Salsa verde and wings will make you want more from Craigie On Main’s ever-changing menu
A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery.
I know Boston will be forever divided about Tom Brady and Gronk winning a Super Bowl in another team’s jersey, but I for one was happy how it went down – no disrespect to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. For the game I wanted white chicken chili, wings and salsa. I had the chili covered (for me, more of a chicken, corn and cannelloni bean stew) but wings can be messy and more time-consuming to make than you’d imagine, which is why I was drawn to Craigie on Main’s Game Day takeout menu. Tony Maws and crew were also offering up yummy-sounding red chile barbecue wagyu beef brisket and racks of St. Louis ribs, but my red-meat days are largely behind me.
The thing that gave me pause was Craigie’s warning that the Ancho Chile and Coffee-Rubbed Chicken Wings and its garlic sausages came cold. I (and my wife) talked myself out of the sausages as too much food for a small posse, but I did get the wings and salsa verde, picking up the food Saturday and finding Craigie staged for a seamless one-way pickup and exit – clean, safe and simple. The salsa was smooth, sweet and spicy, with just the right essence of dry hot, and I couldn’t stop eating as I prepped the chili. The wings came precooked in a huge metal pan, perfectly sealed and rigid enough to support other items in our tightly packed fridge. They were not fried (which was my fear having them day two, or even just reheated, because most fried food is best right out of the fryer), but likely grilled, and came with detailed instructions that made my eyes pop with a recommendation to flash cook them on a charcoal grill. I don’t know about you, but my grill is tucked away for the winter. Further down was a note about giving them six minutes in the broiler, right under the flame. I did that and the wings came out crisp and juicy with little hassle, and super low on the mess scale. The chile-coffee rub was something. The wings were fine without a sweet medium-hot sauce, but delicious both ways. I got an even dozen in my order and wished I had gotten double that. (It also settled for me that wing flats are better than drums. I stumbled upon wing flats a few year ago at The Barley Neck down on the Cape in Orleans, where I was told that they cook more evenly, come apart easier, are more tender and don’t have as much joint gristle. Maws’ assortment underscores flats as the wing part to savor; The Longfellow Bar in Harvard Square also serves only flats.)
Of course the big game is over and the wings are gone, though you can look for them for other events down the line.
Craigie’s regular menu still offers its renowned burger for takeout, revolving family meals and the red chile-rubbed whole roasted chicken for two, as well as fried chicken popups. For Valentine’s Day the bistro offers a meat lover’s indulgence for two, with hiramasa sashimi salad and foie gras to start, then braised veal osso bucco and bratwurst sausage atop forest mushroom ragoût and creamy yellow corn polenta or a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye côte de boeuf. Craigie also offers a full list of wine and beer.
One final note on the game: Super proud that a guy from my tiny Division 3 college in upstate New York (Hobart and William Smith in Geneva, where the chicken wing is king), Ali Marpet – the highest-drafted Division 3 player ever – won a ring Sunday protecting Brady’s weak side while I noshed on Craigie’s delicious wings.
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.