Hamburger Mary's

Written by SJO Staff on .

Hamburger Mary's

Hamburger Mary's is a nice family restaurant. But we're talking a different type of family. Think Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."

Hamburger Mary's Orlando recently moved into the Church Street Station neighborhood in the space that TooJay's last occupied. If I'm not mistaken, in the old Church Street days it was the Buffalo Trading Co. It's part of a franchise that started in San Francisco in 1972. Are you getting the picture yet?

It's the first national chain to market specifically to the gay community. You might have figured it out if you had wandered in on a Tuesday for Bingo Night, hosted by local celebrity Miss Sammy (hint: it's not short for Samantha) or for the Maryoke sing-alongs on Wednesdays.

At other times, you might not have noticed anything different about the place at all. Indeed, on one of my lunch visits, there was a family at the next table, a father, mother and baby in a stroller.

Everyone is welcome at Mary's -- she does not discriminate. She is a terrific hostess, but I don't think anyone would call her the best cook in town, especially if you should wander away from the list of burgers. Suffice to say the place will never be called Meatloaf Mary's.

Stick with the burgers, and you'll be fine. The hard part is deciding on which burger to have. There are 11 variations, with names such as Queen Mary, Sloppy Mary, Spicy Mary and Blue Boy burger. And if you missed the Sister Sledge reference, I doubt you'd understand Blue Boy. (No, it's not served raw. The blue refers to the cheese.)

Most of the burgers are made with a half-pound of certified Angus beef, although one is bigger, made with a full pound of meat. That one is called the Proud Mary, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

I would have preferred a juicier patty, but the burgers I had I liked well enough. A favorite was the Sloppy Mary, slopped with chili and melted cheddar and jack cheese. It's served open-face and is meant to be eaten with a knife and fork. Sloppy is as sloppy does.

I also liked the Guacamole BJ, the initials representing bacon and jack cheese. It, too, could have been called the Sloppy Mary.

HMO's appetizers are hit-or-miss. The inevitably named Macho Nachos, chips piled high with chili, cheddar and jack cheese, black olives and jalapenos, were surprisingly good. Mary Mac & Cheese Balls were not only dry and flavorless, they weren't even balls. They were triangles.

Come here for burgers, come for the camaraderie, the drinks, the loud music videos or the even louder decor of purples and greens and geometric shapes. But if you're not looking to have a good time, you might as well stay home. As the motto says, "Eat, drink and be Mary."

The Pit

Written by SJO Staff on .

The Pit, a neighborhood pub with some interesting grub

You don't really know what to expect from a place that calls itself The Pit. Or maybe you do. Whatever your preconceived notion, it's not likely to be lofty. And that's just fine with this particular Pit, a fun little neighborhood pub with ties to the British Isles.

The Pit is in the strip mall that occupies the corner of Michigan Street and Conway Road in Orlando. It occupies the storefront that was the original location of Conway's BBQ, but let's not hold that against them.

The owners are from Wales and England, and they bring the camaraderie that British pubs are famous for to their South Orlando bar.

They don't really bring the food, although The Pit's Web site claims the menu is an amalgam of American, South African and British cuisine. I see mostly American, with a heavy emphasis of wings, sandwiches and burgers. In fact it was a particular burger, one called the Dagwood, recommended by a Sentinel reader, that sent me looking for The Pit in the first place.

I'm not sure why it's called the Dagwood; it has little to do with the sandwich made famous in the Blondie cartoon. This is a basic burger, albeit a good and thick one, made distinct with the addition of a fried egg on top. Interesting, maybe a little gimmicky, but it was a good burger even without the egg, which, by the way, had a hardened yolk so it wasn't too messy to eat. The Pit crew is obviously trying to outdo the burger at Johnny's Fillin' Station farther down Michigan Street. (I haven't made up my mind yet if they've succeeded; let me know what you think.)

I also tried the pork loin sandwich thinking it might be the breaded and fried variety found in the Midwest (the Midwest United States, not the Midwestern British Isles). But this wasn't that. It also wasn't a sandwich, really. It featured three slices of roast pork loin, seasoned with plenty of rosemary, laid atop a slice of bread. The meat was tender and the rosemary made it especially tender. And I have to say that for $8.49, which included fries, this was a bargain of a meal, even though the fries in question weren't very good.

There are a few tables and chairs hugging the wall of the narrow space, but the best seating is in the big comfy stools at the bar. But don't sit there if you have an aversion to being chatted up by the friendly owners. If you're the type that hates being made to feel welcome, you're just not going to like this place at all.

The Pit is in the Mariner's Village, 4580 E. Michigan St., Orlando. For hours, phone and menu, click here.