Food + DrinkLifestyle

Hamburger Mary’s Houston Moves Downtown

June grand opening planned for the drag-queen-themed bar and grill.

Hamburger Mary’s Houston owners Oscar Lugo (l), Tony Hernandez-Ramos, and Greg Hernandez-Ramos (photos by Dalton DeHart)

Once again, it’s time to eat, drink, and be Mary.  

Hamburger Mary’s Houston, the home of great burgers, big drinks, and talented drag performers, has a new downtown location that will open in time for Pride weekend.

“We had outgrown the Montrose space on Grant Street,” owner Greg Ramos explains. “We had to share a bathroom and parking with the bar next door, and it just wasn’t a good combination anymore.”

This nationwide family of franchised establishments started in 1972 when a group of friends decided to open a drag-queen-themed burger bar in San Francisco’s SoMa gayborhood. That location became wildly popular with the LGBTQ crowd as well as with celebrities—Divine, Conan O’Brien, Chelsea Clinton, Sharon Stone, and others noshed on the burgers—until the wave of AIDS deaths in the ’90s (followed by the 2000 tech bust) convinced the original owners to sell in 2001. Although today’s 19 franchised locations have no connection to the original, they recreate the kitschy ambiance and inclusive vibe that made it famous.

Hamburger Mary’s Houston opened in 2017 on Grant Street in the Montrose bar area with Ramos as the general manager. He bought it in 2019 and then closed it last December when he found the old Prohibition Supper Club space downtown on Prairie Street.

“It’s super-huge, it has dressing rooms, bathrooms, three balconies, and a huge stage,” Ramos notes, adding that there is also much more kitchen space. “It’s a blessing for us. We can expand our food service and our entertainment. It’s an older building with a bohemian vibe—very Gatsby meets To Wong Fu!”

Prohibition Supper Club had featured burlesque shows that even included aerialists, so Mary’s regulars can expect more than just basic drag shows at the new location. 

“Our queens and entertainers won’t just be on stage,” Ramos says. “They will work the whole space. If you hold up money for tips, they will come right up to you—[maybe] even jumping off a table doing the splits.” 

Besides the more elaborate shows, Ramos will also be adding a Mary-oke Karaoke night, ’80s-themed parties, and a weekend buffet brunch. “I trained at the Long Beach Hamburger Mary’s where they had a weekend buffet and I always wanted to do that, but we didn’t have the space before.” 

The interior of Hamburger Mary’s Houston’s new downtown location 

And while some things will change, the great burgers that Hamburger Mary’s is known for—and the daytime family-friendly atmosphere—will remain. 

“Our entertainers know how to do kid-friendly shows,” he says. “We’ll be very family-friendly during the day and the brunches. But at night it can be a bit spicy.”

Ramos calls Hamburger Mary’s a perfect place to celebrate. They plan to have more private parties of all sizes since the space has a VIP room and exclusive seating areas. Drag shows are now in rehearsal, and Ramos is experimenting with soft-opening parties for friends and family on the weekends. (Recently, Lady Shamu—a grand dame on the Houston drag scene—held a family birthday celebration there.) 

“We’re hoping to have our grand re-opening on June 1, and we’ll have a parking-lot party for Pride since it’s downtown, too,” says Ramos. 

So even though Hamburger Mary’s Houston has moved out of the gayborhood, the new location will be a welcome addition to the downtown restaurant, bar, and entertainment scene.

Hamburger Mary’s Houston
1008 Prairie Street
713-518-7700
hamburgermarys.com/houston

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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