There is something about watching a drag show that leaves you feeling spectacular. I don’t know why. As a woman I often feel self conscious of my looks, especially now that I am no spring chicken. However, when I see how these trans stars shine, I can’t help but feel amazing as well. Watching these performers at Hamburger Mary’s made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. A weird part of me always wanted to be on stage performing all made up like that since I was a child. Who knows, I guess I’m just a drag queen in a girl’s body. But don’t all of us crave that moment in the spotlight at least once in our lives? Live vicariously through these trans stars.
We hear about violence that people face everyday in other countries, due to religious or political beliefs, gender, and racial or ethnic background. But right here in America, the LGBTQ community faces the same violence, which often goes unrecognized by those not personally involved. To learn what you can do to help go to Human Rights Watch.
I originally heard of Hamburger Mary’s while watching an episode of Undercover Boss in 2016. One of the employees at the Jacksonville establishment, Kenny, told his story of coming out and how his family didn’t accept him. After working at Hamburger Mary’s he felt he had found a new family where they accepted him for who he was. This left a huge impact on me so I wanted to go there and see this place for myself.
My first time
A few years ago I finally got this opportunity while visiting University of North Florida in Jacksonville. It was a chilly day in March and we were starving after touring the college and driving all morning. We went to Hamburger Mary’s on a Monday evening around 5pm. The place was deserted. However, someone eventually came out of the back and seated us. Now, I’ve worked in the restaurant business for years. Nobody likes when someone shows up to eat during the lull. However, they treated us like royalty. The server engaged us in friendly conversation during our meal and told us about the Bingo fundraiser they were having later that evening to help out a friend. We were tired and didn’t stay for the Bingo. However, we donated to their cause and the server was very grateful.
Well, my real first time
Recently, we planned a trip to Jacksonville with our 14 year old. Of course, Hamburger Mary’s was part of our itinerary. This time we had the opportunity to watch drag shows at Hamburger Mary’s two nights in a row. Both were amazing. However, on the second night we were able, after a careful study, to notice which servers had performed the evening before. The transformations were stunning, which is why I have to call them works of art.
History of Hamburger Mary’s and its amazing trans stars
The original Hamburger Mary’s opened in 1972, in San Francisco, as a dive bar. It was open late night for beer and burgers. The casual atmosphere, which included mismatched utensils and dishes plus an open-minded friendly staff, led the way to establishing it as a welcoming place for the LGBTQ community.
Trans Stars Shine in Nightly Shows
The first night, the trans stars were very athletic. They were bending backwards, doing splits, leaping and doing flips. The music got a bit over the top as the night went on, not a show meant for kids. Although, there were teens in the audience. Good thing we brought a bunch of cash to tip the performers. During the performance they walked around mingling with the audience for tips. The stage was littered with money. Several runners spent the evening just going back and forth gathering the money in buckets. Then they would take the buckets off stage after replacing them with empty ones.
By the end of the evening everyone was singing, and several people got up to dance near there seats.
The second evening was a little tamer. Friday night is more of a traditional drag show with more singing and less acrobatics. These trans stars perform 2 shows on Friday evenings. After the first one, it is time to leave so that the next crowd to come in. If you make your reservation for the second show, come early and have a drink on the back patio while you wait. Both nights included a few acts with male exotic dancers. And of course the humor was bawdy on both evenings.
The second night we had a table right in the walkway, so the spectacular trans stars came right up to us during each act. One got my 14 year old to dance with her. There are many photo ops during the show and taking pictures and video are expected.
Food at Hamburger Mary’s
Although the menu consists mainly of burgers, there are additional options as well. Appetizers include mac-n-cheese fritters, mini-mary sliders, quesadillas, nachos, and chicken tenders. My favorites are the Hot Wangs & Thangs and the Loaded Tatas which are tater tots loaded with cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and scallions.
There are several choices of burgers and sandwiches. All the burgers have a choice of patty: veggie, turkey, or beef. Choose which style toppings you want such as the Spicy Mary, which is rubbed with blackening seasoning, topped with buffalo sauce, pickled peppers, pepper-jack cheese, lettuce, and ranch dressing. Sandwich options include Capt’N & Taneal which is a fish sandwich and No Hate Chicken Sammie which has southern fried chicken to name a few. If you prefer a salad, they offer several choices there too.
Don’t forget to try the deep fried twinkies for dessert.
Where else can I see trans stars at Hamburger Mary’s?
While the original location was in San Francisco, the franchise has branched out to several other cities, states, and Mexico. Other California locations include West Hollywood, Ontario, and Long Beach. While we visited the Jacksonville location, Hamburger Mary’s can also be found in Clearwater, Wilton Manors, and Orlando, Florida, making us and California the states with the most Mary’s!
Additional locations include:
- Chicago, Illinois
- Denver, Colorado
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Houston, Texas
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Kansas City & St. Louis, Missouri
- Toledo, Ohio
- Puerta Vallarta, Mexico
These are franchises so while the theme is the same there are several differences. Check each location for their menu. While they all have drag shows, the types of shows and audience changes from place to place. Check before going for age restrictions.
Donna Emperador is a travel and food blogger and copywriter. Donna believes in learning about different cultures while sharing good food and cocktails. She has lived in South Florida for over 20 years and enjoys spending time exploring the road to find unique places to share with readers. She can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
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Hamburger Mary’s looks like a fun spot to see a show. It is great that you were able to get such good photos of the show. And I certainly would not pass on deep fried Twinkies for dessert!
I love your statement that you’re a drag queen in a girl’s body: So cool! I actually never had a thing for drag shows since in the past I experienced how oppressed my gay friends were. At that time, people who were talking smack about gays went to drag shows in the evening and enjoyed it like a freak show. And although things changed a lot since then, this discomfort always stuck with me which is a shame since I’m afraid I’m missing out on truly artistic performances – as your post shows.