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Tips for sitting at the bar at Craigie on Main?

Hi,
We're hoping to have a casual Saturday night enjoying some food and drinks at the Craigie on Main bar on Sat night....have a few questions though:

1) Does the bar get packed quickly and early? I know it's a Sat night so I expect it to be busy, however if we're there by 7 will we be ok?

2) Definitely planning on trying the burger based on hounds recs here...any other standouts from the bar menu? Or, for that matter, from the regular menu as well (if we can also order from that, at the bar?)

3) Cocktail standouts?

Any other advice you can offer is much appreciated. It's a rare night out for us without the little one so we want to make the best of it :)

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  1. Arrive immediately at 5:30 (or even 5:20) or wait until 11 to arrive if you want to be able to get seats right away. Otherwise, you can stand and wait for seats to open. It's a bit of a crapshoot. You may have to wait 15-20 minutes or it may be an hour. Arriving at 7 would be a good time for a changeover from the first group of 5:30 diners, but a lot of people show up during those normal dinner hours (7-8:30).

    Definitely get the burger. Everything else is good, so just go with what you think you will like. The octopus is very very good.

    For cocktails - I would just talk to Tommy and let him guide you. He is incredible. The menu drinks are tasty, but often a bit weak for me. Tommy has rarely steered me wrong when going off menu, though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DoubleMan

      I really enjoyed the Northern Lights cocktail. The burger is great, and while I have a pretty huge appetite, I was pretty stuffed - we had a couple of complimentary treats, tea infused panna cottas and a rhubard/yogurt foam palate cleanser. Wasn't a huge fan of the Taza chocolate mousse with olive oil, and probably would've gone with a fruit dessert had I read up a bit in advance.

    2. It sounds like you want to literally sit at the bar and not just in the bar area BUT you could also take the timing pressure off and just make a reservation for the bar side and still get your burger and cocktail!

      1. That bar is never not packed except when it first opens.

        In my experience, the bar staff manages the at-the-bar seating for walk-ins, so let them know you'd like two seats at the bar when you arrive, and they'll hook you up with the first available and manage the queue of standing patrons. Making reservations is a better idea, of course.

        Your drink options are pretty wide open. I'd suggest a quick conversation with the bartender about what spirits you typically drink and some flavor direction (tart/citrusy, savory/bitter, etc.) and let them choose something for you: really fun, and I've never had a less-than-terrific cocktail there.

        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

        1. If you can eat both the burger and an appetizer the crispy fried pig tails are to die for. My wife turned her nose up at them when I ordered them, but she asked me for a second piece after I talked her into having a first piece. I agree that you should talk to Tom (bespectacled gentleman who runs the bar) for whichever libations you like, and he'll steer you to some amazing cocktails. The Northern Lights is also one of my favorite drinks there. Enjoy!

          3 Replies
          1. re: kimfair1

            I just gave that crispy pigs'-tails dish a Stuff Magazine 2009 Dining Award for "Oddest Crazy-Delicious Ingredient". It really is something else! And I think all the bartenders under Tom's direction are capable of doing that "find your perfect drink" routine.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              All the bartenders at Craigie ARE very good, but I've been a big Tom fan since his Eastern Standard days when he convinced me that I could love a gin drink (The Aviation), so I'm a bit biased!

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I dream about those pig tails, simply awesome. And I think Tommy is amazing, but that extends to his having trained his other bartenders well, so you're always in good hands.

            2. potato galette is a standout, also their bone marrow if you like that. Sablefish if they have it on special (they did last night). not so much a fan of their steak or brussel sprouts. ask them for the Threadneedle (w/ their house peach brandy instead of the original house juniper brandy which they;re out of), they also make a mean 1919 cocktail (they can also split cocktails if you ask nicely ;) If Tom is working (and not too busy), the flaming tiki drink is a special treat!

                1. re: SuperFineSugar

                  are you talking about Drink, or Craigie?

                2. I agree that its definitely a crapshoot when getting a seat at the bar. Just go enjoy a drink (if you don't mind standing) and wait for a seat. I've never been let down by the Neighborhood Menu (3 courses for around 35). I also love getting the roasted marrow bones.

                  1. Agree with what all the other posters have already said with regards to your questions 1 and 3.

                    The potage of Long Island cheese pumpkin was divine a couple of days ago. For dessert, I'm a fan of the cornbread pain perdu - not at all heavy (which is what I was hesitant about the first time I ordered it) and the accompanying flavors are unusually sophisticated. Also, if they have the roast half pig's head special and you're in the mood for something rich, it's delectable.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: peelmeagrape

                      I had both the pumpkin soup and the cornbread the last time we were there and loved both.

                    2. Is the-bar-is-always-packed rule apply during the week, as well, or just on weekends?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Blumie

                        In my experience, yes, even on rainy, miserable nights. I can remember one time I walked in solo, about nine o'clock on Wed or Thu, and there were two couples standing at the bar waiting for seats. One solo diner got up, so I got his seat: mirable! Otherwise, minimum of 20-30 minutes for a pair, often longer. It's not comfortable to stand in the bar, either: you're always in the way of some server who's waiting on bar tables, hovering over the shoulder of bar patrons trying to enjoy dinner/drinks. I'll endure it, but I have friends who hate that aspect of it.

                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          We are huge fans of Craigie. The only time we have ever walked in and been seated at the bar without a wait was last December during a blizzard. We even got parking right in front.

                          Craigie has some of the best craft cocktails and reliable food in the City (the City being defined as both Boston and Cambridge)

                          1. re: kate used to be 50

                            I was there on a Tuesday night a couple of weeks ago. Showed up around 7:00, got seated right away, and at no point was the bar or the bar area completely full. But YMMV. I actually prefer the bar area now. High quality food and drink without the pomposity factor.

                      2. I'm just agreeing with everyone, but
                        - Get there before 6.
                        - All the bartenders are excellent. Tom runs the show but don't worry that you need to track him down to have superb cocktails.
                        - The sitting-at-the-bar experience is indeed great.
                        - The standing-near-the-bar experience sucks. You're in someone's way no matter how hard you try.
                        - The burger is awesome, so much so that it is always hard to order anything else.
                        - The pig's tails are also great.
                        - It's no longer listed on the menu, but I really like their Camino, a Manhattan-like drink with Mirto (myrtle liqueur). Goes great with the burger.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: dfan

                          One last question: if I show up early enough, is there a place in the bar area where I can sit with my 10-year-old daughter? I'm pretty sure Boston's Puritanical laws prevent her from being able to sit at the bar.

                          1. re: Blumie

                            You can make a reservation and request one of the tables in the bar - they have high- and low-tops.

                              1. re: Blumie

                                And the last time we were there a gentleman was dining with his daughter in the Bar area (at a table). I would guess his daughter to be about 10 years.

                                1. re: kate used to be 50

                                  It wasn't me. (Among other things, I'm no gentleman!) But we'll certainly try it soon. (She and I recently went to Rendezvous for the first time, and we both loved it. We're loving living in Cambridge!)

                                  1. re: Blumie

                                    Blumie, I could swear I saw you there last Friday at around 7. There was a dad, two kids, and a BIG empty carafe of wine. Then I remembered you only have one kid.

                                    1. re: yumyum

                                      You'll be able to tell it's me: my daughter will be the one taking copious notes for the neighborhood newsletter she has started to produce for distribution in our Mid-Cambridge neighborhood. In volume 1, published on Monday, East Coast Grill and Rendezvous each received 4-1/2 stars (she did criticize ECG for the small portion of buffalo shrimp!); Christina's only received 3!

                                      I plan to be there Sunday night at around 10, but not with my daughter.

                            1. re: Blumie

                              i have seen kids sitting at the bar (with their parents) as well...ask for a mocktail, one of their specialties

                          2. To add a serious reply to this thread, I have to say it is annoying that you have to arrive at 5:20 to get a spot at this bar. I jumped out of the cab at 5:13 and there was a line. The food is delicious, to be sure. Tommy is doing some fun stuff behind the bar. Courtney is good when Tom isn't available to schmooze. Pig Tails RULE. But really ... what is that all about? I think for pure relaxation alone I'd head up the street to Green Street for a cocktail.

                            I'm still going back for the burger, though.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: yumyum

                              And now they are adding all sorts of deals for dining at the bar (like the Taste Trifecta - 2 plates and a cocktail for $28 available at the bar on weekdays from 5:30-6). Do they really need MORE bar business?

                              I think Tony and Tommy should take over the Cambridgeport Saloon and open Craigie on Mass - a much more casual and bar-focused place that Tommy can run.

                              1. re: DoubleMan

                                I don't nkow how true this is, but I heard a long while ago that MIT had purchased the CPS with the intention of turning it into dorms or something along those lines.

                                That'd be a cool idea though. It'd be nice if they made the toilet in the men's room slightly more private though :)

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  That's dumb. That place should rise again (but hopefully in a less scary incarnation).

                                  1. re: DoubleMan

                                    You have a 1/2 an hour to secure a spot at the bar and order the trifecta? It takes a 1/2 hour just to get a seat??

                                    1. re: DoubleMan

                                      I actually really liked going there, but some of the folks near the end did cause some eyebrow raising (e.g. the bartender pulling a knife on a customer the last night they were open). Back when it was going strong, that reggae place in the middlesex space was there and All Asia was doing punk shows, my friends & i used to refer to that corner as the triangle of death.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        "I actually really liked going there, but some of the folks near the end did cause some eyebrow raising (e.g. the bartender pulling a knife on a customer the last night they were open). Back when it was going strong, that reggae place in the middlesex space was there and All Asia was doing punk shows, my friends & i used to refer to that corner as the triangle of death."

                                        For a minute I thought you were talking about Craigie!!!

                                        1. re: Blumie

                                          Hah! So far the roughest I've seen at Craigie is a forceful thrust of the cocktail shaker :)