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Hamburger Mary’s

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

Oh, how your burgers grew!

In my belly, it’s so swelly,

Now that I’m tasting your brew.

It’s spring in Chicago and that means it is perfect open-window weather (as is most of the summer, too). Only problem is, around lunch and dinnertime an aroma from all the Clark Street restaurants comes wafting in our windows, which makes one both hungry and very tempted to eat out. It is usually the smell of burgers that is so tempting, but we are never certain if it is coming from La Tache (they used to serve a good burger, but we haven’t been back since they changed their menu), Huey’s Hot Dogs (they also serve burgers), or  Hamburger Mary’s. We usually opt for Mary’s because they serve tasty burgers and home brews in a fun atmosphere.

In the almost three years we have lived down the street from Hamburger Mary’s, they have undergone some changes and expansion, but have always kept a variety of delicious 1/2-pound burgers on their menu.  One of Mary’s many quirks are the women’s stilettos and pumps in which they bring your check; although, it has been a while since we have seen a woman’s shoe on our table, so they not be doing this anymore.  We have also seen Mary’s Burger of the Month come and go over the past few years, but are glad to see it is back for now. Even without the monthly special, there are always plenty of other interesting menu options. Some of our favorites are: Steakhouse Burger (pictured above) with A1 sauce, melted provolone, grilled portobella mushrooms, and crispy red onion strings; Barbara-Q Bacon Cheeseburger with onion rings, BBQ sauce, bacon, and cheddar & jack cheeses; Buffy (The Burger Slayer) with red wine sauce, swiss cheese, and garlic aioli; and, Philly Cheesesteak Burger (pictured below) with swiss & jack cheeses, grill onions & peppers, and crispy red onion strings. Because these burgers are so hefty, we always split one and order an appetizer or a side. Mary’s also has several Stuffed Burgers, but we have found these are too messy for sharing. In addition to the burgers, one thing that keeps us coming back are the tasty fries – full cut, well seasoned, and a little bit of crunch – which you can also order loaded with chili, cheese, green onions, and a dollop of sour cream.  There is much more than burgers and fries on their menu, but we’ve done little exploration other than some starters…most of which were just okay.

About a year ago, Mary’s expanded into the adjoining space and opened a small brewery and sports bar called the Rec Room. Prior to the Rec Room, Mary’s beer selection was lacking, but their home brews have definitely bumped this place up a notch on our list. Two of their regular beers we enjoy are the Mary Hoppins (Pale Ale) and Gangster (Hopped-up Amber Ale). And, finally, Mary’s Attic (located directly above Hamburger Mary’s) is for the late nighters in our hood, but we have yet to venture upstairs to see what all the hooting and hollering is about. On karaoke nights, we can sometimes hear a few divas from our flat!

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

Oh, how I’ll miss you so!

When we’ve moved, and can no longer behoove

Ourselves there to go.


May 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm 1 comment

Empty Fridge Pasta Night: Spaghetti w/ Lemon-Thyme

Wow we’ve been busy, both attending conferences in our field this past week and not had any time to cook up blog worthy meals or go out for something fun to post either. Heck, I haven’t been to the grocery store for almost two weeks now.

So I turn to pasta. Pasta is probably my de facto standard whip up something from nothing meal. It is one of the first dishes I became pretty good at making while in college cooking mainly for myself. So tonight, like many a nights in college, the pickings in the fridge are getting pretty limited. I’ve got some bulk mild Italian sausage that needed to be used, some thyme left over from the pot roast, and some grape tomatoes setting on the counter. So I’ll show you the picture first, then I’ll “describe” the meal, since there is no real recipe and you know I don’t actually measure anything.

Spaghetti and Italian sausage with lemon thyme sauce.

Spaghetti and Italian sausage with lemon thyme sauce.

First start your large pot of salty boiling water for the pasta. Then medium chop up half a small red onion and 6 cloves of garlic. In a large stir fry pan (or sauce pan) heat up some olive oil (~2 tbs) until smoking hot. Add onions first, and cook until soft, then add garlic, red pepper flakes salt and pepper cooking until garlic starts to brown. Start your noodles. Now add some large chunks (or small meatballs) of the mild Italian sausage and brown the edges, then cover and turn heat down to med-low and cook until the largest piece of meat is no longer pink in the center.

Now to make the sauce, which I normally make with my immersion blender and the cup that came with it. Using a whisk will do, but the blender is best. Zest and juice 1 small lemon and add at least that much olive oil, fresh thyme and blend. Now to the meatballs, crank the heat back up and use ~2 tbs white wine vinegar to deglaze the onion/garlic from the bottom of the pan. Reduce by half coating the meatballs with the oniony glaze. While this is reducing, quickly cut up some grape tomatoes. Add the lemon-thyme sauce and grape tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Now drain and add your pasta and mix thoroughly. The sauce should be enough to coat the pasta throughout, if not make some more. Top with some grated Parmesan, fresh thyme and drizzle with a splash of olive oil. The idea is that the meatballs will have a nice roasted flavor from the onions and garlic with a slight spiciness from the red pepper flacks. The pasta and tomatoes should have more of a fresh taste from the lemon and thyme. Next time, I’ll try coating the pasta with the lemon thyme sauce and mix with the tomatoes, then plate the sausage separately on the side or top.

Hopefully next time you think you don’t have anything to cook, you’ll think about creating your own pasta concoction on a whim.

April 22, 2009 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

Sweet Potato Veggie Burger

After much inspiration from our friend Sergio’s video blog last month, 31 Veggie Burgers, we decided to try making some for ourselves.  We both love burgers and make them at home almost once a week, especially during the summer months.  Sergio would have to “censor” most of our burgers – which are usually made of beef but also include turkey and chicken burgers thanks to a fun book (The Burger Book) by Gina Steer.  We picked The Burger Book’s Sweet Potato and Provolone Burger as our first veggie burger:

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 oz broccoli florets
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped or grated
  • 1-2 fresh red jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 6 oz provolone cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2-3 tbsp corn oil
  • 1 lb onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Ingredients for sweet potato and provolone burgers

Ingredients for Sweet Potato and Provolone Burgers

First, cook the sweet potato in a pan of lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.  Drain and mash.  Cut the broccoli into small pieces, cook in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and cool immediately with cold water.  Drain excess water and add to mashed sweet potato. Stir in the garlic, red onion, chili, grated cheese, and salt and pepper.  Mix well and shape into 4-6 equal-sized burgers, then coat in the flour. (These patties are a bit of a sticky mess until floured.)  Cover and let chill for at least 1 hour.

For the topping, heat 1.5 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottom skillet.  Add the sliced onions and cook over medium heat until softened, about 12-15 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro at the end and set aside.  Add the remaining oil to the skillet and cook thhe burgers over medium heat, about 5-6 minutes on each side.

Serve with some bitter salad greens on the base of a lightly toasted whole-wheat bun.  Top the burgers with the onions and some sweet chili or hot pepper sauce if preferred.

Our first veggie burger, the sweet potato burger

Our first veggie burger, the Sweet Potato Burger

We made a few modifications to the instructions.  We used swiss cheese and yellow onion in the patties because that is what we had on hand.   We also added 1 tsp of  chipotle chili puree when cooking our onion topping to give it a little kick.  Because of time limitations, we quick chilled the patties – 20 min in the freezer and 10 in the fridge.

So, all in all, there is a bit of work involved in making this burger but we liked the taste and will give it another try.  Overall, the texture of the burger needs some work; they were a bit too loose and more like a mashed sweet potato sandwich.  Even the leftover burger that chilled over 12 hours came out slightly mushy when cooked.  Perhaps, less mashing of the potatoes and a little more broccoli will yield a better texture.  Also, we recommend keeping the patties fairly small and thin, which will make flipping them easier and will increase the crust to interior ratio.  Our patties were a bit too big and thick and ended up squishing out the side of the bun.  We hope this gives you some ideas for trying your own veggie burgers and we will keep you posted about our next attempt.

April 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm 3 comments

big jones

After watching 5347 N. Clark slowly get rehabbed week after week  and month after month, a new restaurant was opened on nearby Clark Street.  The sign out front reads:


Big Jones features coastal southern cuisine, which is a nice addition to the already numerous variety of eateries in Andersonville.  Still, we had passed it by time after time.  Last week, we were ready to go out for dinner to meet an old friend visiting from out of town when, at the last moment, he had to bail on us.  So we forced ourselves to a new place and Big Jones is where we ended up.  Big Jones’ curb appeal is a bit like a store front, which had probably kept us from ever stepping foot inside before.  However, once inside, the interior was quite nice with warm lighting, interesting artwork, and wrought iron chairs and accents.

The night we were there happened to be $5 margarita night, so I tried the desert pear and Lauren tried the house rita.  If you like your drinks sweet – like they do their tea in the South – then I recommend the pear.  Overall, the dinner menu had a good variety of options with plenty for all appetites from munchies to feasting.  While waiting on our food, we each had a warm cornbread muffin with creamy honey butter.  For my dinner, I decided to stick with a standard – their Gumbo Ya-Ya.  This dish is served with little bowls of filé powder and pickled serrano chilies, to spice it up to your liking.  In comparison to my prior gumbo experience, this one was really thick with the brown roux.  The chicken was very tender and not dried out, and I loved the spice.  Beware – bring your serious appetite for the dinner portion of the Gumbo.

Gumbo Ya Ya with Chicken, Andouille, and trinity in a traditional dark roux, and popcorn rice $12.

Gumbo Ya Ya with Chicken, Andouille, and trinity in a traditional dark roux, and popcorn rice $12.

Lauren chose the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich with a side of handmade fried okra.  It was quite hefty as well, which allowed me to have a few helpful bites.  The meat was really juicy with a nice crisp slaw on top and a tasty side of green goddess sauce.  The fried okra was better then almost any I’ve had – crispy and not greasy.

Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich on Homestyle roll with Niman Ranch pasture-raised pork shoulder, west Carolina-style sauce, chow-chow slaw  $12

Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich on Homestyle roll with Niman Ranch pasture-raised pork shoulder, west Carolina-style sauce, chow-chow slaw $12

All in all, with such good menu options, I know we’ll be back.  Lauren is looking forward to trying their fried green tomato BLT.  Or, perhaps we’ll try out some brunch or stop in for tea time when my folks are in town.

March 27, 2009 at 10:49 am 3 comments

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