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

  • Cin Twin1

    I like the fact they went back to the bar menu at Universal Grlle. But you didn’t order my favorite thing there, those sweet potatoe fries! I order that and then get a wrap. They have a Thai chicken style one with peanut sauce that is great! Probably needless to say when we go there, my husband gets most of the attention and I get ignored. Do you find that, Julie with Terry?

  • Julie

    I love the sweet potato fries! I miss them so– they’re not on the menu!

    Terry totally gets the attention. He tends to get male attention anyway, but I’m pretty sure he broke a few hearts in the bar on Friday night. :)

  • The Phantom

    I’m actually a little sorry they’ve restricted the menu. I had the crab cakes when I was there and they were delicious. I also agree the bar is a fun place to hang out. I never did get much attention but I was pretty tightly wrapped around my date all night so I might not have noticed :-)

  • WestEnder

    Here’s attention for you: I was at the bar once and a 6-ft, 250 lb. transvestite kept putting his hand up my shirt and scratching my back.

  • Kevin LeMaster

    ^ Hahaha….

  • vudutu

    Better than TTC? I’ll have to go try one, was that comparison to a Terry at the TTC grill burger or one of the hired hands? I think the quality fell off after Polly let the cat out of the bag. TTC was heaven pre that.

  • claire krome

    If you want a great burger try Zolas in Covington. Fred and I tried it last week before surgery week, it was great…definitely worth the good press it gets. Nothing fancy, just a small bar on Main but real good and great service, plus happy hour specials that make it even more worthwhile!

  • Julie

    Hi, Claire! The dinner group I eat with on occasion did Zola’s a few months ago. On Wednesdays, all of their burgers are five bucks! They are really darn yummy (though the name put me off– ha!).