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Last Call for Maine’s Most Outrageous Burgers: Hoss & Mary Head South

Welcome to a Burger Week edition of Lifers, where Eater interviews the men and women who've worked in the industry for the better part of their lives.

The eponymous Hoss (L) and Mary.
The eponymous Hoss (L) and Mary.
Courtesy of Hoss and Mary's

Seven months after the owners of Hoss & Mary's Tasty Grub said they were looking for a new location in Maine, the restaurateurs made the announcement that they would be relocating to Key West, Florida. The southern city is where Hoss (Brian Coddens) and Mary (Deena Eskew) met years ago. Hoss & Mary's will close its doors on April 26 after eight successful years serving Maine's most original and outlandish burgers.

Hoss & Mary's struck publicity gold with its Manimal Challenge, made popular by Travel Channel's Man v. Food in 2010. Since announcing the move, the burger shop has seen a rush of diners fiending for one last fix. Nevertheless, Hoss found some time to talk to Eater about the business, the burgers, and the beautifully sunny future of Hoss & Mary's.

Why the move to Key West?
We love the people, Maine has been good to us, but deep in our hearts we knew a change would be good. We wanted a lifestyle change.
For our personal lives, we wanted to be outside more. I love the Maine summer and the smell of the air, but when you're in a restaurant all day it's a moot point. as much as I love to snowboard, I can't get hurt in the winter, so we decided we really wanted to try to be successful in the place we met and love, swim and snorkel and enjoy the outside as well as work as hard as we've been working.

Has it gotten busier since you announced you're moving south?
Ever since we made the announcement a couple months ago it's been summertime busy. We basically had our July and August in March and April. It's been pretty good.

Does it almost make you not want to close?
Well, I know it's busy because we made that announcement. If we weren't leaving, yeah — it'd be pretty busy, but it's one level here. We need to take it to the next level and go where our heart is.

And that's in Key West?
Yeah, that's where Mary and I met in 1998. Mary had already been living there for ten years and we lived there another ten years after '98. After being in the restaurant business all that time there, we decided to take a trip across the country and have a burger in as many states as possible. And we accomplished that, took that information, and continued our dream in New England.

hoss and mary's

You have a pretty big following up here. Where do you think your regulars will go when you close up shop?
Well, we're unique. You can get a burger anywhere. There are a few places around — there's Big Daddy's down here and whatnot. But we do something that, no matter where you go, you're not going to find anywhere else. We specialize in doing the unknown. No idea is too off-the-wall.

Are you still looking to create a "finer, simpler" Hoss & Mary's as you suggested last year, or are you taking it in a new direction with the new location?
It will always be Hoss & Mary's. We don't have something set up down there when we get to Key West. Key West is the type of place where you need to get there, look around, and see your options. Places empty out in a day and they fill up the next day. 
We hope to get a place within the first few months of being there and we absolutely still plan on calling it Hoss & Mary's. We're going to specialize in delivery. So there's a good chance we might change the name to Hoss & Mary's A-Go-Go. Key West is a delivery town and we really want to capitalize on that.

Do you think you might try a food truck down there?
No. As much as we do enjoy food trucks, going to patronize them and whatnot, we did run a food truck for a few months. It's a very romantic idea but most people don't realize that it's two or three times more work than owning a regular business. Furthermore, it's our opinion that Key West isn't the most food truck friendliest city. They're really just starting to get their groove on as far as food trucks go. There's a lot more regulations in Key West than in other places.

Since you've been in Maine, what's been you're most popular burger?
It hasn't been on the menu since day one but closer to year two — but that's got to be the East Meets West Burger. That is a cheeseburger topped with chicken fingers, crab rangoon, onion rings, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, and jalapeño.

Is that your personal favorite?
It definitely is or was at one time. A lot of our most popular burgers have crab rangoon on them. Another one is the Asian Kon-Fusion Burger. That's a double burger, loaded up with crab rangoon, crispy wontons. spicy duck sauce slaw, and teriyaki sauce. 
Those are my ideas but we also accept ideas from some of our customers. One of our most popular burgers that I didn't come up with is called the Flaming Moo. That's a double burger dipped in buffalo sauce with bacon, nacho cheese, and lettuce.

How did you get on Man v. Food?
It was a case of being in the right spot at the right time. The Manimal Challenge we stopped doing about three years ago. It started to take over the business and consume the busy summer hours.

Can you describe it, for those who never had the experience?
It was a food challenge where you had 20 minutes to eat an eight-patty cheeseburger, a couple hot dogs, some french fries, a Moxie, and the signature desert of our restaurant — the Mother Futcher's Milkshake. It is a butter-pecan milkshake mixed with our world famous coffee cake.

Is the coffee cake mixed right in the milkshake?
That's correct. The coffee cake is our original dessert. That is Mary's grandmother's recipe — Mother Futcher. We stopped the challenge; however, the Mother Futcher's Milkshake is one of our most popular items and you can get that any time.

hoss and mary's lobster bake burger

Look out for the Lobster Bake Burger as a special this week.

What was your most memorable moment as a Maine restauranteur?
Well, our most memorable moment is just building the love that people have for us. I know that's not one moment but a business like this doesn't take just one moment. It's thousands or hundreds of thousands of moments.

I could easily say that the biggest and best thing that ever happened to us was when Adam Richman came and filmed a television show. That really changed our life and whatnot. But that is nothing compared to the great people that we've met in this area. The families, the tears that were shed, the laughter, the friends, the people we've met here — that's what it's all about.

Is there anything else you'd like to let people know?
Like you said, we have a big following. It's important that people follow us on Facebook and Twitter because we don't have a spot lined up already. And that's going to be the key to our success — keeping everybody informed about what our next move is. We're going to take a road trip down the coast. We're going to be stopping in different spots all along the coast and we're going to make our fans part of that road trip until we get our place. And then we'll slide right back into business, hopefully.

—Kyle J. Norris