The only thing more impressive than a restaurant lasting 60 years in New York City is a sexist menu item lasting more than six years in Cobble Hill. Last month, restaurateurs Toby Cecchini and Joel Tompkins finally decided to step up and remove the inexplicably named “ladies’ burger” from their menu at popular Brooklyn restaurant Long Island Bar. The burger — which is the same as the restaurant’s signature Long Island burger, only smaller — has now been replaced with an option to order a single-patty burger.
The burgers at Long Island Bar are popular, even making some of the city’s best-of lists. But customers have been criticizing the name of the smaller “ladies’ burger” for being “sexist” and “humiliating” on Twitter and Yelp ever since Cecchini and Tompkins took over the retro-era restaurant and bar back in 2013. Former manager Al Rodriguez, who worked at Long Island Bar for close to seven years and left the restaurant shortly after speaking with Eater, says that customers also occasionally left behind notes on napkins and receipts commenting on the burger’s name, saying that it was offensive.
Despite the name’s obvious and sexist suggestions that “ladies” must demurely ask for less food, Rodriguez insisted that the burger’s name was instead a reference to the bar’s history, a nod to Emma Sullivan and her cousins Pepita and Maruja, the three women who opened the bar back in 1951. (The owners did not want to comment, Rodriguez says.)
“Not everyone on our staff was versed in how to explain the meaning behind the burger’s name, so there wasn’t always proper articulation when interacting with guests,” Rodriguez says. “To end the confusion, we decided to change the name.”
When Eater asked if the gendered labeling occurred to the restaurant’s management team, Rodriguez admitted that “the ladies’ burger was originally a smaller burger meant for women who might eat less.”
Sexist menu items suggesting that women eat less than men aren’t new: The Hops Spot, a tavern in Syracuse, allows diners to double their fries with a deal called “my girlfriend’s not hungry,” while Salt Bae’s new burger joint in Union Square offers free veggie burgers with pink buns to female customers. The problem with these “deals” is that they reinforce outdated sexist ideas that police how people eat, ignoring a myriad of reasons why someone might choose to eat less.
But it’s rare for these menu items to appear in neighborhoods as overwhelmingly progressive as Cobble Hill — and even rarer for them to last this long. Still, at the time of writing, the restaurant has not issued an acknowledgment of the change, and the dish is remains listed on the restaurant’s website.