Where to The Kirkland Tap & Trotter in Somerville, the second restaurant from chef Tony Maws of Craigie on Main.
What for James Beard award winner Maws made his name with refined, French-inspired nose-to-tail cookery. He’s also won a following for his bar-menu burger. What happens when he merges the two modes and opens a more-relaxed neighborhood spot? Come here to find out.
The scene The restaurant has an urban-rustic aesthetic, with original brick and exposed beams, mismatched chairs, and assorted vintage-y signage: Big letters on one wall read “KT&T.” There is a busy open kitchen and a wood-fired grill. At the crowded bar, men in plaid flannel and aprons make old-fashioneds for guest after guest. “Bourbon or rye?” they ask. The latter, always. It’s a rye crowd. “If I never drink a vodka-based cocktail again I’ll be happy with it,” says a woman with a red streak in her black hair. In one corner, cute girls share a Moroccan-spiced carrot salad. People from various Cambridge restaurants hail one another, everyone in to try the new place. “Suzi Q!,” says a guy at the bar as Trina’s Starlite Lounge chef Suzi Maitland makes her way over. A round is poured. Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Nirvana, and Led Zeppelin play. Suddenly, a burst of flames in the kitchen. People yelp, then laugh as the fire subsides.
What you’re eating The burger is a no-brainer. It’s different from the one at Craigie on Main’s bar, but it looks gorgeous, grass-fed beef with provolone and horseradish cream, fat, crisp rounds of potato on the side. Or try the house-made spaghetti, wonderfully chewy, with chicken liver, pumpkin, and brown butter.
Care for a drink? The Green & Grain is potent and refreshing: cucumber, rye, dry vermouth, and Chartreuse. Beer and wine lists are satisfying and eclectic. But maybe you want something called “The Bag or the Bat?” What is that? Shots, basically: “The purpose is to get you drunk,” the bartender says.
Overheard Strangers offering to share food. People calling other people “buddy.” People trying to sort out bill and order mixups. People talking about “Top Chef,” massages, Airbnb, and gambling. “Who is the patron saint of sandwiches?” someone wonders. “We’ve gone out two school nights in a row!” another guest says. “You wanna high five?” a guy asks a bartender. “I like high fives,” he replies, amenable. “I’ll do a shot of Fernet,” someone says. “I’m a little freaked out about the chicken liver part,” says a woman contemplating the spaghetti. “You shouldn’t be! It’s flavor,” the server tells her. But mostly people want to talk about burgers: the Craigie burger (“it has ruined me for other burgers”), the Kirkland Tap & Trotter version (“I know it’s not going to be the Craigie burger, but Tony Maws isn’t going to serve a bad burger”), whether the Craigie burger is worth the price. Definitely, a woman says dreamily: “It’s almost like biting into butter. There are many senses involved.”
425 Washington St., Somerville. 857-259-6585. email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.