Mr. Bartley’s is a Cambridge institution and a longtime favorite of mine. They have a pretty extensive menu and of particular note are their sandwiches and burgers, which are named after politicans, celebrities and sports stars from the Boston-Cambridge area. When I lived in Boston, I’d often find myself taking the Red Line T (subway) to Harvard Square and waiting in line to tuck into a Conan O’Brien (hot covered turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes). Their subtly sweet and soft baked beans are the standard by which I measure other versions.
I hadn’t been a big fan of their burgers in the past, but on a recent visit I had a “Mitt Romney” burger with Swiss cheese and grilled onions. Cooked medium and topped with BBQ sauce, at my request, it was incredibly beefy, juicy and one of those dishes that just got better with each bite. And it comes with a side of their thin, wispy batter-dipped and very addictive onion rings. Be sure to ask for some sweet pepper relish to spoon on your plate for dipping. An inspired choice suggested by my waitress on my last visit.
An ideal beverage to wash this down would be one of their classic frappes which is New England lingo for a milkshake. On the lighter side, a raspberry-lime rickey made with raspberry juice, simple syrup, lots of fresh squeezed limes and crushed ice, is the perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day.
In addition to great food, Mr. Bartley’s has an atmosphere that really draws me in. It can get a bit loud with the staff calling out orders and sometimes giving sass to some of the customers, but that’s just part of the charm. The walls are covered with posters, signs and artwork that really put the Boston-Cambridge culture on display. Just steps from the scenic Harvard University campus, people from all walks of life make their way here for a burger and then some. Hopefully, I’ll see you among them soon.