This, folks, is the Craigie on Main burger served at Tony Maws' restaurant in Central Square, Cambridge. It's one of the finest versions of chopped-beef-on-bun you will find anywhere, and it's no accident that it is.
On a personal level, Craigie on Main is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Heck, I even proposed to my wife at its previous incarnation as Craigie Street Bistrot before it made its move to bigger, better, shiner digs a few years back. (The ring was delivered around the rib of a wild boar chop). Ever since Tony told me that he was working on a burger to add to the restaurant's bar menu, I'd been following its evolution closely.
It took him over six months of testing: He slowly honed down his beef blend (the final version contains three cuts of beef blended with suet and bone marrow), experimented with umami bombs until he settled on dehydrated miso powder to amp up its beef flavor, tried bun recipe after bun recipe until finally achieving that ideal balance between softness and structure, and fine-tuned his cooking technique that involves a temperature and moisture-controled CVap oven and a 900°F plancha.
For a while, the large burger was served with a pile of sweet potato shoe-string fries, though these days it comes with really great thick-cut, extra-crispy steak fries (a good change, IMO), along with house-made made ketchup, red wine vinegar pickles, and a celery root slaw.
You'd think that with all this finessing and fancy equipment you'd end up with a fancy-pants burger, but it's really not: This is a case where clearly the technology and technique are in the service of the burger, not the other way around.
The beef is sourced from Hardwick, Massachusetts, from a farm that only slaughters a few animals each week, making the beef very limited in supply—the restaurant makes about 20 burgers a night and sells out pretty quickly, so if you get the chance to order one, I suggest you take it.
For the record, the best time to eat this beast is in August or September when tomatoes are in season—Tony doesn't serve them any other time of the year.
Check out the video for a full look at the process. And Tony—if you're reading: Bottle and sell that "burger vinaigrette"!
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.