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Hamburger Mary’s started out in San Francisco in 1972 as “a bar and grill for open-minded people,” and that motto still rings true today, over 40 years after Mary’s was born. In Florida, we have three Hamburger Mary’s restaurants, one of which is located at 1600 E. 8th Avenue in Hamburger-Mary_logoTampa’s Ybor City neighborhood. On the second floor, the restaurant overlooks all the action on the popular strip of 7th Avenue where people party every night. In fact, many of those people choose Hamburger Mary’s as their very first stop of the evening

It makes sense, because there are so many things going on every night of the week. There are three nights of “Ham-Bingo” games, with all proceeds from card sales going to charity. Then there are also diva show nights, which start on Thursday and run through to Sunday every week. These shows, hosted by Desiree DeMornay, showcase some of the hottest drag talent in Tampa Bay. Reservations go fast so it is important to call ahead and reserve your table at least a day or two in advance; people are seated an hour before each show begins.

On the night I went to Hamburger Mary’s, I was greeted by hostess Divinity and her smiling face. As soon as I walked through the doors, she said happily, “We’ve been expecting you!” She seated me and my straight roommate Erik right next to the stage. I was in for a treat: tonight was one of their “Ham-Bingo” charity nights, and the mistress of ceremonies was your current reigning Miss Large and Lovely, Nicky Monet. I had never seen Nicky call bingo before, and if you haven’t, I recommend you do so because it was a hilarious experience. She has great presence on the microphone and all of her (salty) jokes will leave you in stitches.FFT-3027_MarysTampa_shrimp

As soon as we were seated, our waiter, Bryan, came over to the table and asked us for our drink orders. I had a Coke (free refills!) and Erik had a draft Yuengling beer. At that point we were pretty hungry so we went ahead and put in our appetizer orders as well. I ordered the loaded tots with homemade chili ($6.99 for tots, an extra $2 for chili), and Erik ordered the coconut shrimp with a curry-inspired dipping sauce ($9). When the food arrived, Erik was kind enough to let me have a taste, and I thought the sauce was a perfect complement to the shrimp, subtle but not too wimpy either. The shrimp FFT-3027_MarysTampa_loadedTotswere fried to a golden brown too, which I loved. My tots were also very good, and I was glad I chose the chili as a topping because it’s some of the best chili I’ve had in quite a long time! The scallions gave the entire appetizer a nice crunch.

While we were enjoying our appetizers, Bryan came around to top off our drinks and he asked us what we wanted for our entrees. I ordered the meaty mushroom burger, with melted cheddar and jack FFT-3027_MarysTampa_burgercheeses with sautéed mushrooms, Mary’s sauce, and a side of fries ($11.25). Erik ordered the steak dinner, served with fresh mashed potatoes and broccoli ($16.99). The food looked so good to Erik when it arrived that I barely had time to take a photograph of it for this layout! He was very impressed with the flavor of the beef and how it was cooked directly to his specifications (medium). I liked how the flavor of the mushrooms on my burger was sealed in between the cheese, which went on top, and the burger patty. The hint of Mary’s sauce gave it another level of deliciousness entirely, and I loved it. I never ordered that burger before, and I think I’ve found my new favorite!FFT-3027_MarysTampa_steak

Finally, we got to dessert. Erik was too stuffed so he couldn’t even order anything else, but I bravely marched up to the plate and hit it out of the park with my choice of deep-fried Twinkies ($7). That dessert was something I’d always heard about, but never had the courage to try. I’m glad I did! It was served with liberal drizzles of chocolate and raspberry sauces, finished off with whipped cream, applied on all four sides of the plate. The Twinkies were the perfect mix of sweet and savory, and I was impressed with what happens to the cream filling inside the Twinkie…when fried, it becomes almost like a custard. The service throughout the meal was outstanding; Bryan was very attentive and made sure we were comfortable and happy at every turn.FFT-3027_MarysTampa_Twinkies

Don’t just take it from us, though; come to Hamburger Mary’s yourself and enjoy some great food in a gay-friendly and positive environment. The entertainment will leave you wanting more, and the food’s so plentiful that you’ll always leave full and happy.

Hamburger Mary’s Tampa is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Lunchtime requires no reservations but reservations are strongly suggested for dinner because the shows are so popular. Call (813) 241-MARY (6279) to snag your table! Visit them online at hamburgermarys.com/tampa.

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.