I regularly read a handful of blog sites similar to Road Tips for fun and to get ideas of places to visit that I may have not known about before. I like to look through the blog sites of Iowa Foodie, Slackingfool, An Herbalist Eats, Des Loines, Chicago Barbecue King (a.k.a. "Smokin', Chokin' and Chowin' with the King"), Food Dude, and the irreverent Suits in Strange Places, a blog written by a group of traveling salesmen who search out the unusual and out of the way places to eat when they're on the road. One blog that I look into from time to time is a site run by a young couple from the Quad Cities - Greasy Joints. One place they visited earlier this year was a hamburger joint in Danville, IL - Gross' Burgers. (Click here to see their post.) I was sort of taken by their description of the place and decided to stop in on my way to Indianapolis for the annual CEDIA Expo in early September. However, it was Labor Day and Gross' was closed. I had to wait to return another day. On a trip out to Indianapolis recently, I made the stop at Gross' Burgers and this time they were open.
Gross' Burgers has been around since 1982 when it opened as a place called Grunts. A local young man who was in the United States Marine Corps, Brad Gross, was looking to do something when he got out of the service. He was brought up in the restaurant industry as Gross' father ran one of the first pizzerias in the area. The opportunity to buy Grunts came up while Gross was still serving our country and he did just that. When he got out of the Marines over 25 years ago, Gross changed the name to the not-too-enticing Gross' Burgers. But Gross remembered how good the burgers were at Grunts and he would continue to carry on the tradition.
Gross' Burgers is found off of Interstate 74 on Illinois Highway 1 (Georgetown Road) at Henderson Street in south Danville. (see map) There's a parking lot in the back that holds a number of cars. But make sure you don't park in the drive-thru lane that is on the north side of the building. I was able to park up close to the building on the south side.
Going into Gross' Burgers, you can immediately tell from the decor that Brad Gross continues to support America's military men and women. American flags, military posters, military gear including old rifles and even a bazooka hung from the bright white walls. A 24-hour military clock hung next to the menu. Historical articles on military figures were framed on the wall along with pictures of local servicemen. The tables had a metal top and the metal chairs were high-backed and had a padded seat. It was like a spic and span military grade mess hall inside the place.
The menu at Gross' Burgers is located above the front counter and they feature burgers, both with American cheese and without, as well as pizza burgers and mozzarella cheese burgers. You can double down on the burgers with two patties. Or if you want something different than burgers, Gross' Burgers also features a fish sandwich. The only side they offer are their special garlic-seasoned Gross fries. (Small containers of garlic seasoning as well as a cajun seasoning are available on the tables.) They also offer a handful of milkshakes along with the regular offerings of soft drinks. Their special menu item is the American Special - a triple cheeseburger, an order of Gross fries and a 32 oz. drink for $7.00
The kitchen area is located just behind the front counter and it is just as clean as the dining room. The flat grill is back in the corner with fryers toward the front. The prep area for the burgers is directly behind the grill.
I ordered a double cheeseburger with everything - which is onions, pickle and mustard. I got a bottle of water with the burger. I declined when asked about getting some Gross fries to go along with the burger. The price of the burger and water was under $5.00
The beef at Gross' Burgers is ground fresh everyday and fashioned into little balls that are probably 3 oz. each. The burger balls are placed on the grill and immediately smashed down flat. They're cooked in their juices giving them a crisp outer edge on the meat. I still have a problem with how some places smash their burgers, but I'm starting to slowly come around to the taste. I will say that the smashed burgers are usually crispy on the outer side, but keep the juices inside the meat.
My number was called out and I got the burger at the counter. The burger was placed in a styrofoam container and put into a plain white bag. The burger meat was thin and crispy - it almost looked like it was burnt - and it splayed out from under the bun in all directions. It reminded me somewhat of a Steak 'n' Shake burger.
Since ketchup is not included on the burgers after they're grilled, large bottles of ketchup are placed on the tables for the burgers and fries. They are pretty generous with the ketchup, as well. At left is a picture of the ketchup squeeze-bottle next to a 16 oz. bottle of water. It was the largest squeeze-bottle of ketchup that I'd ever seen. There had to be a quart of ketchup in the bottle.
The burger, itself, was good. I wasn't initially sure that I liked it all that much, but as I got into the core of the burger the taste got significantly better. The crispy outside of the burger patty yielded a juicy inner core. Two patties equaled about one regular sized hamburger that you'd get most other places. But because they were so flattened, there was a lot of meat that hung out over the bun masking how much meat was in each patty.
The burger at Gross' Burgers was good - certainly above average. I'd give it a B+ in taste and quality. I'm still not sold on the thin, flat-pressed burgers. But I can see where people in and around the Danville area have thought that Gross' Burgers are some of the best they've had. It's certainly an acquired taste and one I wouldn't mind trying again at some point. But in order to get more of that juicy, meaty taste, I may have to get a triple.