- 1510 S. Neil St.
- Champaign, IL 61820
- (217) 352-5399
- No Known Website
- Menu (downtown Location)
So here’s the first of my reviews of dining in Big Ten communities (well, second if you count The Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor). I was in Champaign for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship. When I lived in Peoria, I would end up in Champaign quite often for work. When we had an early call time, I would pretty much always be put up in the Hilton Garden Inn on Neil St. From the hotel, I always saw this little diner called Merry Ann’s. For the most part, I needed to get to bed and didn’t have time to grab a bite to eat, so I kept passing this place up. Not this time.
I spent the weekend in town and I got off work at a fairly early time on Saturday. I had eaten nothing but cold meat sandwiches supplied by University Dining Services for two days, so I needed something good and greasy. I walked across Neil to get to Merry Ann’s. There were only a couple guys sitting in a booth when I got there, so I grabbed a spot at the bar. The set up is pretty interesting. There is only one row of booths and the bar. All the booths have a cut-out area on the kitchen side so the waitress never has to go out to the dining area. Merry Ann’s is your typical 24-hour diner and the menu is too. It’s filled with breakfast items, greasy burgers and they even have some after midnight “hangover” specials.
The waitress brought me a Pepsi and asked if I needed a menu. I glanced over it and right away, one thing jumped out. The Horseshoe! If you don’t know what a horsehoe is, check out my post on unique regional foods. This is what I really miss about Central Illinois. The flat top was right in front of me, so I was able to watch the cook grill the burger, fry the fries, toast the bread, and squeeze the cheese on. I actually got quite a bit more than I expected. The fries came piled on and the burger was a pretty good size. The cheese, for being squeezed out of a bottle, was just what I wanted. I devoured the “sandwich” in just a few minutes. The waitress was actually a little surprised I finished so quickly, but I was really hungry.
My bill was a little over $7, so with tip, I got out of there for ten bucks. Merry Ann’s is a great asset to the University of Illinois’ campus. Diner’s are getting rarer and Merry Ann’s has been there for 25 years this year. I’ve drove by there on my way to Memorial Stadium on Saturday mornings and the place is usually pretty busy. If your in town, hunt this place down…it’s on Neil and Kirby and two blocks from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.