It’s official: Hamburger Mary’s, the kitschy, gay-oriented hamburger chain that originated on Folsom Street back in the '70s, is returning to San Francisco—and finally breathing some life back into The Patio, the prime Castro space that's been vacant since 1999 (yes, you read that right). As Hoodline reports, the fate of the chain was up in the air due to the conditional-use permit required to get around the Castro's formula retail laws, which require any business with 11 or more locations to get special approval. (You may remember it from last year's felling of a proposed outpost of Chipotle, in the still-vacant Home space at Church and Market.)
While any chain seeking a Castro berth is bound to encounter some rough waters, The Patio's owner, Les Natali, maintained that this location will be unique, harkening back to the original 12th and Folsom outpost that closed in 2001. (It's now The Willows.) In a letter distributed to local residents back in February, Natali explained, "[Hamburger Mary’s] will be a locally-owned and operated restaurant, and very similar to the original Hamburger Mary's on Folsom Street." The message appears to have gotten through: the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association reported a 60 percent turnout for the member vote for approval (much higher than their recent election), with members voting three to one in favor of allowing the chain to open.
Based on the L.A. outposts, Mary's is nothing special in the culinary arena (think fried appetizers, fruity cocktails, sandwiches, and of course, burgers aplenty), but it should be a reliable spot to catch a drag show: the restaurant is applying for a live performance permit, which will allow drag performers to put on impromptu numbers between courses, a signature aspect of the restaurant's shtick. No word as of yet on when Mary's will make its big debut.