I think Mary’s is supposed to be a secret. In order to get there, one must turn off King Street, Newtown’s main drag, bustling with people of all shapes and sizes, into a tiny, unlit alleyway. The door to Mary’s is about halfway down this alley, completely unmarked except for the presence of the bouncer standing in the doorway.
Maybe Mary’s is supposed to be a secret, but everyone seems to know about it, judging by the clientele on the Sunday night that I visited. What is Mary’s? Well, it’s a bar I suppose, though my friends and I didn’t go there to drink – we went for the food. Maybe that makes it a restaurant? Strangest restaurant I’ve ever been to then. Either way, Mary’s is an institution. Everyone seems to have heard of Mary’s burgers.
Approaching Mary’s I was content to follow those friends of mine who’d been there before – I wouldn’t have felt that comfortable walking down a dark alley and through an unmarked door to goodness-knows-what by myself. Apparently the queue stretches out the door some nights though, so I expect that would make the experience less intimidating (though slower, for sure). We passed the surly bouncer and I discovered that ‘goodness-knows-what’ turned out to be a packed one-and-a-half storey (that is, ground floor plus mezzanine) bar/pub hybrid (I think – I am not well versed in the identification of alcoholic beverage consumption locations). The music was hard rock. The walls were graffitied and there were permanent markers lying around so that patrons could add their mark. We joined the queue trailing down the stairs from the mezzanine in the hope of getting a table. As there was quite a number of us, the staff kindly allowed us to wait downstairs at the bar, rather than in the queue, until a table came up.
Soon enough a table became available and we headed upstairs and placed our orders. Mary’s serves two different types of food: burgers and fried chicken. That’s it. Admittedly they have three different types of burger: the Maryburger, the Cheeseburger and the Shroomburger (vegetarian), but that’s it (oh, and you can order mashed potato and gravy with your fried chicken, but really… that’s it).
There was a bit of wait until our food came as, despite it being a Sunday night, the place was packed. After a while the metal music began to grate on the nerves of some members of our group, and we were getting hungry. These burgers had better be worth it. They finally came, wrapped up in greaseproof paper and accompanied by skinny fries in a little plastic basket. The moment of truth…
I unwrapped my Maryburger. It was not what I had expected. It was not that big, and in a squooshy bun, a bit like a Maccas* burger. Then I took a bite. It was like the Maccas burger of your dreams. The special Mary’s sauce was delectable. The burger was a taste sensation – you couldn’t really taste each of the elements of the burger, just the greasy, squashy, delicious mess as bite after bite was ravenously devoured. But then, about half way through my burger… I started slowing down. Maybe it was possible to have too much of a good thing (who knew?). That delicious, greasy burger was starting to get heavier and heavier and, to be honest, the second half didn’t taste nearly as good as the first… but I still finished it though!
Mary’s – famous for its burgers, despite being hidden away down an alley. It seems that when you’re on to a good thing the news will always get out. Or, maybe, it’s just as as a friend commented mid-burger: “Sydney doesn’t seem to be very good at keeping secrets.”
* McDonalds, for any non-Aussies.
Cover photograph: Our contribution to the Mary’s graffiti wall – a tiny Ichthys (Jesus fish)