Jurassic Grill is one of those small restaurants on Green Street that often gets overlooked among the more popular chains. While it is a small place wedged between a Chinese fast food joint and a tattoo parlor, the huge T-Rex on the front sign certainly grabs your attention. The sign also advertises burgers and fries, which are the only thing they serve.
I went to Jurassic Grill with my boyfriend late one Tuesday night. This ended up working in our favor, as we had the whole place to ourselves. I’ve often heard that Jurassic Grill can be overcrowded during peak lunch and dinner hours, making it hard to find a seat in the cramped interior. There was only one employee on duty; he was very friendly, and let us take our time deciding which burger to try.
While the menu is limited to burgers and fries, Jurassic Grill offers a variety of different combinations and toppings, as well as specialty fries. The first step is deciding between a single or double patty, and then whether or not you want to add bacon and cheese. I opted for a single patty compy burger ($3.99), and loaded up on my choice of the 15 free toppings they offer. Toppings include all of the standard condiments as well as some unique alternatives like steak sauce, green pepper, and jalapeño. I would have liked to see them offer some premium toppings, like avocado or a fried egg, but I was content enough with ketchup, tomato, lettuce, and onion. My boyfriend elected to get the double patty T. Rex cheeseburger ($5.99), and chose the same toppings. He was hoping they would offer more than one type of cheese cheese, but that was not the case. As for sides, we decided to split an order of the Cajun fries ($2.29) instead of regular fries. You can also choose to get them loaded with cheese, chili, or bacon and ranch.
We took a seat at one of the tables near the back, and were a bit put off by the loud speaker that was blaring music throughout our stay. The music itself was fine, but as we were the only ones there, it felt particularly loud. I assume that the noise of a crowded restaurant would help dampen the sound. We also found the green walls and strange lighting — the light above our head kept flickering on and off — to be a bit distasteful, but I guess it goes along with the restaurant’s gimmicky dinosaur theme.
It took about ten minutes for our food to be ready, and it was nice and hot when it arrived. I could tell that the fries were fresh out of the fryer, and they smelled very enticing. The presentation of the food was typical of any fast food joint: burgers and fries crammed into red baskets with paper lining. I was pleased to see the burger was pretty big, with the side of fries being equally substantial. The toppings sort of appeared as if they had just been slapped on top without much thought.
I was eager to try the fries while they were still hot; they were thick and soft, which I prefer. The Cajun seasoning was very flavorful and provided a spicy kick, but they were a bit too heavily seasoned in my opinion. The spiciness was a fun twist, but a bit overpowering.
The burger was a pleasant surprise. For the cheap price, I wasn’t expecting such a tasteful, juicy, and thick patty. When I bit into it, I was a bit disappointed to find that the large bun, which looked delicious and soft upon arrival, was a bit stale. I also found the outer rim of the patty to be a bit chewy. The toppings were fine, and the tomato and onion tasted surprisingly fresh, but the lettuce was limp and seemed like an after thought — I would have preferred a thick piece of crunchy iceberg. My boyfriend was pleased with his double patty burger, but didn’t think it was anything extraordinary. The quality of the food is a good deal for the price, but if I were really craving a good burger I would drive out of my way to Farren’s.
Jurassic Grill is quick, cheap, and conveniently open into the late hours of the night, making it a reliable choice for college students. That being said, the underwhelming theme and limited menu options signal a lot of untapped potential. They do have quality burgers and fries, but even just the addition of a chicken sandwich or grilled cheese option would make it more appealing. An expanded menu and revamp of the interior would go a long way in keeping Jurassic Grill from being just another overlooked restaurant on Green Street.
Jurassic Grill is located at 404 East Green Street, Champaign, and open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.
All photos by Carly Prais.