Tony Maws takes burgers personally. The burger he makes at Craigie on Main is exactly the burger he wanted to make, which is the only way to do it in a city like Boston, where everyone has an opinion. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Bostonian with something negative to say after tasting Craigie's big, grass-fed patty, ground up with bone marrow and charred on a plancha (see how it's made in our behind-the-scenes video). The burgers Tony loves in his home city are the ones that strike a nostalgic chord in the chef's heart and palate, burgers that taste of his childhood and a time long-past—burgers so nostalgic, in fact, that one of them is sadly just a memory.
Here are Tony's top five burgers in Boston.
1. Neptune Oyster Bar is a tiny oyster place where you'd never expect to find an awesome burger, but they have one. They put a fried oyster on it! I haven't eaten a burger this fast in a long time.
63 Salem Street, Boston MA 02113 (map); 617-742-3474; neptuneoyster.com
2. Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage is an institution. It's kitschy, it's loud, you're sitting close to everyone—they've been doing it for years. It's all about what goes on the burger, since there are something like 50 different kinds. They also serve great, greasy fries.
1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02138 (map); 617-354-6559; mrbartley.com
3. Russell House Tavern's is a nostalgic burger for me as it's served on an English muffin. That's how I used to have them as a kid, and how I still make them at home. All those nooks and crannies hold so much juice. It's a sort of sentimental burger, but it's no-frills, just seasoned and cooked solidly.
14 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge MA 02138 (map); 617-500-3055; russellhousecambridge.com
4. The Tasty is the burger that will always be missed. It doesn't exist anymore, but it has to be on this list. It used to be in Harvard Square in Cambridge, but the building has since been torn down. It was a total greasy spoon, with old school guys wearing paper hats. It was just the best greasy burger, period. Especially late-night, after 1 a.m., when it was filled with a combination of partiers and cops. There was usually someone dancing on a table. It was very different from the Craigie's burger in that it's a flat patty style, and we don't have nearly enough grease to recreate it.
5. Highland Kitchen serves a really good, honest burger that's 180 degrees from the burger I make—nothing fancy-pants. The setting is awesome, like a neighborhood bar. They serve straightforward cocktails, nothing highfalutin. My wife and I go on Monday nights, when my restaurant is closed, which is their Fried Chicken Night. One of us gets the chicken, and the other gets the burger.
150 Highland Avenue, Somerville MA 02143 (map); 617-625-1131; highlandkitchen.com
Previous Burger City Guides
- Tom Douglas's Favorite Burgers in Seattle
- Donald Link's Favorite Burgers in New Orleans
- Michael Schwartz's Favorite Burgers in Miami
- Eddie Lakin's Favorite Burgers in Chicago
- Duff Goldman's Favorite Burgers in Baltimore
- David Myers's Favorite Burgers in Los Angeles