Review: Universal Grille

I apparently haven’t been with it. Did you know that Universal Grille (formerly Hamburger Mary’s) had a bit of a kerfluffle in the kitchen and ended up closed for about a month? I sent my mom there a couple of months ago, since she wanted a fun place for a girl’s night out, and I knew the guys at Universal would take care of her and her friends. I guess this happened just about a month ago! Terry and I decided to walk over there for dinner on Friday night, as well as pay a visit to my theatrical friend Josh. We did Rocky Horror a couple of years ago (he was Rocky, I costumed), and you get pretty close to someone when you apply full body glitter to them every night.

Anyway, Josh and I chatted after I asked, “Uh, where’d the rest of the menu go?” Turns out they decided to do whtat they did best, and cut the rest until they got the kitchen in order. Last year they went away from their Hamburger Mary’s persona after the owners left the franchise, and were trying to go a little more upscale. I missed the fun Mary’s vibe, particularly the themed areas– I liked the pop princess area and the Judy Garland corner, personally– so the dining area, in my opinion, has lost a little bit of its character. Going back to the basics was probably a very smart move. The menu is now mostly bar-style food: sliders, wings, nachos, burges, sandwiches and hamburgers, all with clever, kitschy names. They also limited themselves to dinner service– though Josh says that he’s hiring people to expand back into lunch.

The barbecue chicken salad is close to what I remember– not as big, but still pretty good. It’s basically breaded chicken, barbecue sauce, veggies and tortilla chips. Very yummy, but I think their sauce is a little different than it used to be– this one is sweeter and spicier. It’s a nice change.

Terry, of course, got a burger. He thinks Universal Grille may eclipse Terry’s Turf Club in taste– this burger was, according to Josh, freshly made of ground beef from Eckerlin’s, and topped with a sauce made of spicy mayonnaise mixed with sweet onion preserves as well as caramelized onions. It was drip-down-your-chin juicy and the Star Sauce was spicy and sweet and creamy, all at the same time. The bacon was thick and applewood-smoked (though Josh didn’t know where that came from), and together it made for a delicious burger experience. The onion rings were beer battered and of decent quality, but the burger really stood out.

We finished our meals and headed to the bar, which still had the old Mary’s vibe– lots of people way cooler than I am hanging out. I did run into a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen since before I graduated, and it was fun to catch up. I always see someone I know at Universal Grille, and I hope it continues to be the meet-and-greet place for all sorts of people.

Universal Grille on Urbanspoon