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Journeyman vs. Bondir vs. Bergamot vs. Craigie vs. TW Food

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How would you stack them up side by side?...I've heard and read mixed reviews so it's been confusing.
All i know is that each of them offers creative contemporary cooking and that is what i'm looking for.
I've omitted other spots like O Ya and Clio for the simple reason that i find them to be too expensive of a splurge.
Which of them is delivers the highest degree of consistency in terms of deliciousness?

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O Ya
9 East Street, Boston, MA 02111

Bondir
279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. I have only been to Bondir and Craigie so can only compare those two. They feel totally different to me. Bondir is much smaller and in my opinion a little more romantic due to its fireplace and quieter room. I was at Craigie on Saturday night and if anyone was trying to have a romantic dinner... well, I'm sorry. But my party of four was laughing (sometimes raucously, again I apologize) for 3 hours straight. I don't think that would happen as easily at Bondir given the set up of room. Bondir also doesn't serve hard alcohol so the lack of a preprandial cocktail perhaps keeps things a little calmer in there.

    Both restaurants have a constantly changing menu based on fresh ingredients available that day. I liked the food at Bondir and certainly plan to go back there but the execution is not quite on par with Craigie. Craigie's execution is consistently excellent and in many cases perfect. Craigie has been excellent every time I've gone. I've only been to Bondir once so I can't speak to its consistency.

    The price point for those restaurants different though. Dinner for four at Craigie was almost $500 (regular menu not tasting menu). Dinner for two at Bondir was around $100 and maybe a little more depending on the bottle of wine you order.

    Can I also throw Hungry Mother into your decision making? I find that more similar to Bondir. The food at HM is consistently great. Its probably my favorite restaurant in Cambridge beating out Craigie and Salts mostly due to value.

    You should also consider Salts which often flies under the radar but is also excellent. Salts is just less scene-y than Craigie. While the service is professional at both, the service at Salts is a little warmer. The food is similar to Craigie in execution. If you are a dessert person, the desserts at Salts are better than Craigie.

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    Hungry Mother
    Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

    Bondir
    279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

    1. I would like to echo heypielady's comments on Bondir and Craigie. I have also only been to these two restaurants (of the ones you listed) and agree that, while Bondir is more romantic, Craigie is better for a group. (I would never turn down an invitation to either.)

      Consistency:
      Craigie: Supremely consistent. I have eaten at Craigie on Main several times, and Craigie St. Bistro, its predecessor several times. I can't recall a single thing from Tony's kitchen that wasn't delicious. My only problem there is that my eyes are often bigger than my stomach.
      Bondir: I have also only been to Bondir once, so have little to contribute on its consistency. However, my wife and I ordered a starter each and 4 half-sized entrees. Everything was 'very good' to 'delicious', though we did have a few nitpicks here and there.

      However, I feel that these two restaurants serve very different needs for me. I want to celebrate at Craigie, but go to Bondir on a date night with my wife.

      The Craigie menu, staff and experience seems a bit more "professional", and by that I mean it's more of a cerebral, at times clinical experience. Tony's menu can be very creative and challenging, and elicit comments like, "How did he do that?". The staff is very knowledgeable and appropriately attentive. The experience is polished without being slick, if you take my meaning. This is where we go when we have a promotion or similar, and want to celebrate in a group.

      Bondir is far more intimate. The half-entree concept promotes sharing food with your companion(s). The fireplace and small room create an environment where your conversation may happily attract the couple next to you. The staff seems poised more to ensure you're comfortable than that you are informed in great detail about the menu and ingredient sourcing. This is where I want to go when the planets align and my wife and I can get out of the house on a weeknight.

      I really enjoy the bar at Hungry Mother, but haven't been overly impressed with their food in the two times I've eaten there. If it was in a different neighborhood I would probably frequent it more, but if I am going out in that area I'd rather go to Craigie, Bondir or Helmand.

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      Hungry Mother
      Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

      Craigie on Main
      853 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

      Bondir
      279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

      1 Reply
      1. re: Area Man

        Echo the two previous posts. We went to Bondir for the first time last weekend and were very disappointed. With the exception of a scallop entre, the dishes were very bland and ordinary. This included the beet salad appetizer, on which some praise has been lavished on this board. The other dishes were a pork loin, a duck dish, and a papardelle and root vegetables entre. Nothing "wrong" with any of them - just not the taste explosion that we were hoping for.

        As to the place itself, I agree with the other posters who say it is more of a quaint, cozy neighborhood place, and not fine dining on the scale of the Cragies, former and current. They were/are exceptional.

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        Bondir
        279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

      2. I can compare several. My personal preference for a guaranteed great dinner would be Craigie. I've been many times and never been disappointed. Consistency is flawless. I love the service at Bergamot, and I think the prices are a bit more reasonable than Craigie (whose prices I'm happy to pay since I know I'll love the food, but it does take a chunk out of the wallet). The atmosphere is good at both. I find the food to be a bit more refined at Craigie, which I guess is what you're paying for. Bergamot sometimes seems like they're missing a dish or two from the menu, and a vegetarian meal there was disappointing whereas Craigie, while most think of as a meat place, has fantastic veg options. TW Food had a great atmosphere, very intimate and personal and warm, friendly service. The food however has been a little inconsistent. It seems to promise a little more than it delivers, while I often find Craigie to deliver more than I expect.

        Other posters have mentioned Hungry Mother, and maybe I was there on an off night, but I would not put it in remotely the same league as any of the OP's mentions and in fact have not gone back.

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        Hungry Mother
        Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

        1. I largely agree with the other commenters, but want to add that if creativity is your main concern, I think Craigie and Journeyman are your best bets. I've never been to Journeyman, so I can't speak to the quality, but the food is certainly creative (even if it's sometimes based on the creativity of other, famous chefs - see early threads about Journeyman).

          Craigie does things that you won't see at any other restaurant and they do them very well. I've never had a bad meal there and never left feeling like I didn't get a good value. And if alcohol is a concern, I think Craigie's wine list and cocktails are clearly tops of the group.

          I love Bondir, but feel that it's more of a great neighborhood spot and not a real destination place.

          Re: Hungry Mother, I think it's one of, if not the most overrated restaurant in the area. It's good, but it's not something worthy of national attention (which it has received) or 2+ week long waits to get reservations. Everytime I go there, I always leave somewhat disappointed and scratching my head about why it is so popular. Moreover, it's not particularly creative fare.

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          Hungry Mother
          Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

          Bondir
          279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

          1 Reply
          1. re: DoubleMan

            Re: Hungry Mother, I feel I should list my reasons on why I like it since its not feeling the love on this thread. DoubleMan is correct that the food is not particularly creative. In contrast, it is pretty straight forward. Many times when reviewing the menu, I'll admit that nothing jumps out at me. But when I narrow my choice down to whether I'm in the mood for fish, steak, or sausage, I'm always very impressed with my meal and how well everything on my plate compliments each other. The sum is always better than the parts.

            I also just like the relaxed vibe in there. Craigie was great for our celebratory dinner. But for my husband's chilled out birthday dinner for two, I love HM.

            And finally: man oh man... those desserts! As my name indicates, I'm a pretty awesome pie maker (and all around baker if I do say so myself). HM's desserts just ticks all the boxes of what I'm looking for in a dessert. They are very homey and unpretentious made with high quality ingredients.

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            Hungry Mother
            Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

          2. Craigie for a splurge and an experience
            Bondir for a romantic date with your sweetheart
            Bergamot for a gathering with friends
            TW Food for a special occasion (birthday, etc)
            (I haven't been to Journeyman)

            I think the biggest difference among them is the ambiance of each. When I went to TW Food, it was very quiet. Bergamot is casual and lively. Bondir is romantic and Craigie is a scene. But honestly, you really can't go wrong picking any of them.

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            Bondir
            279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

            1. I've been to all at least once (Craigie and TW Food multiple times). I think all five of them are great restaurants, but Craigie stands out to me as the most consistent, creative, and tasty. Craigie also has the best bartending (Bondir, TW Food, and Journeyman are, IIRC, wine/beer only, if that matters to you).

              I agree with others characterizations of Bondir and Bergamot as more neighborhood places: Bondir more romantic and date-night in atmosphere, Bergamot more casual. This is not to say that the food isn't great, but they are aiming at a bit of a lower level than Craigie/TW Food/Journeyman, IMO.

              TW Food, when it is on, can be really excellent. The atmosphere is a lot quieter than Craigie, and the restaurant is much smaller. Some things I've had there rank up with the best that Craigie can produce, but I don't think the menu is as consistent across the board. Still, I've always enjoyed my meals there, and generally been really blow away by at least one thing. TW Food also does generally very well chosen wine pairings with their tasting menus, which Craigie does not do.

              Journeyman I have only been to once, and that was soon after they opened. There were clearly some opening-month jitters with service and portion size, and some misses with the dishes. But overall I was impressed, and the level of adventurousness in Journeyman's food is high. As far as atmosphere, I think it was Devra First in her review that described it like attending a dinner party -- I think that is a perfect description. The waitstaff, at least when we were there, was earnest and helpful and the space is friendly and open, but the whole operation feels casual, which of course has both pluses and minuses.

              Craigie, as many others have said, is consistently excellent, and I certainly agree.

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              Bondir
              279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

              1 Reply
              1. re: greenzebra

                Good summary (I've been to all but Bondir). By the way, Journeyman does have cocktails.

              2. We've had two great meals at Journeyman. I notice that no one is listing them here, and generally they are a little out of the way, in Union square. What I particularly enjoyed was that their food was delicious AND interesting.

                I found Bondir a little unimaginative.

                TW Food - i've only been there once. We had amazing appetizers but the main course was not too thrilling.

                And more recently - we had a delicious dinner at East by Northeast. Not too expensive but nice.

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                East by Northeast
                1128 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                Bondir
                279 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139