(During my semi-hiatus from hip replacement surgery, I'm bringing back a few of my more memorable Road Tips posts from the past. This was originally posted in January of 2006 when I talked about our trip to Hamburger Mary's in Cincinnati. While Hamburger Mary's is no longer in business in Cincinnati, I have to say that it was one of the finest cheeseburgers I'd ever had. But we also found out that Hamburger Mary's had an edge to the place. It was certainly an eye-opener for a couple of corn fed kids from Iowa.
As an aside, they've since opened a Hamburger Mary's in Cedar Rapids a little over a year ago. While we haven't been to that location, my sister-in-law has and she proclaims their burgers as "very good.")
Cindy and I spent our 10th anniversary in Cincinnati last spring. Actually, before you exclaim, "Cincinnati?!", it really is a nice city. We stayed at the wonderful Netherland Hilton in downtown Cincy for four nights, caught a couple Reds games and had some wonderful meals during the time we were there.
One night after a Reds game, we stopped in for a beer and something to eat at O'Malley's in the Alley (see map) between Vine and Race Streets in downtown Cincinnati. Turned out that we got there a little late for food, so we finished our beer and decided to go back to the hotel and order room service.
On the way back, Cindy said, "Hey, let's go see if that hamburger joint that was next to Scotti's (where we ate the night before) is open." We went back to the hotel, looked up the place - Hamburger Mary's - and found that their kitchen stayed open to midnight. Since it was 20 to midnight, we had to high step it up the street.
We got in about 10 minutes later and we were greeted at the door by a guy who turned out to be the manager. We asked if we could still get a burger and he said, "Sure!" He took us to a table in the dining room.
Hamburger Mary's is split into two rooms - a spacious bar that has an art deco signature to it, and the dining room that is heavy on dark wood paneling. The place was comfy. We decided to order as quick as possible to get the order in before midnight and we both ordered the Hot Momma - burger with jalapenos, cajun spices and pepper jack cheese. And we got an order of their seasoned fries to give a try.
I asked to keep the menu because it looked pretty interesting. In fact, the whole place was kind of interesting. Noticed that there was a lot of kitsch on the walls, including a wall that was devoted to pictures of famous "Joan's" (Joan Crawford, Joan Rivers, Joan Fontaine, Joan Jett, Joan Lunden, etc., etc.). And there was one "Joan" on the wall that looked a lot like John Candy in drag. I thought it was kind of funny.
Looking around and out at the bar area, there seemed to be a lot of guys in the place. Nice looking guys, but, well, a little flamboyant for Cincinnati. Well, they would have been flamboyant for West Hollywood, too. Suddenly, coming around the corner was the "Joan" that I saw on the wall - an obvious cross-dresser. I said to Cindy, "I don't think we're in Kansas any longer."
I got to looking at the menu and some of the things on the menu - "Queen Mary" and "Bleu Boy" - sort of made me stop and think for a moment. Then right before we got our burgers, I looked out into the bar and saw a guy lean across the table and KISS another guy on the lips! I said, "Cindy, I don't have a very good 'gaydar', but I think we've stumbled into a gay hamburger joint!"
After about 20 minutes, the manager brought out the burgers to us and they were great. Big and juicy, full of flavor. The cajun spices added a little zip to the taste, but it wasn't too spicy so you couldn't taste the flavor in the meat. The jalapenos were a perfect compliment to the taste of the burger. And the spicy fries were pretty good, too! Cindy said to me, "God, I can't believe we're eating this stuff at 12:15 in the morning!"
While we were eating, the manager was standing near us at a wait station and a guy came up to him and said, "I don't know, but I think John just broke up with me!" This guy was in obvious distress and the manager took him to a back booth and sat down with him. Cindy looked at me and she just burst out laughing. "No, I think you're right, honey. This is a gay burger joint," she said.
We left a little after 12:30 and laughed all the way back to the hotel. When we got there we went to the Hamburger Mary's Cincinnati web site and looked up some of the pictures they have in their scrapbook page. They were taken from the Oscar party Hamburger Mary's threw earlier in the year. Yeah, the pictures pretty much confirmed what we already knew - Hamburger Mary's is a gay hamburger joint.
Turns out that they have Hamburger Mary's in L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and a handful of other places across the country. They seem to be franchise owned as all of them seemed to be a little different from one another and there wasn't a main Hamburger Mary's web site. But the one thing they had in common, they're all gay burger joints.
And not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. The burgers were absolutely great.