Champaign-Urbana loves its burgers and so do we
Food is one of our favorite topics — and we know it’s one of our readers’, too. Our Champaign-Urbana Ice Cream Trail, which debuted in 2017, spawned its own Facebook group. The Champaign-Urbana Pizza Trail followed in 2018; with the Champaign-Urbana BBQ Trail not far behind. Someone suggested we make a t-shirt to celebrate anyone who completes the Champaign-Urbana Area Donut Trail. And we think our Champaign-Urbana Area Cheese Curd Trail post speaks for itself.
While it might not be good for our waistlines, we can say definitively that we’ve eaten at a great many of the most well-loved burger places in and around Champaign-Urbana, even extending beyond Champaign County.
So we’ve compiled our take of Champaign-Urbana area “bucket list” burger joints, compiled from our “experts” on the Chambanamoms staff and input from our readers. We recognize that burgers are mainly the stuff of carnivores, so we’ve focused on places that have great beef burgers — as well as the occasional turkey burger. (For the purposes of our Trail, we avoid chains with 10+ locations.)
Billy Barooz Pub & Grill: This southwest Champaign sports bar and gastropub always seems to draw a good crowd. Our readers singled out the California burger as being particularly tasty. We also like the chopped steak burger, which takes a little longer to prepare but is worth the wait. Don’t miss the nacho burger: “the combination of queso cheese sauce and jalapenos make this burger craveworthy.” Located at the Crossing, the retail center at the corner of Windsor and Duncan.
Burgers and Beer: Dear Burgers and Beer, please come closer to Champaign-Urbana. While we like your Gibson City location, we’d selfishly love to have one in town. If that’s too greedy, please know we’re part of your fan club. Love, us. OK friends, if you haven’t been there yet, Burgers and Beer is a “make-your-own” gourmet burger joint that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but is seriously delicious. It has a kids menu with grilled cheese, home style mac and cheese and more. Located in downtown Gibson City, it’s about 30 minutes from Champaign-Urbana. (We’ve also enjoyed the Kankakee location.)
Farren’s Pub & Eatery: In 2018, the wise guys at USA TODAY named Farren’s the best burger joint in the STATE. That’s right, the entire STATE of Illinois! We certainly concur. The move to a larger downtown location in the summer of 2019 means that one of our favorite Farren’s options is on the menu daily: the turkey patty. Another one of our frequent orders: the bacon burger. Even if you don’t like burgers, there’s plenty at Farren’s to love, including summer sidewalk dining.
Hamilton Walker’s, Champaign: In terms of the quality of beef, it is hard to top Hamilton Walker’s steakburger. But we also like that you can get pretty much anything on top of it — bacon, fried egg, and a half-dozen other things. Any place that fancies itself as having a good burger needs to be willing to stack anything on top of it, and Hamilton Walker’s does. We also really like the toasted brioche bun. Located in downtown Champaign.
Just Hamburgers, Paxton: This place is legendary for being a bit quirky, a bit inexpensive, and way more than a bit delicious. Mainly a carry out, you can sit outside at Just Hamburgers when the weather is good. Changed ownership and reopened in August 2022. Beware: closed on Sundays. Located in downtown Paxton, about 30-35 minutes from Champaign-Urbana.
Smith Burger Co., food truck: A chorus of readers demanded “hands down” the addition of this Champaign-Urbana food truck to the best burger list. Originally operating as The Burgersmith before a name change, the folks who smash the burgers at Smith Burger Co. have already amassed a loyal local following, including a certain chambanadad. Starting in May 2023 Smith Burger Co. will also be operating from the kitchen at Collective Pour in downtown Champaign — but don’t worry, its truck will still serve delicious burgers and tots all around the C-U area.
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Looking for more food trails around Champaign-Urbana?
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