From St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Hamburger Mary’s has returned to St. Louis, but it’s definitely not the same Hamburger Mary’s from before.
The restaurant and drag venue opened officially Jan. 20 at 400 Washington Avenue in the Gallery 400 building after an ill-fated run in midtown from 2012 to 2014. At 10,000 square feet, this is one of the largest of the 19 Hamburger Mary’s franchises across the country.
David Pardue, who co-owns the restaurant with Michael Dutzer and Rob Mansman (none of whom was affiliated with the midtown franchise), says the spot is “a good time for people to come out and enjoy a good meal with entertainment on the side.” He describes the new Hamburger Mary’s as having more of a cabaret feel and being more chic, twice the size and equipped with a full stage, catwalk and large video wall lining the rear of the stage. He says Hamburger Mary’s isn’t just another gay establishment. “We don’t want it to be seen as a gay bar because of the drag part,” Pardue says. “Ninety percent of our clientele are West County housewives and bachelorette parties. We want to be inviting to everyone.” While one side of Hamburger Mary’s features drag shows, the other side is more of a sports bar, with a pool table, broadening the venue’s appeal. He expects the restaurant’s appeal to extend to visitors at nearby America’s Center, downtown residents and workers, patrons at Busch Stadium and Scottrade Center, clubgoers, hotel guests and more — not to mention the many tenants who live in the apartments above Hamburger Mary’s. “People have to eat,” Pardue says. Of course, it’s the drag performances that give Hamburger Mary’s its edge. Shows are Thursday through Sunday.
The cast of drag performers is a mix of St. Louis staples and out-of-state performers who relocated to work at the new venue. “We have an eclectic show,” Pardue says. “We have a black performer, transgender women. ... The whole concept is to be welcoming of everyone.” The five permanent cast members are Sabrina White, a former Miss Gay America; Nina DiAngelo, a former Miss Entertainer of the Year; Tiffany T. Hunter, a former Miss Continental; Krista Versace, former Miss Missouri Continental; and Alexis Principle, former Miss Gay Missouri America. An additional cast member will be announced in the spring.
On display at the restaurant are various pieces of drag memorabilia, including heels belonging to former Miss Gay Americas Charity Case, Catia Lee Love, Coti Collins and Suzy Wong, as well as a gown worn by Wong (Miss Gay America 2017). A pair of autographed red boots from the national tour of “Kinky Boots” hangs at the bar. The menu includes a variety of burgers, as well as sliders, chicken tenders, wraps, appetizers, soups and salads. The food items have wink-wink names such as sausage party (bowtie pasta with Italian sausage and bell peppers) and deep-fried twinks (golden cream cakes with raspberry sauce) and drinks such as the Carrie Bradshaw, Karen Walker and the “Total Top” ‘Rita. “The food isn’t a cookie-cutter formula,” Pardue says. “There’s not one location that looks the same or has the same menu. It says in the name we’re a burger place. We have the option of changing some things, but there are core burgers that are required.” St. Louis-specific items will be incorporated into the menu. The full menu will be available in February; an abbreviated menu is currently available. Pardue brought the idea of resurrecting the venue to Dutzer and Masman, who initially were skeptical. “They were like ‘what?’” he says. Pardue says the idea wasn’t to revive something that failed, though that had been the perception. “Any time a franchise leaves, the first misconception is that it wasn’t successful,” he says. “It was very successful. It was the management that shut it down.”In 2014, Mark Erney, an investor in the original St. Louis Hamburger Mary’s at 3037 Olive Street, was sentenced on a felony conviction that he stole money from his fellow investors . He was forced to pay his former partners $45,000. The old building was eventually lost in foreclosure. “We just have to get the word out that we’re new with new owners,” Pardue says, explaining the current owners have to take the good with the bad in acquiring the business. The new owners kept the old Facebook page, which had more than 10,000 likes. Dutzer and Masman agreed to get on board with Pardue — if they could find a space large enough to serve as the home base for the Miss Gay America pageant, which they own. Pardue owns Miss Gay Heart of America, an MGA preliminary pageant. On Sunday, the venue hosted the Miss Gay Gateway America pageant, a Miss Gay Missouri America prelim. They looked at spaces in the Central West End, the Delmar Loop and the Grove before deciding on the downtown location. “Everything gay doesn’t have to be in the Grove,” Pardue says.
Where Hamburger Mary’s, 400 Washington Avenue • When 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday • More info 314-833-4000; hamburgermarys.com
Reported by Kevin C. Johnson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch.