6 Mary St
Newtown, NSW 2042
Mary’s in Sydney is like what Huxtaburger is to Melbourne; it’s a stark divider from the before, where burgers are limited to either fast food, or sandwiches slapped carelessly together on the counter of a fish and chip shop. Their arrival marked the beginning of a change in the burger scene in their respective cities. All of a sudden, the burger was elevated beyond a greasy hangover cure. In came the brioche buns, the good quality beef (with the cheese melted over the top, of course), and the hunt for the perfect combination of sauces that makes you want another burger the moment you’ve finished your first.
Although Mary’s now has quite a few branches scattered about, the original Mary’s is a dive bar in what used to be an STI-testing clinic off a side-street near Newtown station, and it clearly has leant into that vibe. The amount of curse words scratched and graffitied onto the walls would make your mother weep, and the only good thing about the dark dinginess is that it stops you from seeing exactly how disgusting the toilets are. On the flip side however, the graffiti art is really rather remarkable, as were the fascinating knick-knacks that covered every surface, running up the walls, and even extending onto the ceiling in places. You either love it or hate it – there is no in between.
The Mary’s Burger ($19) is what we’re here for, and it is your classic burger of beef, cheese, sauce, and salad, sandwiched between a sweet, squishy bun. The patty is a highlight, the O’Connor grass-fed beef meaty and full-flavoured, with just the right amount of fat to make it sing. Everything else in the burger is fairly standard, albeit of good quality. The thing that stops this from being a great burger however is, in my opinion, the lack of acidity. Between the creamy sauce and the absence of pickles, this was an entirely savoury affair that would’ve really benefited from a sharper note to cut through the richness.
Not as famous, but still rather popular, is the fried chicken at Mary’s. I had sensibly opted for the Half Bird ($22), which came in four golden-brown pieces. But despite the heavily-fried appearance, the batter actually wasn’t all that crispy, and fell away easily from the meat. The chicken itself was certainly fantastic, being remarkably juicy and succulent the whole way through even the largest piece. But whilst the batter delivered in the complexity and aroma of the spice mix, it lacked one crucial ingredient – salt. A heavier hand with the shaker would’ve made the batter wickedly addictive, but as it currently stands, errs just a bit on the bland side.
I had thought the food at Mary’s was rather good, and my only regret was not having ordered the mash with gravy. But at the risk of sounding like a killjoy on the wrong side of 30, I was really put off by the dingy ambience and loud music. But then again, that’s what they have other branches for. I definitely see another Mary’s burger in my future, it just won’t be happening in Newtown.
Rating: 12/20 – point docked for the ambience (so really, 13/20).
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.