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Katie Davis



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No Splitting!

Thursday, August 19, 2010 @ 01:08 PM

045Summer is winding down, but I don’t know about you I am seriously looking forward to fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer; the trips, the barbecues, and just hanging out in the sun.  However, having moved back up to the Midwest I am truly looking forward to “having” a fall and enjoying the leaves change, crisp sweater weather, and enjoying some apple picking.  But enough about the weather, I know you all don’t come and read my weekly features to here me blab about the seasons changing, but instead want to hear about a new spot to try or maybe not try for that matter.  But speaking of seasons, this next spot is not good in just one season or another.  Rather, its customers will line up around the block, in rain, snow or shine it seems, making it truly a legend in its own right.  (especially cause it can get downright nasty, weather wise, in this city!)  Opened in 1960, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, located right in Harvard Square, has been dishing up a wide array of creative burger choices to its patrons ever since.  Started by the Bartley family, Billy their son, has been behind the grill since the age of 12 and according to an episode of Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives he would want to be doing nothing else.  He truly is the gas that keeps the fire continually burning and it would have to burning to keep up with their huge demand, see for yourself.

Source: “Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Bartley’s Burger Cottage” [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved August 19, 2010, from

The burgers look intense don’t they?  Well I have to admit that I did not actually see this clip before my visit to Mr. Bartley’s.  I know, I know, the horror, I did not do my full out research before a trip.  But truth be told I had already heard from several people (thanks Chad and Christina:) ) that this place was a must visit.  And since my bf Emily, whom I was visiting, had never been, it was the perfect opportunity.  Since Mr. Bartley’s is located near Harvard, I figured it would also give me a chance to be a typical Boston tourist and walk around its beautiful grounds as well, I mean one has to work up an appetite of course.  On day one, Emily and I set out on a long walk from her place over to Harvard Square and preceded to walk around the cute shops and campus.  It was not long before my stomach started growling and I knew it was about time for lunch.  Emily told me how she had heard how crazy packed this place can get, we were not surprised to turn the corner and find this. 

051 046 As you can see, people do not mess around when it comes to their burger for lunch.  And if you notice that man in the blue shirt seated next to the line, that is Mr. Bartley himself, acrotchety old man, but we’ll get to that.  Emily and I hopped in line and preceded to look over 30 burger options on the menu.  Emily and I had decided that we wanted to split one, since our friends had both mentioned how massive they were.  At 7 oz. of meat a burger, I have no doubt!  So we decided upon the “Tom Brady,” a good ol’ cheeseburger complete with guacamole and red onion.


It was at this point that Mr. Bartley sat down and I must admit I was a little confused and just thought it was some nice old man needing a break.  However, next thing I know he has this pad out and is asking me what I want.  It was then we realized he was taking orders to sort of move the whole process along.  But let’s just say you had better know what you want when he sits down or he will completely skip over you.  We quickly went with that “Tom Brady” and a side of their famous onion rings instead of fries.  Then he turned and asked Emily what she wanted, she was in the middle of saying we were going to split the burger when he snappily replied “no splitting, must order at least something.”  So Emily ordered a chocolate frappe and asked if that was sufficient, he kind of looked annoyed but said that was fine.  It was then that a table happened to be opening out on the patio and we both decided to jump on it and be a little colder than having to wait for a seat any longer.  But at this point I was still a little shocked at the encounter we had just had with Mr. Bartley, but Emily was not all the surprised, she said it was typical no nonsense Boston behavior.  After we were comfortably seated, we were presented with our chocolate frappe to enjoy while we waited for our burger. 

052053Not really sure what to expect with a frappe or even what it was when she ordered one, I quickly learned a little Boston etiquette.  It looked like a typical milkshake, but Emily informed me, that although she is not sure why, milkshakes all around Boston are referred to as frappes.  And asking for a milkshake just isn’t kosher, so for today I called it a frappe, and that frappe was mighty good.  Perfectly creamy and chocolaty and delicious.  It wasn’t long before “Tom Brady’ arrived and man did he look too good to eat.  And I am glad we decided upon the onion rings, because just look at how mouthwateringly awesome they were!

055 056 Splitting this burger was a great idea, because between it and the huge pile of onion rings, there was no way I could have eaten more.  And these burgers are not wimpy either, they are thick and juicy, not dry and a great bun to burger ratio.  Unfortunately we both agreed that the guacamole that comes on the “Tom Brady” was not our favorite, so I likely would not order him again, however given this restaurants massive amount of burger choices I am sure I could find another I may have like better.  Now the onion rings were a different story, these babies as you saw in the video, are too die for.  Cut perfectly and not overly breaded or fried, but rather just a great combination of sweet and salty, that you can grab a fist full and stuff in your mouth.

057 We clearly hated them :).  I would go back to visit just for these onion rings alone, but I wouldn’t mind trying another burger creation as well.  I mentioned that we were unable to eat inside, but I was able to snap a few pictures when we went inside to get some cash.  I also learned that Boston restaurants do not always have public restrooms of any kind due to their size, this one was one of them unfortunately.  It just ain’t big enough, but people don’t seem to mind!

058 059 SIGNATURE DISH: It is clear from their name that they do one thing best, Burgers!  But these aren’t just any ol’ burger, with over 30 varieties and options they have truly taken burger to another level.  And with fun creative names that complement the ingredients it is fun to order up any of their signature choices.

TASTE:  I have already featured a lot of burger places in the short life of my blog, some better than others and I must say that as burgers go this ranks pretty high.  I did not particularly like the additions our burger came with, namely their guacamole, but the burger itself was quite delicious.  Any large patty is often hard to cook without it getting dry on the outside.  But at Bartley’s their use of a flat top grill truly aides the flavor of their burgers, by giving the outside a wonderful crust, while the inside remains moist and juicy.  I would not say its the best burger I have ever had, but this place has so many fun additions, I would love the chance to take Adam to visit their and try and new creation.

AMBIANCE: This was one area I felt was a bit lacking, but this was due to a mistake that I made.  I will admit I chose the patio spot in hopes of getting our food out quicker, I was hungry!  But in doing so, we missed out on getting to sit inside amongst the true bustling atmosphere.  So if almost felt like I was just eating this really good burger anywhere, instead of having the food and experience melt together.  But next time I would just wait it out to get a full true experience.

PRICE:  I felt their prices were very decent, especially since we split our meal.  Their burgers range from about $7 – 10 depending on the ingredients which is fairly typical and reasonable if you ask me.  Substitutions for different fries or onion rings is also extra so you may want to keep that in mind too.  However, again because we split our meal, I believe we only paid maybe $10 – 15 a piece total, not bad if you ask me.

SERVICE:  This was one area I felt was kind of lacking.  This had nothing to do with how fast we got our food, but rather just the attitude I got from our waitress.  She was nice, but just not very friendly or welcoming.  The other thing I did not enjoy was how brash Mr. Bartley was.  Now I am not trying to sound like a baby, but maybe I was just not cut out for the Boston attitude.  I understand that this is his establishment and he makes the rules, I just felt a little nicer customer treatment could likely go along way.  However, I say that and with a line continuously around the corner, his attitude does not seem to be hurting anything.

I had a fun experience at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and really enjoyed the food, so much so that I hope to return someday so Adam can see for himself.  So with that I give Mr. Bartley’s 3 1/2 Little Piggies.

pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon half

4 Responses to “No Splitting!”

  1. Christina says:

    Glad we were of assistance! We loved the place and would definitely go to visit again!

  2. too fun! Ryan and I are headed to Boston in a few weeks, we may have to check this place out! Any other Boston recs?

    • Katie says:

      It is definitely a worthy visit and because it is so near Harvard, you can be touristy and see all the beautiful historical buildings at the same time!