Merry Ann’s Diner has always been a go-to spot for me and my friends after exams, dances, and anything else. Every time I have walked into the diner and been welcomed to sit wherever I liked, I always chose the booth next to the jukebox. Even now, after many times eating at the diner, I sit in the exact same spot as it has become my tradition. From my first visit, there has always been some feeling of hominess as I would see familiar faces from around town. So what about this diner makes it such a pleasant place in Champaign-Urbana? I decided to bring my family during Thanksgiving break so they could experience it themselves. They decided that it was the food.
We walked into the diner at about 6 p.m. As it was completely dark outside, the diner was illuminated by the blue and red lights of the "Merry Ann’s Diner" sign. The server told us to choose our seats as soon as we walked in. I led my family straight to the last booth on the right, right next to the jukebox. It wasn't busy when we were there, but I'm well aware that it's usually packed after midnight.
Soon after we were settled, the server asked us for our orders and drinks. My father was taking an especially long time to decide what to order, so we asked the waiter for ‘a couple more minutes’ multiple times. But, the server was not irritated and instead joked graciously. Looking through the menu, there were many options including vegetarian meals. Having dined here many times before though, I went straight to the juicy bayou burger ($6.99). The waiter asked if I would prefer potato chips or fries for an extra dollar, and I decided to stick with the potato chips. Including of bacon, swiss cheese, barbecue sauce, and onion rings, the burger was the perfect mixture of what felt like every texture and flavor working together. The crunch of the onion rings and bacon mixed with the softer meat and cheese was delicious. I could taste the barbecue sauce in every single bite.
My mother ordered the veggie omelette ($6.55). She was offered two sides of toast and hashbrowns, which happened to be far too much for her smaller appetite, but we ended up eating each other’s food anyway. The omelette itself was cooked perfectly. When cut open, my mom was welcomed with a splash of color coming from the tomato, onion, mushroom, and green pepper. The inside of the omelette was creamy, yet crunchy at the same time due to the vegetables. She loved the strong flavor and spice.
After much deliberation, my father decided to go with a simple Belgian malted waffle ($4.99). Served warm, it was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. He filled each hole with syrup and thoroughly enjoyed his meal.
My brother ordered a short stack of hotcakes along with bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns ($6.35). We all marveled at the aroma of the pancakes radiating throughout the diner while the food was being made. The pancakes were very fluffy, especially when nicely topped with syrup and butter. The hashbrowns and crispy and flavorful bacon offered a nice shift in textures.
It might seem odd to crave breakfast food at 6 p.m., but Merry Ann’s Diner is always available and reliable ale. I recommend Merry Ann’s at any time of day.
Merry Ann’s Diner
1510 S Neil Street
Open 24 hours
Photos by Rithika Patnam