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"Lady Doctors," Meet "Ladies' Burgers" and "Ladies' Cocktails"

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
June 6, 2014

No double cheeseburgers for you, ladies. Photo credit: StockFood / Stillman, Gordon

Hey, ladies!

Bar and restaurant menus sure are paying you a lot of attention these days: There’s a “Ladies’ Burger” suitable to your more modest appetites, or a set of cocktails featuring less booze because one restaurant owner considers you “a little more delicate than the men.”

Wait, what? Here’s what’s going on. At The Long Island Bar, a bar and restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, serving smart cocktails and an excellent, super-juicy cheeseburger, that burger is listed on the menu with two variations. You can select the “L.I. Burger,” which includes “Two Fleisher’s beef patties, pickles, cheese, Fancy Sauce & fries w/ bacon wheel, add $2” or you can order “Ladies’ Burger,” which is “same as above, with one beef patty instead of two.” 

The restaurant was built in the mid 20th-century and retains a deco vibe and much of the original décor, so this sort of throwback almost makes sense. We reached out to the owners and chef, and manager Al Rodriguez told us that “we did a friends and family [a free meal prior to opening] on the launch of our menu. Some of the feedback we got was—from some of the women—it was a double cheeseburger, the two patties combined with the bread was somewhat large…one of our owners suggested we come up with a smaller burger, that’s how the ladies’ burger was born.”

Chef Gabriel Martinez, whose resumé includes stints at both Uchi and Alinea, said “we figured… some people may not want a double cheeseburger. Hopefully you don’t find it offensive.” Although we weren’t able to get co-owner Joel Tompkins, who Martinez and Rodriguez credit with the name, on the phone prior to publication, Rodriguez tells us “knowing Joel’s sense of humor I’m sure he meant it ironically.”

Across Brooklyn, at Mexican restaurant Los Pollitos III, a reporter at DNAinfo this week discovered that the drinks menu is broken down into “For Kids (No Alchohol),” “For Ladies (Low Alcohol),” “For Every One (Alcohol),” and “For Men (Extra Alcohol).” Drink prices correspond with their alcohol content.

We spoke to manager Marcus Merino, who has “been doing this for 25 years already.” He assured us that it’s “not sexist,” but that his decision was in response to complaints that there was “not enough liquor in the drinks.” He wanted “to give more choices; if you want a lower-alcohol drink, you pay less.” Merino hadn’t had any complaints “until now,” he told us, having just read the article online.

When we asked why the menu was broken down by gender, he said “it’s just a name,” but followed that “the ladies, they’re more delicate—to me—you have a girlfriend or whatever and she gets drunk, it’s a little more delicate for many people. It’s not that they can’t handle alcohol like the men. They do.” But, he followed, “it looks a little more offensive when a girl is drunk on the street than a man—not ‘offensive,’ exactly, but, uh…it doesn’t look good.”

As for Long Island Bar, as Rodriguez told New York Magazine, “it’s a fifties bar, it’s near the water, and it’s the most gorgeous, warm place you’d want to have a drink in.” The “Mad Men”-style décor almost makes the menu language make sense. And Tompkins has emailed us to say that “we may be taking the ladies’ burger off the menu” for “various reasons.”

As for me, I walked into the Long Island Bar—an establishment I love; a bar with an excellent unlisted bourbon cherry sour—a few weeks ago, opened the menu, felt slightly irritated, and promptly ordered the double-cheeseburger.

Had I been super-hungry that night? No. Was I—a woman, and a feminist—going to order a “ladies’ burger”? No.

I ate the whole of the double cheeseburger, pairing it with a very strong, un-delicate cocktail. And it’s entirely possible I belched as I walked out the door.