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Why I Still Prefer the Timeless Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge, Massachusetts Over Trendy Burger Chains

Article and photos by Eric J. Hurwitz. Article created on June 24, 2017.

Bartley's Burger Cottage at Harvard Square in Cambridge MAMr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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I kind of miss the rough-around-the-edges "What do you want, captain?" days of Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge, Mass., but that's OK. What remains are the amazing burgers and loud student-food-hall-meets-diner atmosphere that has been so appealing at this third generation Harvard Square restaurant -- right across the street from Harvard University -- since 1960.

Although the comfort food menu has expanded through the years, the best Mr. Bartley's dining experience is to stick with the basics: homemade burgers, onion rings, French fries, frappes, and lime rickeys.  By the way, the burger selection is incredible including around 30 specialty seven-ounce, ground fresh daily versions offering toppings from onion, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheeses to guacamole, grilled sauerkraut, Boston baked beans, sriracha, maple syrup and pineapple relish.

Lines frequently go out the door to sample the delicious burgers that Guy Fieri from the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Wall Street Journal and other major media have designated in the past as one of the best burger places in America. Bill Belichick, Adam Sandler, Bob Dylan, Al Pacino and Katie Couric have been some of the famous guests dining here, but on any given night you'll see all walks of life -- students, professors, the wealthy, the poor and families at its front-to-back and four-seat tables surrounded by walls with posters, humorous signs and bumper stickers. Servers yell out orders to the cooks and the sizzle of the grill sometimes competes with the loudness of the collective clientele.

Mr. Bartley's is one of the few Harvard Square eateries that doesn't take credit cards, but that keeps the prices down and the slight inconvenience is worth experiencing what we feel are the best tasting burgers we've tried in eastern Massachusetts.

Mouthwatering burger from Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge MA
Mouthwatering burger from Bartley's!

Sure, the words "Gourmet Burgers" and "Salads" on Mr. Bartley's storefront sign and the summer outdoor cafe suggest a newer version of this Massachusetts landmark, but the culinary song remains the same. This is a true "local" place that sticks to its original restaurant roots and actually seems to draw better crowds than some of the more trendy, chain burger places and those that seem to be popping up all over the place. Most of those chains and also the newest burger places that seem to get a lot of media attention do a fine job, but I'll respectfully stick with a proven, one-of-a-kind townie place like Mr. Bartley's that is still as good as ever, and works so hard in a humble, no-frills working class fashion to keep thriving. 

I hope you get to enjoy this fabulous burger joint, captain!

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage is located at 1246 Mass. Ave., Cambridge MA. Tel. (617) 354-6559. Also be sure to check out the Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage Facebook Fan page for updates and some mouthwatering photos!

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Books by Publisher Eric Hurwitz

Massachusetts Town Greens -- Discover New England's first travel attractions: town commons!

The Best Diners in New England -- If you love classic diners, New England has them! In my book, I write in detail on 50 top local diners.

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