Long Beach Lunch: Hamburger Mary's
There aren't too many places where lunch includes a sandwich with a sexually suggestive name and a bill that gets dropped on the table, placed delicately inside of a sequined high-heeled pump. But then again, there aren't too many places like Hamburger Mary's, Long Beach's most flambouyant--and largest--gay bar.
More than just a watering hole that churns out generously poured well drinks in frosty schooners (which it does every day during happy hour), Hamburger Mary's is also an LGBT nightclub, dinner theatre and restaurant with a mammoth selection of grub for every diet and appetite. Since vacating its original location on Alamitos Ave. and Broadway earlier this year--where it anchored the west end of the so-called "Gayborhood"--Mary's now occupies prime real estate on Pine Ave., where its nightly drag shows and go-go nights add vibrancy to downtown Long Beach's straight scene.
The move has also thrust Hamburger Mary's onto the list of walkable lunch options for downtown's office-dwellers and a $6 build-your-own-combo lunch special all but ensures bootys get in the seats of its new, cavernous entertainment space before 3 p.m.
Sarah Bennett Yummy and cute burgers
Though of course more mellow during the daytime, it's hard to escape the fact that you are in a place that turns into a high-energy spot after sundown. The flat screen TVs still rotate through the latest dance music videos, the sound system bumps with pop throughout the ages (I've heard everything from Backstreet Boys to Lady Gaga) and the oversized disco ball silently spins above the dance floor, which is sunken below the ground level and flanked by cocktail tables.
The full menu is available during lunchtime, so Mary's famously full namesake array of burgers--from ostrich to turkey to organic free range patties--is always on the table (try any of them "Mac Daddy" style to have it topped with macaroni and cheese or "Queen Mary" style for bacon and 1000 Island dressing). However, the real deals lie on the one-sheet laminated lunch menu, which lays out Mary's "Pick Two" program in a series of variously sized circles.
For $5.99, you get to pick one item from two categories, each of which is a list placed inside one of the circles. The smaller two circles are your basics: soup or chili in one, fries or a salad in the other. The larger circle is a parsed down selection of half sandwiches and other handhelds like the chicken ranch wrap and two mini burgers (which live up to their all-caps description of "SO CUTE AND YUMMY").
Sarah Bennett BL...T&A and a cup of chili
Despite their cheeky names, the Bird Cage of Paradise and the BL....T&A sandwich are the ones I find myself repeat ordering. The first is a warm turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich topped with melted cheese; the latter, a basic BLT topped with avocado to give it that perfectly perverted acronym. With a mix-and-match structure, the "Pick Two" lunch concept allows you to go big and hearty with a reuben and fries or keep it lean with a soup and salad.
As a new neighbor in the downtown landscape, Hamburger Mary's is a cheap, casual and fun alternative to the relatively upscale lunches lurking on Pine Ave. that isn't only open to members of the LGBT community. All are welcome to dine on Mary's munchies after which, instead of getting a boring bill plopped on your table at the end of the meal, don't be surprised to pull your receipt out of one of the restaurant's many glamorous high-heeled shoes. Pantyhose not included.
Hamburger Mary's, 330 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 436-7900, hamburgermarys.com/longbeach