There’s something about Hamburger Mary

The first time I stopped in Hamburger Mary’s in Andersonville, about a mile from my apartment, I didn’t realize it was part of a small chain. HM’s has the feel of a low-key neighborhood diner and bar, with a gay-friendly vibe. It’s not nearly as ridiculous as most theme restaurants and like the other few chains that speckle the ‘hood, HM’s is made to fit in a very natural way that doesn’t make it harshly stand out against the smaller, independently-run establishments.

Attached to the restaurant portion, which is definitely both gay and family friendly, is Mary’s Attic, which is essentially a gay sports bar but with weekly karaoke and drag events, as well as a weekly Hedwig and the Angry Inch musical cabaret. The restaurant portion is decked out with plenty of “Wizard of Oz” themed memorabilia, which thrills me to no end, along with plenty of other fun kitschy stuff. This is definitely my kind of place. If I lived just a little closer, I’d probably wind up here every night. Maybe it’s for the best that I don’t live too close.

Here’s the official statement on what makes Mary’s:

Our ‘family dining’ concept guarantees everyone is welcome at Hamburger Mary’s but our concept is distinctive because we are the only national franchise actively marketing to the LGBT community.”

I’m not surprised this place originated on the West Coast. As of now, there are locations in Denver, Long Beach, West Hollywood, Palm Springs, Portland, Kansas City, Tampa and Orlando, in addition to Chicago, of course. It actually started out, unsurprisingly, in San Francisco but that location’s no longer open.

But, you ask, how’s the food? I’m getting to that.  I was happy to see that the menu touts its use of never-frozen, antibiotic and hormone-free “natural” beef and free-range chicken. It’s not organic or grass-fed and there is a lot of misinformation out there about these types of labels, but to me it seems like at least a step in the right direction. I’m always happy when I see chains making some sort of concerted effort at this type of thing. The other thing that made me very happy to see on the menu was that it lists a “lettuce cup” as one of your options for the burgers — along with brioche or a multigrain bun. I like seeing this kind of thing specifically written out because it makes me feel less weird when I order a bun-less burger. It also helps ensure that the wait staff won’t look at me like I have three heads when I ask. I opted for the Queen Mary burger, which comes topped with cheddar, monterey jack, bacon, pickles, grilled onions and Mary’s special sauce. I felt like I needed to even that out with something a little healthier so I opted for one of the $1 upgrades to the choice of sides — sauteed veggies.

As if this weren’t all very exciting, Mary’s also has its own line of home brews with fun names like Mary Hoppins, Capone and …wait for it…. Gluten-Free Goldilocks. I can actually go here and get a burger and a beer. Holy cow. I love Chicago. They also have great drink specials throughout the week and have an entire menu of cocktails named after icons like Molly Ringwald and Liza Minelli.

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