OH, MARY: For gays of a certain age Hamburger Mary's was heaven, well, hamburger-home fries-homo heaven.
In the 70's, 80's, and a little bit of the 90's, the Portland franchise for this San Francisco-based chain (it now has 14 across the country) was one, if not the only place, in downtown Portland where gays felt okay being openly gay, and straights ate up the scene as the ate up their enormous omelets. In fact, the target market for this affordably priced restaurant and bar target has always been the gay and lesbian community and queer-friendly allies.
I still remember the first time I went to Hamburger Mary's when it sat at the corner of SW Taylor and 9th Avenue, where the Regal Fox Tower Cinemas now sits. In fact, in 1982 Mary's was one of the first places I ever stepped into in Portland as a just-fresh-from-the-sticks hick. It was Mecca for many a queer youth who were too young to get into the Stark Street bars. The food was cheap and the staff was even cheaper, and often, in the earlier days, dressed in drag. You always got a side of sass with your order and maybe a wink or two from some of the cutest (and tightest jeans-wearing) boys in town. It was here I met my first date with the first person I'd met through the personals. I met many friends there who I still consider my friends (including Executive Director of PICA, Victoria Frey, a former Mary's hash slinger). It was in the next door bar, I had a drink with actor Bill Pullman. I tried out a lot of fashion mistakes there. I miss all the guys who used to work but are long gone....sigh.
Anyways, when the powers-to-be decided to install the Fox Tower on the site, poof, Hamburger Mary's was gone...as was the Vat, Rock-N-Roll Fashions, and the really cool, old IHOP building.
Like the Vat, Hamburger Mary's had a second life in Portland. It was across from The Benson Hotel. And, like the Vat, it didn't last very long. Many thought that was the last we'd see of this proud and loud Portland institution.
That was until now.
According to Foodline.com it looks like Hamburger Mary's is about to re-open. This is a good (and a sort of cautious) thing. The good news is that is going to be just a few feet away from Portland's Burnside Triangle, considered this city's "official" queer district. The bad news is that it's going up in on a corner that has seen more bars than Jack Nicholson on Oscar night: 1135 SW Washington Street.
Yes, that is the former location of The Whiskey Bar, Bettie Ford's, Dick's, and a really cool old Chinese restaurant that looked like a left-over set from Twin Peaks. I am sure I missing some other now closed joints, so let's just say that the location has seen its share of..er...failures.
We cannot let that happen to the "new" Hamburger Mary's.
Here's hoping that the third time out for Mary is, indeed, a charm.