When the heck did Boston become hamburger heaven? Sure, college students have long flocked to Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, a Cambridge institution. But in general, Beantown is the land of lobster rolls and roast-beef sandwiches, isn’t it? Recently, a few regional, review-worthy burger chains — b.good, Flat Patties, Henry’s Root Beer Stand, and Uburger, among them — have recruited a small army of meat-eaters. But Wild Willy’s, which started in Maine and has a location in Watertown near the Arsenal Mall, tops the list.
It’s not just the quality of the char-grilled burgers; Willy’s is also the least “fast food”-like of the bunch. The Western-style atmosphere is more laid-back than wild, even on Sunday afternoons when the place is packed. The booths and wainscoting are glossy, knotty wood, and a giant mural depicts cowboys under a sky of animal-shaped clouds. There are chicken and steak sandwiches, salads, and chili, but it’s really about the burgers — with names to match the theme, of course. The Round-Up ($5.95) is topped with melting Swiss cheese and painted with a mound of sautéed mushrooms. The Annie Oakley ($5.95) is drenched in blue-cheese dressing and clusters of blue cheese. And the Rio Grande ($5.95) is finished with roasted green chilies and cheddar. Make your own masterpiece with guacamole, bacon, jalapeños, or peppers and onions, each for a buck or less. All of the burgers are served on a buttered, grilled bun, unless you request otherwise. Give it a side of Willy’s “country fair” fries ($1.95/small; $2.95/large): tender, fried-to-order, skin-on beauties with a marbly hue. Suck down a pucker-inducing raspberry-lime rickey ($2.75) or fresh-squeezed lemonade ($2.75). Keeping with the vernacular of New England, they’ll even make you a frappe ($4.25) with Maine’s prized Gifford’s ice cream. Whoever Wild Willy is, he’s gotta be a cooler burger mascot than a red-haired clown.
Wild Willy's Burgers, located at 46 Arsenal Street, in Watertown, is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 am to 9 pm, and on Sunday, from noon to 8 pm. Call 617.926.9700.