would have been happy with the fries and a beer.

How was the burger? According Bourdain “That’s a good mother***ing burger, Top Three in the World!!!” The burger patties were nice and juicy, and greasy. The bacon was nicely fried and the acidity of the tomato and freshness of the veg brought layered texture. The burger reminded me of a quality Burger King Whopper.  Was it top three in the world for the price tag?  If you were a bit under the influence, sure. If not, it should be a few bucks cheaper.

Sam's on Urbanspoon