Campus & Community

The Big Picture

2 min read

Joe Bartley: Owner, where Harvard meats

Photo of Joe
Joe Bartley, owner of Mr. and Mrs. Bartley’s

Photo and story by Justin Ide
Whether it’s an “Al Bore,” a “Tiger Woods” or the ever-popular “Elvis,” you can be sure that you are not only getting the best burger within walking distance of Harvard Yard, but maybe the best this side of the Charles River or beyond. And it has been that way for 40 years now.

Mr. and Mrs. Bartley’s (Bartley’s Burger Cottage), an icon in the Harvard Square area, has been serving the wildest burgers and lime rickeys in town since 1961. It was then that Joe Bartley and his wife, Joan, took over the grocery store at the Massachusetts Avenue location and converted it into a restaurant. “I came in here when I was 30 years old with red hair,” says Joe, “and I’m going out with white.”

But he’s not going out just yet. In fact, Joe can be found at least a few days a week – greeting customers, directing traffic, and generally making sure folks get what they want, cooked how they want it cooked, and with what they want on it on it. Forty years of perfection.

One of the last remaining eateries of its type in the Square, it seems likely that the burger joint will live on long into the future – behind the counter, the Bartleys’ son Bill stands at the grill expertly flipping burgers while his wife Karen makes sure the whole operation runs smoothly.

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