My Montrose: Mark De Lange, Hamburger Mary’s
Mark De Lange is the owner of the first Houston location of legendary restaurant chain Hamburger Mary’s.
Tell us about the history of Hamburger Mary’s.
It was founded in 1972 in San Francisco’s SoMa district. Everybody would pregame at Mary’s, then go to the bars, and then stumble back to Mary’s for late-night breakfast. So it kind of became this unifier for the LGBT community, because in the gay scene you have the leather bars, the lesbian bars, the twink bars…there’s all this division. And Hamburger Mary’s ignored all those lines. It was common ground.
What did you know about Hamburger Mary’s before you became interested in opening a franchise here?
When I would travel, particularly in California, I would always go there. It was family dining, and then it became a nightclub in the evening, with shows and entertainment. I thought that was perfect for Houston. And I also liked the fact that, as a restaurant, it didn’t have to follow the nightclub business model. It’s not a narrow product offering—we can do everything from bingo to trivia, and nightclubs really can’t do that.
How does the restaurant fit with the other businesses you operate in Montrose?
It doesn’t really, other than that it’s in the same neighborhood. My other properties are just straight-up bars. That’s an easy business model to follow. This has way more moving parts. There’s a huge show component to what we do—we do shows Wednesday through Sundays. It’s reserved seating, and you can eat while you’re watching the show. It’s almost like dinner theater. The shows are largely drag; that’s a staple of the Hamburger Mary’s concept. It’s been that way since day one. And I like following that tradition.
How much independence do you have from the national chain?
They give us a really free hand in a lot of the things we do. For instance, we have the right to do a food truck, which we’re planning to do next year. We would have the first Hamburger Mary’s food truck in the country. We’ll use that for the Pride Festival, for Galveston Pride, for Austin Pride. And we can also customize our menu with chalkboard specials.
What kind of response have you received from the community so far?
A lot of people have said, finally Houston has a Mary’s. So there is that recognition of the history out there, which is awesome. They like the food. My vision with this property was, we don’t need to be the coolest guy on the block, and we don’t need to be a shiny new toy. I want to be an instant classic. I want this to be a place at the center of the community where everybody is welcome. If people have kids, they can come dine here. And it’s not just for gay and lesbian people—it’s for everybody.
Hamburger Mary’s. 2409 Grant St. 713-677-0674. hamburgermarys.com