Review: Hamburger Mary’s

(Pictures coming later)

I can’t tell you how much time I spent at the old Hamburger Mary’s.  In college, it was a regular hangout for my friends and me, and their karaoke (er, Mary-Oke) was a lot of fun.  I even liked it after it switched to Universal Grille, as a lot of my favorite things about Mary’s stayed around– including my favorite burger, the Big Kahuna burger.  I talked and talked about this burger to Terry– as longtime followers of this blog may know, Pulp Fiction is one of our favorites movies (I have a cat named Mrs. Mia Wallace) and “That is a tasty burger!” is often quoted when we actually find a tasty burger.  We’re dorky, we know it.

So when Hamburger Mary’s reopening, under new ownership, was announced– I was excited just to get back that darn burger.  I had hoped that they’d have it.  I checked their menu and they did– and then I promptly forgot about the fact that it was open until, on a Sunday, I saw their Facebook status that touted $2 Mimosas and $5 Bloody Marys.  I turned to Terry: “Bloody Marys for breakfast?” I asked.  That was a silly question.  This was, of course, before Ohio’s law changed to allow alcohol sales at 11 AM, so it was a really, really late breakfast.

We hauled ourselves out of our Sunday routine of newspapers and coffee and down the street to Hamburger Mary’s.  We were the only folks there aside from the really fantastic, exuberant servers.  We started out ordering a bloody mary (Terry) and a mimosa (me).  The mimosa was– well, it’s orange juice and champagne.  You can’t really go wrong, can you?– and the bloody Mary was spicy and strong, just like it’s supposed to be.  Since then, I’ve tried other cocktails– I’ve had the “Pop Your Cherry-tini,” which features cherry vodka and the Cincinnati favorite red cream soda, and their take on a Long Island Iced tea, Southern-style, whose name will cause my google searches to become quite strange.  Check it out yourself– think peach tea with a kick.

The menu is kitschy and cleverly named.  Though many of the dishes are standard sports bar fare, most have been given an interesting twist (and cute names).  Chicken wings (Wangs ‘n’ Thangs), Cala-Mary, Macho Nachos– you get the idea.  The names all evoke cult classics of the past, and are at home in a place where we’ve seen Britney Spears videos, Dreamgirls and Madonna on the video screens.  Sorry guys, no baseball or football was to be found here.

We decided on burgers.  Terry ordered the Hawaii Five-O Kahuna burger (which used to just be called the Big Kahuna burger)– pineapple, teriyaki, Mary’s special sauce (which is essentially 1000 Island dressing), cheddar, a beef patty on a toasted bun.  He loved it– he had ordered it medium rare, and it came medium– so slightly overcooked, but still juicy.  The bun was sturdy enough to hold up to the toppings– a good quality in a burger.

I ended up with the Barbra-Q burger– inspired, of course, by Barbra Streisand.  A gigantic, handmade onion ring sits atop barbecue sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and crisp bacon.  Delicious– if a bit messy, but that’s part of the fun.

On other trips, Terry and I have both gotten the same burgers, and they’ve been consistently good.  We’ve tried the Cala-Mary, which was incredibly tender– not something I expected.    Service, too, has been consistently good– attentive, funny and charming, and they deliver your check in a cute high heel.

Overall, the experience is fun, inclusive and charming, and the food generally quite good.  It’s great for a Friday night, or brunch with the girls (my mother, in particular, LOVES this place).  The bar is not completely finished yet, but they’re working on it.  The Hamburger Mary’s in Chicago also has its own microbrews– will we see that in Cincinnati? I sure hope so.

Hamburger Mary's on Urbanspoon