Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers

  • 3.25
  • Good!
  • Food:3.2
  • Decor:3.0
  • Service:3.3

1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138Cambridge  [ Map ]

(617) 354-6559  [ Website ]

Burgers / Sandwiches / Vegetarian / Comfort Food / Gluten-Free / Salad


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Reviews of Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers  (11)

Featured Review

50 Year Old Burger Joint Cooks 'Em Right

    • 4.0
  • Food: 4.0
  • Decor: 3.0
  • Service: 4.5



Bartley's is a Harvard Square institution specializing in burgers since 1960—long before burgers were a thing. It's been run by the same family, in a room that rarely changes (mostly musical and political memorabilia) and with a deep menu of assorted burger toppings whose athlete- and politician-related names are constantly changing (The Bernie Sanders,The Gronk). Other burgers get their names from newsworthy topics, such as The Viagra and The Gay Marriage.


At opening, before the lines.


The seating is tight, with plastic chairs that would be considered second rate even as lawn furniture, and little space between the tiny tables. A long table down the middle allows communal dining for parties of one (talk about an oxymoron), but unless you're there to mingle or steal fries, a stool overlooking the griddle is a better bet. There's usually a line to get in.


Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers





A simple sesame seed bun is similar to the McDonald's model, but a little denser. They get warmed on a griddle of their own, set to a different temperature from the meats. There's a stainless steel tub of butter with a brush, but they're for lubricating the griddle for eggs, not buns. The bun-to-beef ratio is a good one, but the heel-to-crown ratio is less than ideal, with a thin heel barely able to contain the burger juices. Of course, that's not exactly the worst problem to have.





Freshly ground chuck formed into 7-ounce patties with an unusual height-to-diameter ratio stand a good inch and a quarter high when first plopped down on the flat top. A trowel-like weighting device slims it down while forcing it toward the hot griddle, ensuring a gloriously crusted surface. This tool remains on top of the patties, usually two at a time but sometimes securing as many as six, until it's time for flipping. Then it gets put right back on.


Some say that pushing down on the patty removes all the juices. That may be true with grilling, where the juices flow through the slats, but here the practice seems to have no adverse effects. Quite the opposite, in fact: the fat cooks the burger and forges its crust. The meat is still reliably juicy—one time to the extent that the bottom part of the bun barely held up.


Bacon cheeseburger


If you've seen owner Bill Bartley behind the grill on shows like Chronicle, Phantom Gourmet, Wicked Bites and Dinners, Drive-Ins and Dives, know that it's not just a rare stint for the camera. Bartley is hands-on, wielding a trusty spatula and flashing a perpetual smirk revealing a love for burger craftsmanship. There are no timers here; it's all done by carefully monitoring and prodding the sizzling patties. From the counter perch you can see that after 40 years behind the flat top, the novelty hadn't worn off.


At no time during the cooking process is salt involved, which is a little disappointing from a flavor perspective. It's possible the patties are pre-salted, but I tasted none.


The beef is simple (fresh ground chuck) and is handled in a simple manner, so the ultimate flavor is unsurprisingly simple. Those well charred surfaces heighten the beefiness, but the inner core is woefully tame. Texture is the name of the game here, and on that front every burger is a huge success: crackly crust, delicate interior, gentle grind, loose packing, pinpoint doneness, full fledged juiciness.





Grilled onions, tried as a standard topping on the Gronk burger (bacon, cheddar, onions, fries) and an add-on to the bacon cheeseburger (with a bag of chips), get cooked on a separate part of the griddle from the beef—perhaps a nod to the vegetarian clientele. On one visit they stayed on long enough to get a thorough char outside and a melted quality inside that released the onion's natural sweetness and juices.


The Gronk.


The next visit saw a token grilling that barely added color and left the insides raw and still bitter. The third visit, again on the Gronk, duplicated the first—perhaps because Bill Bartley manned the flat top on both occasions.


American cheese on the bacon cheeseburger, starting with a slice about 50% thicker than the packaged variety, is melted by direct contact with the griddle before being draped on the patty. The end result still falls short of a full melt by the time the plate gets served, but maybe that's the plan. It's still solid but at the brink of liquid, a state that lets you taste the subtleties of the cheese. Cheddar on the Gronk is handled similarly, though it—like the beef—can get a little lost among the onions and other toppings.


Bacon is crisp and moderately flavorful. It fills its role adequately and is a step up from the chains (not counting Smashburger, whose bacon is superb) but not ready for any superlatives list.



THE FRIES (and such)


Fries: They're hot, they're crisp (extra crisp, actually, as if double fried) and they're fluffy inside, but they're skinless and ultimately ordinary when it comes to flavor. Salt doesn't make an appearance here either, but there's a shaker on the table. It's a frozen product.


Sweet Potato Fries: Available for a slight up charge, these are a wiser choice than the standard fries. These are fresh, hand-cut and cooked to the point of drooping with only a hint of crispness (and no hint of salt). This isn't the neon orange frozen variety. The sweet potato flavor is more subtle than most, but it comes through.


Onion Rings: These need some added salt too, but the rings at Bartley's are among my favorites thanks to a tasty batter reminiscent of a seafood shack, applied in an even ratio to the onion, and served hot and crisp with the inner onion a little past the brink of melting. If you order it as a side, it arrives before your burger, making it more of an appetizer. There's never a question of whether to order rings or fries; other than for research purposes, it's rings every time.

Onion rings, seafood shack style.





Bring cash or a willingness to sprint to the nearest ATM, because credit cards are not accepted.


Pricing isn't high, but there doesn't seem to be much correlation to the ingredients used. Some of the burgers you'd expect to be more expensive are less expensive and vice versa.


Servers are friendly and knowledgeable. Bartley's is one of those places that's built up a reputation and a steady clientele to the point that a little attitude might be expected, but that hasn't been the case at all.





Okay, so maybe the lines are long, the place is cramped, the chairs are wobbly, the burger names are hokey, they don't accept credit cards, the blend is simple and they don't use salt. But very few places show the care in getting your burger cooked right the way Bartley's does. Sometimes simple is all you really need.


So as long as they continue to hit my medium rare under the sturdiest of crusts, I'll continue my periodic visits to Bartley's, salt shaker in hand. And they can call their burgers anything they want.


More photos in the full review here:

  • Bacon cheeseburger 322730
  • Onion rings, seafood shack style. 322731
  • Plain hamburger. 322732
  • The Gronk. 322733
  • At opening, before the lines. 322728
  •  322729

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

#EatHereAtl #MrBartleysBurgerCottage because Harvard students are smart and know where to get a good

#EatHereAtl #MrBartleysBurgerCottage because Harvard students are smart and know where to get a good burger! #MrBartleys #EatHereBoston #MeatEater #HarvardSquare #Burger #Carnivore #Foodie #ChooseAtl #Fila #Atlanta #AtlantaOnTheRise #Atl #FoodPorn #AtlantaFoodie #FosterAtl #AtlantaMakers #Yummy #Eat #VSCO #Boston #BurgerAndFries #AtlantaLocal #FlourishAtlanta #WeLoveAtl #WhyILoveAtl #DiscoverAtl #ForeverILoveAtlanta #Be_Atlanta

  • #EatHereAtl #MrBartleysBurgerCottage because Harvard students are smart and know where to get a good 456107

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

This Thursday throwback is to my Boston & Harvard University visit. Since it's International Burger

This Thursday throwback is to my Boston & Harvard University visit. Since it's International Burger Day on the 28th of May, it's only fitting that I post a photo at the famous burger joint, Mr Bartley's. A Boston landmark since 1960, this Harvard Square institution offers loads of burger options. Seriously, check out their website for the menu! I finally decided on the 'iPhone' which is a 7 ounce ground beef patty, boursin cheese, grilled mushrooms and onions with sweet potato fries. It's not the prettiest plate up, but the burger is super tasty and those fries are to die for! The burger reminds me of the amazing homemade burgers I used to get from the Mum & Dad corner store as a kid. Juicy, messy, yummy! This was my first visit to Boston and I must say I fell in love. What a beautiful city! I stayed near Newbury last time, but next time I'd love to stay in Cambridge and soak up the college life!

  • This Thursday throwback is to my Boston & Harvard University visit. Since it's International Burger  656701

Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers

    • 5.0
This place has had the best burgers for years! High quality, consistently good!

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

why eat healthy when you can eat a burger? The iPhone burger      #iPhone

why eat healthy when you can eat a burger? The iPhone burger #iPhone

  • why eat healthy when you can eat a burger? The iPhone burger      #iPhone 386821

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

This is a very trendy place by Harvard campus. Parking is a pain but the food here is totally worth it. I love the titles of the burgers: the facebook ((watch for us in the movie) topped w/ BBQ sauce, & cole slaw, w/ French fries), or Bill Clinton ((He’d make a great 1st lady) a BBQ burger with cheddar cheese & french fries), and the Joe Biden ((this guy is scary) with bacon, american cheese & BBQ sauce, w/ french fries). The burgers were huge and juicy and delicious! And I’m a sucker for sweet potato fries!

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage on Urbanspoon

Tom Werner: (best CEO in baseball) cheddar & bacon burger w/ French fries


  • Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage on Urbanspoon 602909

Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers

    • 4.5
great food and a fun place !!!!

Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers

    • 5.0
Delicious the Bearnise is my favorite

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

Enjoying a mint Oreo !

Enjoying a mint Oreo !

  • Enjoying a mint Oreo ! 651908

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

I give you, the Beyonce (with Bruce Jenner in the background), a medium rare-jalapeo-bacon-cajun-blu

I give you, the Beyonce (with Bruce Jenner in the background), a medium rare-jalapeo-bacon-cajun-blue cheese-grilled onion-burger perfection. Lunch with my brother

  • I give you, the Beyonce (with Bruce Jenner in the background), a medium rare-jalapeo-bacon-cajun-blu 663217

Information of Mr. Bartley's Gourmet Burgers

1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone Number
(617) 354-6559
Burgers / Sandwiches / Vegetarian / Comfort Food / Gluten-Free / Salad
Business Hours
Mon:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Tue:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Wed:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Thu:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Fri:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Sat:11:00AM - 9:00PM
Dress code
Wheelchair accessible
Cash only
Credit cards
Outdoor dining
Smoking area
Late dining
Valet parking
Dogs allowed

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