Hamburger Mary’s Drag Queen Ham-BINGO

hamburger mary's
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As Velicity Metropolis, the boisterous blonde drag queen and host of Hamburger Mary’s weekly Bingo, will be sure to tell you, this really isn’t your grandma’s church basement Bingo. For one, Hamburger Mary’s doesn’t look anything like a church. Well, I guess that depends on what you worship. A small disco ball spins, large Christmas light bulbs wrap around exposed ceiling beams, and the light green pastel printed walls are adorned with crooked, mismatched, vintage picture frames. Would your grandma’s church offer Jell-O shots to each round’s winner? I don’t think so.

Every Monday between 8:00pm and 10:00pm Velicity Metropolis puts on her dazzling sequin dress and brushes on the mascara for a night of untraditional Bingo. The Bingo cards are $5 a piece or five for $20, and proceeds from games goes to rotating local charities. The week I attended, all proceeds from the Bingo cards and $2 kamikaze test tube shots benefited the American Animal Rescue Society. The Rescue Society was responsible for the non-alcoholic prizes — a gold glittering dog poop candle, a dog grooming sponge that said “ass” on one side and “face” on the opposite, and a coffee mug shaped like a toilet to name a few. Gotta love a charity with a sense of humor.

As TLC plays softly in the background and a black and white Western silently streams on a television above the bar, Velicity Metropolis lays out the rules. They’re simple, though sometimes nonsensical, like when I-22 is called and everyone is required to quack like a duck. Lucky for regulars, each game is played differently. There’s no need to panic though, because she holds up a laminated print out of each game being played and what’s needed to win. There’s “B.O.” where you need to fill either lines “B” or “O.” There’s “Top or Bottom,” where you have to fill the top, bottom, or middle horizontal row. There’s “Six Pack” where you have to get two rows of three in either a horizontal or vertical cluster.

Half way through Bingo, our host takes a break and, when she comes back, the lights dim and a spotlight shines on her. She appears from the kitchen, in a new outfit, strutting through the restaurant, climbing atop chairs and shimmying in the faces of patrons while lip-synching Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” The crowd hollers and Dennis, a customer with glasses who’s been flirtatiously bantering back and forth with Velicity as she’s been calling out numbers, sticks a few dollar bills beneath her collar.

It’s hard to say whether I enjoy Mary’s on Monday nights more for the Bingo or the hamburgers. Neither has yet to disappoint. As the name suggests, Mary’s has an insane amount of burger options — and they allow you to substitute their angus-beef burgers with either a buffalo burger for an additional $3 or a chicken breast, turkey burger, or homemade blackbean patty at no extra cost. The portions are large and include your choice of side. The standard burgers are each $11, even though there’s nothing “standard” about them. The burgers names are just as funny as Velicity Metropolis. I had the “Guacamole BJ”—a blackbean burger topped with bacon, jack cheese, and guacamole, served on a rich multigrain bun.

If their standard burgers aren’t enough, Mary’s also has premium burgers like the “Fiesta Burger” stuffed with chorizo sausage and topped with melted pepper-jack cheese or the blackened tuna steak burger topped with pineapple. These bad boys will set you back anywhere from $12-$13 bucks. If you’re not up for a hamburger, I’d recommend Mary’s offbeat desserts like fried Twinkies ($5) or deep-fried peanut butter and jelly ($5). You can always just go for their drinks, like the adult milkshake, home brewed ales, or, of course, their $5 Monday margaritas, frozen or on the rocks. Whatever reason you go for — be it the Bingo, the charity, or the food — you’re bound to have much more fun then your grandma, that’s for sure.

The Essentials:
Location: 5400 N. Clark
Phone: 773.784.6969


Erin Nederbo

About Erin Nederbo

Erin is a current writing major at Columbia College and a native of Chicago's Jefferson Park. Surrounded by Cubbie blue, she is often hassled by friends for being a White Sox fan. During winter, she keeps warm by eating Italian beef, dreaming of 16 inch softball, and reading Sandra Cisneros. Her creative writing can be found in Hair Trigger 33 Magazine.

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