Hamburger Mary’s returned to Wilton Manors on Monday night, June 14. Given its perceived rivalry with the burger joint across the street that used to be a Hamburger Mary’s, this is the most buzzed-about opening along The Drive in a long time.
While I’m sure the manager and staff were anxious to open up they probably should have waited. On opening night everything felt and looked like a work in progress, as if they’re still figuring out work flow, the lighting, food, etc.
At about 8 p.m. the restaurant, including the outdoor patio, tables were about ⅓ full, and the bar was a little busier. The service staff was incredibly friendly and interacting with them was a pleasure. But it felt like a free for all. I saw one server taking a table outside at the far end of the patio and a table inside by the back bar, essentially traveling the length of the restaurant. I was told they only have four servers right now and they didn’t start training until the Thursday before opening. Post-it notes were on each table with what I presumed was the table number.
They are also in desperate need of a hostess stand. Everyone was seating themselves, and for the relatively small crowd it worked. But if it had been much busier things could have gotten out of control quickly, especially given the small wait staff. I saw several people going to get their own silverware from a basket by the door. When we got our silverware there was only a fork wrapped in the napkin and we needed to cut something.
My friend and I tried to sample various parts of the menu. We shared fried mac and cheese balls and they were delicious. We each got a burger and it wasn’t until they arrived we realized we weren’t asked how we wanted them cooked. They were what can charitably be called medium rare. We went ahead and ate them but another minute on the grill wouldn’t hurt. However we did have to send back the sides of fries. They were only slightly above room temperature. To be fair, they were quickly replaced and we had fresh hot fries within about two minutes.
For a drink I ordered the Lime in the Coconut and it was quite limey, but it took about 15 minutes to arrive. Later my friend’s vodka and diet took about 20 minutes. Interim drinks came faster, but I felt it best to order well before my current drink was empty.
And then there is the menu itself. It has about 20 items including appetizers and desserts, that is if you can read it. It was very blurry and at the top shows a screenshot taken in late May, so it wasn’t like it was a last minute choice. Our server helped us decipher it and then told us it was the wrong menu. At that point we were committed to our burger choices and didn’t ask for another menu.
The atmosphere felt Mary-lite. The color scheme is there, the stage looks fun, there’s a wall of fabulous boots, and a statue of Mary greets you at the door. But you feel like it needs to be done... more. The over-the-top camp at other locations is missing here. There is a beautiful winged mural by local artist Avi Ram which is great to see but I wish they gave it better lighting.
At one point, for no obvious reason, dance floor lights started flashing all over the center of the dining room. It’s great if you’re dancing, it’s distracting when you’re eating. Speaking of dancing, the music was on theme but not varied. There would be a long mix of Beyoncé, then a long block of Madonna, then Cher, and others. Diva attitude is a Hamburger Mary tradition but it felt like they just strung some playlists together and pressed play.
I get the feeling that if Pride wasn’t this weekend they wouldn’t have opened yet. But Pride is this weekend and one person told me they wanted to be able to run through service this week so they would be ready. All these are little things that are easily fixed and I will definitely go back, probably after Independence weekend.