In downtown Paxton, the next town north of Rantoul off I-57, you’ll find the Arcade Pancake House: a sleepy diner boasting an impressively large menu of local favorites. A few friends and I recently ventured onto the open road to try its offerings.

The Arcade Pancake House does not have an arcade, but it does sell pancakes, along with a huge list of other breakfast items, Mexican cuisine, Italian meals, sandwiches, burgers, and diner favorites like chopped steak and liver and onions. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere of the diner is friendly and simple.

While flipping through the huge menu, we put in an order for fried mushrooms ($4.50) with ranch and marinara sauce. The order arrived quickly and was standard fried mushroom fare: nicely crunchy with steaming hot portabello mushrooms in the middle. The marinara sauce had meat, so beware vegetarian readers.

We all had a hard time with the menu being so large (such is the paradox of choice), but eventually settled on our order: a cheeseburger sandwich with cheddar ($5.50), hay stack skillet ($8.50), pollo con queso y rajas ($9.95), Paxton fajitas ($12.95), and chopped steak with grilled onions ($9.99).

The favorite of the meal was the hay stack skillet, which came with a side of pancakes. The pancakes were diner perfection: perfectly buttery and soft with a smooth surface and cakey interior. The hay stack, which we ordered with sausage patties, comes with hash browns, sausage gravy, and eggs on top, which we got over easy. While not the most photogenic in the world, rest assured the combination of salty sausage, creamy gravy, and custardy egg was savory breakfast heaven.

Between the Mexican dishes we tried, the Paxton fajitas were the winner. The pollo con queso (pictured above) featured fajita chicken smothered in melted cheese with a ton of bacon and peppers, but the peppers were slightly burnt and the bacon overwhelmed all other flavors. The Paxton fajitas, on the other hand, came with a satisfying combination of chorizo, bacon (just a little this time), steak, chicken, tomatoes, onion, green peppers, and cheese.

Our traditional diner fare was decent, but underwhelming. The cheeseburger certainly scratched my diner food itch, but Paxton has other hamburger offerings I like better. Our chopped steak with onions we ordered with au jus, which added a welcomed meaty flavor to the otherwise pretty bland meal.

To finish off our evening, we ordered one cherry and apple pie ($4.50 each). They were the only homemade pies on offer that day and were a nice finish to our diner feast, full of gooey and sweet fruit with a thick, homemade crust. Don’t forget the whipped cream!

Contemplating our meal on the drive back, we concluded the Arcade Pancake House is great for a group of folks wanting an inexpensive and straightforward dinner with plenty of options to satisfy everyone. We loved the breakfast, diner, and Mexican fusion, and look forward to going back and try more of the menu.

The Arcade Pancake House is located at 132 North Market Street, Paxton, and is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday through Saturday.

All photos by Emily Cross.