Mainely Burgers: good enough to take on the competition
Between the b.goods and Shake Shacks, the Tasty Burgers and Five Guys — just to name a few — it’s hard to turn a corner in this town without bumping into a new burger place. There’s no end in sight to this trend. Last month, Mainely Burgers — the first brick and mortar from a small fleet of Portland-based food trucks — opened in Central Square.
What’s a Maine burger brand doing in Massachusetts? Jack Barber, 23, who started the company after his freshman year at Babson, co-owns Mainely Burgers with his 21-year-old brother, Max, who is entering his senior year at the school. The two fell for Cambridge on jaunts into the city with college friends and decided it was the place to set up a more stationary shop.
The restaurant’s décor depicts the company’s journey, with a mural of the food truck’s route from Maine to Massachusetts. There are nods to Vacationland cabins: banquettes and countertops from Maine Heritage Timber in Millinocket, a counter made with end-cut logs where you’ll order your burger.
Start with the Mainah ($8.50), which comes with caramelized onions, bacon, thinly sliced apples, cheddar cheese, and surprisingly good maple mayo. All those sweet toppings actually play well with the juicy, meaty burger. Our only complaint is it arrives more well done than the medium we requested.
If you prefer to keep your burgers in squarely savory territory, try the MB classic ($6.50), with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, American cheese, and the creamy-ketchupy house sauce. The Beast ($8.50) is made for big appetites (and maybe hangovers), slathered with barbecue sauce and topped with cheese, pickles, and several strips of smoky bacon. Shroom & Swiss ($7.50) has a generous topping of sautéed mushrooms and melted cheese with lettuce and tomato. We just wish it had a touch more of that house sauce.
All the burgers are made with fresh-ground chuck and hold their own against other modern fast-food joints in town. Those on special diets will appreciate the option of a gluten-free bun, or burgers served over extra lettuce in a bowl.
The all-beef split and seared hot dogs are a satisfying bet, too. We order ours Chicago-style ($4.50), which comes with sautéed onions (rather than the traditional chopped white), fresh tomatoes, mustard, relish, and celery salt. It’s not exactly “dragged through the garden” — where are the sport peppers, neon green relish, and poppy-seed bun? But it’s pretty good. The creamy frappes ($5.50) and root-beer floats ($4) are a perfect pairing.
For sides, the hand-cut fries ($3.50) from Maine potatoes are tasty — thick-cut and rustic with bits of skin. You can skip the truffle fries ($4), which are doused in acrid-tasting oil.
We come for the burgers, but these guys know how to make the cruciferous crave-able. Brussels sprouts ($4) are caramelized with crisp brown outer leaves from a quick dip in the fryer, and mixed with a compelling blend of tamari, garlic, brown sugar, and sesame seeds. Cauliflower ($4) gets the same hot oil treatment to bring out its sweetness, before being tossed with lemon, parsley, and capers. Mainely Burgers: “The way vegetables should be.”
There are many reasons to give this new-burger-on-the-block a shot, including friendly service and an inviting atmosphere — but mainly it’s the fresh and flavorful food.
704 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge, 617-945-7010, www.mainely-burgers.com
All major credit cards. Restaurant is wheelchair accessible but bathrooms are not.
Prices Burgers and fries $4-$9.50, sides $3.50-$4, floats and shakes $4-$5.50
Hours Sun-Tue 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Wed-Sat 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
What to order Mainah, MB Classic, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, strawberry frappe