It’s a blazing Sunday morning in Oak Lawn, the kind of day that’s already unbearable by 11 a.m. Well before you reach the door of Hamburger Mary’s, one of the neighborhood’s newest additions, you hear the crowd’s whoops and hollers escaping from the bar and filling the otherwise quiet area with a palpable joy.
Inside the popular franchise’s Dallas location, which opened June 1 amid threats of protest
, a succession of drag queens are careening, faux-crooning and somersaulting around crowded tables while songs by Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Katy Perry play in the background. The audience — eclectic, diverse and brimming with energy — shouts approval and affirmations while handing each performer a wad of dollar bills.
In a scene like this, it’d be easy for the food itself to get overshadowed. So it’s a credit to Hamburger Mary’s that the brunch is a fine complement to the main attraction: the drag stars.
The restaurant hosts drag bingo every Sunday, and brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. While Hamburger Mary’s is perhaps best known for its eponymous patties, they also serve waffles, omelettes, a traditional breakfast of toast, hash browns and eggs, and both a breakfast burrito and breakfast burger (it’s their traditional burger, plus a fried egg).
The highlight, though, is clearly the mimosa. Infused with just the right amount of orange juice (i.e., a dash), the drink is both the perfect drag brunch companion and a suitable balm for the heat of a summer day in Dallas.
Another key perk is the restaurant’s relative affordability. For instance, $15 for chicken and waffles — tasty chicken and waffles, at that — is a bargain. The dish includes a sizable waffle and a few fried chicken strips, each boasting flavorful breading that pairs well with a fluffy, buttery, syrup-topped waffle. It’s filling enough on its own, but if you’re craving something a little extra, you can have your waffles infused with chocolate chips or bacon.
Speaking of meat, Mary’s Burrito can be filled with beef, chicken, bacon and black beans. The chicken is a reliable choice, but this offering ultimately can’t hold a candle to the chicken and waffles. Blame the tortilla, which tastes dry and flaky, thus necessitating more mimosa (which, come to think of it, might be a good thing).
Hamburger Mary's recently opened in Oak Lawn.
For those who want a true lunch-breakfast combo, the Brunch Burger is a solid bet. This restaurant has the kind of juicy burgers that taste fresh while satisfying diners’ cravings for something wholesome, juicy and just a little greasy. The fried egg atop the plump patty doesn’t add much of anything in the way of flavor, but it doesn’t detract from the fulfilling experience that is a hamburger at Hamburger Mary’s.
Then you have the omelettes. Mary's version of the classic Denver Omelette (eggs, ham, onion, bell peppers and cheddar cheese) is nothing to write home about. But the “Big D” Omelette is a keeper. The kitchen staff empties the sink for this one, pouring mushrooms, cheddar and jack cheese into a medley of ham, bacon, onions and bell peppers.
All of that said, the main attraction at Hamburger Mary’s is and always will be the drag queens. They could liven up far worse fare, which is another way of saying that these omelettes, burritos and breakfast burgers don’t have to be as good as they are. The fact that they’re quite good only makes Hamburger Mary’s a must-visit, particularly given the courage it takes to host regular drag shows in a state whose legislature files increasingly aggressive anti-LGBTQ+
bills each session.
On that note, it’s worth mentioning that the restaurant’s drag bingo supports a different charity each week. On its first Sunday, the event’s proceeds went to the Human Rights Campaign, which has now issued the first-ever state of emergency alert for LGBTQ+ Americans.
It’s highly possible the establishment will be shunned in the future, although its leaders are puzzled by some of the criticism received at other locations. For instance, the talking point that drag shows are bad for kids doesn’t even apply in this case.
“The backlash doesn’t make sense to me, because we’re a 21-and-up restaurant,” Tanner Roberts, the restaurant’s food and beverage director, told the Observer earlier this summer
. “We just want people to have fun.”