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Crabill’s Hamburgers, Urbana

Posted by cmh gourmand on September 13, 2009

Crabill’s Hamburgers
727 Miami Street
Urbana
937.653.5133

There are several different routes you could choose to head to Crabill’s in Urbana, each will take you through small towns, past farmers stands and involve at least one major freeway. The one way trip will cost you an hour and a quarter or slightly more of your time. The journey is worth the effort for a taste of hamburger history.

burger balls become small hamburgers

burger balls become small hamburgers

Three generations of Crabill’s have used a special spatula to smash small hamburger balls into mini hamburgers since 1927. The first burgers were cooked in a hamburger buggy. As business grew a small six seater stand became Crabills. This hamburger hangout took a brief respite for a few years but was brought back in the tradition of the original. The third generation of Crabill’s opened as Crabill’s on Wheels and used the momentum to rebuild the business to open the new stand. The location today is not the original but it does have the six stools from the much smaller 1929 edition of Crabills.

sit on history

sit on history

The menu is as small as the building. Choices include hamburgers, cheeseburgers, double burgers (suggested), chili dogs, a few other items and homemade pies. There is a drive through window which does a brisk business all day. The true Crabill’s experience involves finding an open stool inside and watching the hamburgers grilled in front of you from the counter.

There is an old school approach to hamburger toppings that goes back to the 1920’s: mustard, relish and/or onions. In 1990, ketchup was added as an option. Burgers are ordered, grilled quickly and dressed right in front of you. A typical experience is to order a few, love them, observe that they seem to disappear quickly and then order a few more. There are several regular customers that just walk in and are served without ordering because their tastes are so well known to the staff.

Chili Dog

Chili Dog

For the sake of diversity, I also sampled a chili dog. Homemade chili is served (Ohio style) on a slightly toasted bun with a bit of sear to the hot dog. In my opinion, that is the proper approach to hot dog creation, not bad for a place with an eighty plus year history of “hamburgering”.

There are also other traditions here. Large scale consumption of hamburgers as in 33 hamburgers in 45 minutes in 2007. The owners and staff are friendly and clearly have fun doing what they do and interacting with their customers, neighbors and friends.

classic combo: cheeseburger and bottle of coke

classic combo: cheeseburger and bottle of coke

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5 Responses to “Crabill’s Hamburgers, Urbana”

  1. Alana said

    Glad to know that you came up and visited – so how many did you make it through?? My regular order is three double cheese with everything (which is onion, relish and the house mustard) and while I am sure that I could eat more, I am not sure that my stomach could handle it. :) My husband said after we moved to Urbana, that he was going to have to find me a program for Crabill’s addiction, and while it has not gotten that bad, I do have to have them at least once a month!!!

  2. Polly said

    Crabill’s Restaurant is definitely a landmark here in Champaign County. I remember eating at the ole’ place – before it was demolished and moved…but we locals were so very happy that it reopened for our Crabill fixes. Thanks for driving and dining clear out west here…..BTW – you most likely drove through Mechanicsburg (where I was born, raised and still live). Once you have one of these little gems…. there is always a craving! Thanks again for the wonderful review.

  3. Double D said

    AAAHHHHH Crabill’s! Nothing like coming out of there smelling like the hamburgers they grill and reliving the experience all day long. Have spent many an hour consuming those bad boys. Long before there was a White Castle in Springfield, Crabill’s was IT. Road trip this weekend!

  4. There was an article about Ohio hamburgers in the Dispatch on Sunday September 6th. Crabill’s is one of the six Ohio places mentioned in George Motz’s Hamburger America book. The article attributed my quote on Thurman Burger eating to George. I have been to four or the six places mentioned – Thurman’s, Gahanna Grill, Crabills, and Wilson’s (Findlay). I have not been to Kewpee Burger in Lima or The Hamburger Wagon in Miamisburg.

  5. tanman said

    The Hamburger Inn (Portsmouth) makes their burgers the same way. If you get down south, try this spot that we affectionatly call the Little Greasy Hamburger Place…great bean soup as well.

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