Mr. Bartley’s Burgers: Harvard’s Best Burgers
1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA
In the heart of Harvard, right near Harvard Yard is a family-run burger joint called Mr. Bartley’s Burgers. The small, casual burger restaurant is the epitome of a college student hangout; the dining room is tightly crammed with as many tables as possible, the walls are plastered with posters, banners and ironic pictures. Almost hidden on the back wall near the burger grill is Guy Fieri’s face stamp marking his visit to feature Mr. Bartley’s Burgers on his Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” Mr. Bartley’s Burgers has been a staple on the Boston food scene since 1960 and has received many accolades since then. The restaurant’s burgers have been voted best burgers in America by both the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal.
I first visited Mr. Bartley’s Burgers years ago before the show was featured on the Food Network, and even then, the burgers and sandwiches were smartly named with titles that commented on current events, celebrities and even public policies. Back then, I ordered the Britney Spears sandwich and my cousin ordered the Michelle Obama burger. Neither of those names are on the menu any more. So this time around, I picked the Hashtag which is a juicy burger piled high with boursin cheese and bacon, served with sweet potato fries. The menu’s instructions read: don’t tweet it, just eat it, which was exactly what I did. I was too hungry to bother snapping and tweeting the juicy burger before scarfing it down anyway. The creamy and rich boursin cheese was incredible in this burger but the actual burger meat was perfectly cooked to a medium rare like I had ordered. The meat was tender and well charred on the outside and pink and juicy in the center. It was impossible to eat this burger without the juices dripping out.
We also ordered the Katie Couric, which was a wrap filled with fresh turkey breast, stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo. It was basically Thanksgiving all wrapped up in a nice compact package, almost like a contemporary take on comfort food. When I bit into the wrap, I tasted something so familiar but just couldn’t place it until I realized it was the comforting soft and savoury stuffing that is always on the Thanksgiving dinner table. This is a great alternative to the burgers at Bartley’s.
But back to the burgers, the third item that we ordered was the Kim Kardashian, another perfectly cooked burger with teriyaki sauce and a grilled pineapple served with crispy onion rings. I didn’t care so much for the onion rings as they weren’t as heavily battered as I usually like. The burger was scrumptious though, the juicy pineapple added a tropical flavour to lighten the heavy burger meat and the teriyaki sauce added another dimension of flavour.
I also loved the ambiance at Mr. Bartley’s Burgers, the place was bustling even at 3 pm, which definitely wasn’t lunch time or dinner time. But if you remember the student life, there isn’t ever any real structure to it and you grab a bite when and where you can and Mr. Bartley’s Burgers is perfect for that. I can see why this place is a Boston landmark. I can’t wait to go back!