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Cambridge Common - Wow, what a terrible hamburger.

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celeriac Mar 4, 2010 07:08 PM

So I stopped into Cambridge Common this evening because they had a couple beers on tap that I've been wanting to try. Despite pretty lousy past experiences with food from the Christophers/Cambridge Common food, I somehow convinced myself to try their burger. Ordered a quarter-pounder (because I have a predilection for smaller, fast-food style burgers) medium-rare. Now, i realize that medium-rare on a small burger is probably not realistic (though it is achievable--I pull it off at home). But at places like Flat Patties they manage to keep some pink and plenty of moisture in thin burgers.

My burger arrived thin, gray and very dry. The patty was utterly devoid of any beef flavor, juice or fat. it was totally overwhelmed by a too-large, dry, slightly stale and cool bun. The burger had all the taste and appeal of a high-school cafeteria lunch. The cheese was the wrong variety (requested American, got cheddar), the rabbit food (lettuce/tomato/onion) fairly pallid. The only saving graces were decent homemade pickle slices and food service-grade curly fries that were competently fried.

I smothered the thing in ketchup and mustard, ate about half, and gave up.

I can't believe that people eat at this place.

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  1. BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: celeriac Mar 4, 2010 08:47 PM

    As far as I know, people get beer and tater tots at Cambridge Common. Those are certainly the only decent things I've ever gotten there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
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      celeriac RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Mar 5, 2010 02:22 AM

      Well, I know that's all I'll ever order in the future. A look around my neighbors at the bar, however, indicated that lots of folks eat full meals there.

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      LStaff RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 04:43 AM

      I get the burger everytime I eat there and its always bangin'. Quarter lb. burger - is that an option that's different than their regular burgers? I always get the English burger or whatever its called and its never thin, dry, or devoid of flavor - in fact, its always the opposite of that. Maybe you just ordered the wrong burger? Hardly a reason to call out people who eat there.

      11 Replies
      1. re: LStaff
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        celeriac RE: LStaff Mar 5, 2010 06:00 AM

        Not my intention to call anyone out, perhaps I got a little worked up in my rhetoric. My concern is with the terrible hamburger I was served, and trying to advise other 'hounds against it. Others can continue to spend their money on whatever they like. As for ordering the "wrong burger"... they have a 1/4 pound and 1/2 pound burger on the menu. I don't like half pound burgers, and it doesn't make sense to me that one should be great and the other terrible. Your experience was your experience, I'm just reporting mine. Maybe it's just wild inconsistency. For what it's worth, I also found the veggie burger at Christopher's (owned by the same people) to be astonishingly bad.

        1. re: celeriac
          soxchik RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 06:05 AM

          I'm in the tater tots and beer camp for Cambridge Common, but the homemade veggie burger (not the other one) at Christopher's is one of my favorite in the area.

          1. re: soxchik
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            shellicopter RE: soxchik Mar 5, 2010 06:13 AM

            I recently tried the infamous veggie burger at Christophers and was not blown away. The burger itself was fine, had some good flavors, the pesto that came on it was kind of dry and didn't really jive with the flavors, as much as I love pesto, and finally, the bun really ruined it for me. The bun was heavy and dry and looked like something you'd get on an airplane. Especially when placed around a very starchy burger, it was almost impossible to eat, I ended up avoiding most of the bun. The salad and fries were fine but the pickle was really salty and not great.
            On another note, the week prior I tried the veggie burger at the Independent in Union sq which I thought was really impressive. Really big, lots of great veggie flavors, bites of whole chickpeas, and then lightly fried to get a really crispy outside. The bun worked well and the side salad I got was really nicely dressed. I'm no expert but of the two I found the Independent to be a much better option.

            1. re: shellicopter
              chickendhansak RE: shellicopter Mar 5, 2010 07:01 AM

              Agreed, I had the Christopher's veggie burger the other day and thought it was dry. Still better than most, to be fair.

              I go to Cambridge Common a fair amount as the beer is great and reasonably priced. For bar food, I think buffalo tenders are good, but the portion is small for the money. The nachos are under-topped, but if you can get them to make you chili nachos it can be pretty good. The mashed potatoes are just how I like them. Their new Cubano is better than many (if not the place across the street) and a generous portion for ~$7. Subbed with mashed potato rather than fries, it's a fine way to bring on a food coma. I have had perfectly serviceable burgers there, nothing outstanding.

              1. re: chickendhansak
                jgg13 RE: chickendhansak Mar 5, 2010 07:57 AM

                The beer pricing is funny. They have a lot of stuff there that seems cheaper than other bars w/ good beer selections (I'm looking at you, Bukowski!) but some of their stuff is *way* overpriced. You have to pay attention to what you're ordering.

                1. re: jgg13
                  chickendhansak RE: jgg13 Mar 5, 2010 08:29 AM

                  I think that's a fair comment. But the bottom end of their prices is very reasonable for the quality, and I guess that's what I'm getting at. It's by no means a place where every craft brew starts at $6+, even $5+.

                  1. re: chickendhansak
                    jgg13 RE: chickendhansak Mar 5, 2010 09:18 AM

                    Agreed. I got into an argument w/ someone not too long ago (it might have been you, actually) that opened my eyes about the prices the next time I went over there. It seems that my go-tos tended towards their overpriced beers. Doh!

                    They have a bunch of stuff around $5

                    1. re: chickendhansak
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                      LStaff RE: chickendhansak Mar 5, 2010 11:14 AM

                      ...and they got rid of their cheater pint glasses. And I believe (but not sure) that they include tax in those prices (unlike Redbones). But yeah, just like any other place, you have to know what you are buying in order to not get ripped off - or to find the best deal.

                      1. re: LStaff
                        jgg13 RE: LStaff Mar 5, 2010 11:19 AM

                        FWIW I also heard them claim that they were serving things at the proper temps but I haven't noticed that.

                        1. re: LStaff
                          chickendhansak RE: LStaff Mar 5, 2010 11:58 AM

                          All pint glasses are a cheat when you're used to 20oz. ;)

                          1. re: chickendhansak
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                            LStaff RE: chickendhansak Mar 9, 2010 05:17 AM

                            ...and since the regular pint glass found in most bars only holds about 12-14 ozs with a little head. To get 16 oz., it has to filled nearly to the brim.

          2. jgg13 RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 06:37 AM

            I think that it is pretty far from being a dining destination (I even attend some of their beer pairing dinners and almost always and pretty underwhelmed with the food portion - which in theory would be better than their normal fare), but I will say that the one time I had a burger there it was pretty good. Not mind blowing or anything, but decent enough that I'd have it again if I ended up there and was really hungry. I had the jerk burger med rare ... it was by no means "jerk", I have no idea why they call it that, but it was pretty tasty and cooked a nice medium rare (more on the rare side, exactly how I like it). I'll admit that I was famished that night so most things would have tasted good at that point.

            1. z
              zach272 RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 07:13 AM

              Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience! I've had the (half-pound) burger there a few times and while it's certainly not top tier, I tend to think it's a solid burger - I've certainly never had it as bad as you did. In any case, I generally get appetizers there - the fried pickles and buffalo wings are both excellent, in my opinion at least.

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                El Guapo RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 07:25 AM

                I haven't eaten there in years, so the menu has probably changed, but when I used to go more often, they had a regular burger and a "black angus" burger, and there was a huge difference in quality.

                1. d
                  djd RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 07:41 AM

                  Ditto on not having eaten there in a couple of years, but I never managed to see past the BLT. Man do I love me a BLT. I remember it was good, as you'd expect from any sandwich that smothered applewood-smoked bacon in mayo.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: djd
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                    somuchdessert RE: djd Mar 5, 2010 08:00 AM

                    The BLT is still excellent, particularly in its current incarnation with avocado and chipotle mayo. Ok, so the half-pound burgers aren't worth getting excited over - and I now know to avoid the quarter-pounder! - but I can't find better sweet potato fries or spinach/artichoke dip in the city. I could happily eat a meal's worth of Cambridge Common appetizers...washed down with some tasty brew, of course.

                  2. s
                    scratchie RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 08:53 AM

                    Their mac & cheese and chicken pot pie are also pretty weak, FYI. Bland, bland, bland. And when I ordered a shot of whiskey straight up, they poured it over ice, first, to cool it(??), and then poured the (now watered-down) shot into another glass. WTF?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: scratchie
                      BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: scratchie Mar 5, 2010 10:45 AM

                      Well, there are those -- myself among them -- who think a little bit of ice melt, rather than "watering down" a shot of whiskey, opens up both its flavor and its aroma. But that's more of an argument for the Spirits board, since it doesn't have anything to do with how bad most of the food is at Cambridge Common. Which it is.

                      1. re: scratchie
                        Alcachofa RE: scratchie Mar 6, 2010 05:46 AM

                        You shoulda ordered it "neat".

                      2. m
                        makonna RE: celeriac Mar 5, 2010 04:10 PM

                        Sorry about your experience. I've had some pretty bland items, but there are some winners. Although I don't go very often, I love their chicken fingers (my favorite place for them) and sweet potatoe fries. I've never had a bad burger experience either.

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                          Soxfan49 RE: celeriac Mar 6, 2010 11:02 AM

                          I agree that Cambridge Common's food could be better, but you get what you pay for; there aren't too many other places around that offer that wide a beer selection, plenty of entrees around $10, and decent service. Although I certainly wouldn't recommend it to someone looking to impress a date, it's a great spot to meet up with a few friends and throw down some beers, and have a few fried pickles. I can't comment on the 1/4 burger as I've only had the 1/2 pounder, but it's never really stood out, in a good or bad way. They tend to overcook it slightly so I just order it rare and it comes out medium rare.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Soxfan49
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                            autopi RE: Soxfan49 Mar 6, 2010 12:38 PM

                            cambridge common is cheap, but i hate it anyway. nearby (-ish) suggestions: highland kitchen, where you can get a fantastic, and quite large, sandwich w/great fries and pickles for $10. and a burger at the bar at gargoyles--the burger itself is really good (much better than cambridge common), and the waffle fries & house ketchup take it over the top, also $10.

                            and for what it's worth, i agree with the comments upthread re: christopher's veggie burger. way overrated.

                            1. re: autopi
                              jgg13 RE: autopi Mar 7, 2010 06:13 AM

                              That seems like an agressive view of "nearby", granted you said '-ish'. You're talking a T ride + more ... if that's the case the whole city should become available

                              1. re: autopi
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                                celeriac RE: autopi Mar 7, 2010 07:26 AM

                                I'll add in that the Highland burger is one of my favorites in town. Great, intense flavor, usually cooked perfectly to temp, juicy enough, and usually great fries as well. The sandwiches there really are a terrific deal. I wasn't expecting anything quite so great at CC, but still...

                                1. re: autopi
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                                  Soxfan49 RE: autopi Mar 7, 2010 11:02 AM

                                  Wow can't believe I'm going to write two post's supporting Cambridge Common.
                                  First point, CC, is much cheaper than HK, the entrees at HK are on average 50% more than CC. You can get a $10 sandwich at HK but the fish and chips run you $16 as opposed to $10 at CC. Although $6 (or $3 for the burger) isn't a huge amount for one meal it adds up after a few outings.
                                  Second point is location. I don't view HK and Cambridge Common as nearby (-ish). I live between Porter and Harvard, less than a ten minute walk from CC and 25 minutes from HK, and in the dead of winter that makes a big difference. Also if I'm going to walk the extra 15 minutes for a burger, I'll head to The Druid.
                                  Don't get me wrong I'm a big fan of HK and go often in the summer, it's just a different beast than CC. Their food is better but they are farther away from me, have higher prices, and a smaller beer selection.

                                  1. re: Soxfan49
                                    chickendhansak RE: Soxfan49 Mar 7, 2010 11:11 AM

                                    Wow, I could have written this almost to the word. I agree with everything you wrote.

                                    1. re: Soxfan49
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                                      autopi RE: Soxfan49 Mar 7, 2010 04:07 PM

                                      as to the price point: if you're comparing entrees, fair enough. i was just comparing prices on burgers/sandwiches, since that's the theme of the thread. but yeah, no doubt, hk is more expensive than cc in general.

                                      i'm not trying to turn this into a best-burger-in-camberville discussion, just pointing out that there are better burgers nearby than what you can get at cc. if highland kitchen and gargoyle are too far, mr bartleys is worlds better, and i've heard good things about harvest's burger. and now about the druid. probably a bunch of other places too.

                                      1. re: autopi
                                        jgg13 RE: autopi Mar 7, 2010 04:15 PM

                                        Bartleys doesn't serve beer and Druid isn't remotely in the same neighborhood.

                                        1. re: jgg13
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                                          autopi RE: jgg13 Mar 7, 2010 07:08 PM

                                          i didn't say the druid was; that was soxfan49's suggestion. and i was explicit about comparing burgers, not beer. please read the posts before replying. geez.

                                          1. re: autopi
                                            jgg13 RE: autopi Mar 8, 2010 03:49 AM

                                            Oh, I read 'em, I just think that your suggestions have been silly. The places you're tossing out there aren't really comparable. If all you want to look at is burgers, and apparently a 15-20 min trek, why not send them to craigie?

                                2. elbev RE: celeriac Mar 6, 2010 03:21 PM

                                  It is true that some people really like the English Burger or whatever it is called (the one served on the english muffin). I have had it a couple of times and found it dry and bland (very similar to OP's qp-er assessment. Also had the angus once and felt the same way. Frankly, I think the burgers at Camb Common are no better than the legendarily vile things dished out down the road a piece at John Harvard's. As far as I am concerned the little trick of slapping them onto english muffins does nothing to change this.

                                  1. g
                                    Gabatta RE: celeriac Mar 6, 2010 07:20 PM

                                    The wings are pretty good, otherwise I haven't found anything else I'd eat here.

                                    1. lipoff RE: celeriac Mar 7, 2010 03:36 AM

                                      I have a burger there from time to time, and it's been fine, but noting special. I usually have the turkey club there, as I did just a few days ago. It's a very nice sandwich, with well toasted bread, but also perhaps nothing special. The pickles that come with it are really excellent, and I think their sweet potato fries are my favorite example of the genre. But no, Cambridge Common is not a dining destination. Sorry you had a really bad experience though --- I suspect that's more the exception. I was there a few days ago with three British people, which should confirm that. They ordered food in about thirty seconds, and then spent about fifteen minutes discussing the various beer options with the waitress. =)

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