Mr. Bartley’s – Cambridge, MA

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During my first visit to Cambridge, MA, my daughter and I stumbled across a great burger joint, hip in all the right ways but also delicious.  We recently found our way back.  Like Leavitt & Peirce, it’s on Harvard Square, and we were fortunate to arrive just before the crowd.

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Mr. Bartley's, as the sign says, has been in business for 55 years.   The exterior signage doesn’t get to the full novelty of the place.

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A closer look at the front door hints at it.  Restaurant reviews… yeah, but the plate at the top gives a good hint.

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A (cool) hamburger place is a (cool) hamburger place is a…  I get it.  Like Atlanta’s Vortex or Birmingham’s Black Market Bar, there’s plenty of eye distractions around the place.  In my opinion, that’s a good thing, not to distract from conversation, but to share in it the “I spy” sort of appreciation of a place. 

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Beatles, Elvis, untethered workers eating from their lunch pails on a skyscraper…  Usual stuff.   But the details…  “Teamwork means never having to take all the blame,” A Star Trek landing party, Chesterfield cigarette adds, “Beware of pickpockets and loose women,” a funny “education victim” sign… It all depends on where you’re seated.

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The fun begins, though, with the menu.  If you click the picture below you’ll see some of the political and societal punnage (which is a new word, expect it shortly in Urban Dictionary) .  As you’ll read, it’s kept very current with events, and I have to say that the poke at The Hilary Clinton is particularly delicious.

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I tried the Diane Paulus “Bravo” burger, with cheddar cheese, bacon, maple syrup, topped with a fried egg with sweet potato fries, pictured earlier.  Google reveals she’s the Artistic Director for the Theater at Harvard University.  So, they suck up to locals as well.  Yummy burger.  Curiously, like the pastry shops I visited, Mr. Bartley’s is also cash only.  Maybe they’ll name a burger for a visiting IRS agent.

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One other note.  It’s a small place, so plan your ATM visit and your arrival around the peak dining hours.  Worked for us!

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