Eat, Drink, and Be Mary

In a profile of Milwaukee’s rollickingly queer food and entertainment joint, Hamburger Mary’s brings the fun with the feast.

Hamburger Mary’s is a burger joint with a one-of-a-kind menu and entertainment. Known for her open-minded atmosphere and eclectic drag shows, Mary’s has become a staple of the LGBT community since her establishment in San Francisco in 1972 and now with 12 locations across the country. Milwaukee proudly boasts its own, and she has taken the city by storm: a very sparkly, meaty storm.

Vegetarians and dieters run for cover, Mary likes her menu like she likes her men: big, bold, beefy, and well-oiled.

Seriously, I hope you like meat, because this lady knows how to serve it. Meaty-Meatloaf anyone? The stars of the Mary’s menu are the gourmet half-pound burgers. With your choice of beef, turkey, chicken breast, kobe/wagyu beef, or a particularly delicious bone tossed to the vegetarian/vegans in their black bean patty. No need to really leave your leaf-oriented friends at home, though the stuffed burgers may give them nightmares. Mary leaves little to the imagination and goes straight for the taste buds. Chorizo and bacon stuffed burgers, burgers topped with chili, onion rings, and almost always with Mary’s special sauce.

If weight loss is your goal, Mary’s might not help, but she will take good care of you on the nights you’re feeling naughty. Throw caution to the wind, embrace your burlesque-style curves, and eat an order of Deep Fried Twinkies all by yourself. Maybe the Mary Tyler S’mores or Deep-Fried Snickers with Ice Cream is your true calling; either choice, you’re going home a little fatter and a lot happier.

Not quite ready to ditch the diet? The Skinny Dipper (artichoke and spinach) is so good even the meat lovers will devour it. Lettuce wraps and fresh salads with house-made dressings will leave you feeling trim and guilt-free.

Boi’s night out just got unzipped: Pull your friends out and try a Fuzzy Tea Bag (sweet tea, peach, and pink lemonade cocktail) or Drag King of Queens (shot of Southern Comfort, Amaretto, and cranberry juice). Goils night out? Try the Karen Walker (dirty martini) or a Pretty in Pink (raspberry and pink lemonade cocktail). House-infused spirits will lift yours: Ginger-Vodka, Pepper-Lime-Vodka, Cherry-Bourbon, and, the meaty lady wouldn’t let you down, Bacon-Vodka. Let’s say that together, Bacon-Vodka! It’s the perfect match for your favorite Bloody. If you don’t like the kitschy names, you don’t like fun. Fun wouldn’t be complete without alcoholic ice cream. Mary’s got that too.

For those of you fat and proud, the Big Fatty has your name on it. If you can eat the Mary’s Handbag Sampler, a Proud Mary Burger (with side) and an order of Deep-Fried—all in 45 minutes—you win a t-shirt and a place on the “Wall of Fame.” And you might even get more attention from the performers for being so darn good-looking and accomplished.

As the host of one of Mary’s drag shows and a long-time drag king, I have a word to the wise: the more uncomfortable you look, the more likely you will be chosen by the performer of the night for special attention. This is most certainly an invitation to bring your easy-to-blush friends. They will have never-saw-it-coming time, and you will feel like a genius for pranking them so well.

On any given show night, your grandmother would have thought it a seedy and vulgar hole and that is exactly why you should be there. The atmosphere matches the décor: Big, bold, in-your-face fun, Mary’s knows no other way. The queens will motorboat, the Kings will thrust, the audience will blush like they have never blushed, and everyone leaves fat and deliriously happy every single time.

Want to bring the kids? Earlier shows are kid-friendly, but past 9:00 p.m. anything goes: an important distinction between Saturday’s 8:00 p.m. “Dining with the DIVAS” show and “Dirty DIVAS” at 9:30. Check out Hamburger Mary’s website for a complete show schedule, including Ham-Bingo (always for a good cause) and Mary-Oke, giving you the chance to take the stage.

Upbeat music, five televisions, one stage: Hamburger Mary’s is not a restaurant, it’s an experience. And she really doesn’t care what anyone thinks; she knows she is fabulous. Just like you, hunty.

Legal Assistant by day, drag king by night, Colin Acumen is a proud member of Milwaukee’s Miltown Kings and hosts a monthly show, Mary’s Kingdom, the second Tuesday of every month at Hamburger Mary’s.