At this point, we all know about the legendary burger at Craigie on Main. The problem with that burger, and really the only issue, is/was the accessibility. Yes, it’s deliciously beefy and probably the most interesting and clever little burger I’ve had, but with only a very limited number available nightly (18 I believe, more on Sunday brunch) who the hell can ever actually get to eat this burger? I have no problem with burgers that are only served at the bar or at certain times of the night, but to have to make a reservation just to eat a burger is a little extreme. Still, the Craigie burger is my highest ranked burger for many reasons, and when news broke that Chef Tony Maws would be opening a new, more casual spot with a seemingly more casually priced and more readily available burger, we burger nerds were giddy with anticipation. Enter Kirkland Tap and Trotter, in Somerville but literally on the Cambridge border, where things are not as casual, at least on the pricing scale, as one might have been led to believe.
The burger here is $16, which of course is on the cusp of if not actually “expensive.” The vibe is easy-breezy and screams pub in appearance, but the prices on the menu go from a silly $15 for a small-ish plate of Jerusalem Artichokes, to another $15 option of succulent chicken liver pasta that is worth every penny. Maybe $16 for the burger isn’t atrocious, at least at Kirkland, but it is rather small in stature. The name of the game here is soft. The house-made bun, eerily similar to Craigie, is soft and fresh, tasting as if it literally just came out of the oven. It holds up just fine and is silky and airy, everything you’d ever need in a burger bun. The meat, which arrives mostly rare across the board, is also soft, devoid of any crust despite being grilled, but it hardly matters. It is grass-fed beef, and it has an earthy, mild funk to it that tastes completely original and special. The seasoning is just right and the loosely packed texture of the patty makes it melt in your mouth succulent. It’s not as robust as the Craigie burger, but it’s distinguishable and delectable, and worthy of any beefy praise it may receive. Kimchee Russian Dressing is light on the kimchee flavor but heavy on the Russian aspect, much to my delight. Emmanthaler cheese is funky enough and noticeable, and house-made pickles and mace ketchup are pretty much successful Craigie copycats along the way. With the fries, more like thick discs of potato, I’m convinced, at least on this night, that something has gone wrong. They appear to be, and taste like, they are rotted in the center, causing them to taste awfully awful, like they are underdone in a sense, and all the mace ketchup in the world can’t make them any better (a line I never thought I’d write).
The burger at Kirkland is Craigie-light in every sense. While some elements are merely identical (pickles, bun, ketchup) the beef is still different, and a Russian dressing inspired sauce and choice of cheese make it more like a first cousin spawn. While the atmosphere is certainly more laid-back, the food here is still pretty serious, in a good way. This may not have the heft and future cult following of Craigie on Main, but it is absolutely a burger worth checking out.
Overall Score: 87