Smile Politely

No-frills, pure Americana diner food at Merry Ann’s Diner

The author's breakfast at Merry Ann's Diner.
Mackenzie Schabowski

The lights are always on at Neil Street’s classic diner, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Stop in for late night milkshakes, breakfast for dinner, or a classic burger and fries.

The exterior of Merry Ann's Diner in Champaign.
Mackenzie Schabowski

When guests enter Merry Ann’s, they can find a seat at one of many booths while waiting to be greeted. The open design is similar to that of a Waffle House, where diners can see food being prepared on the flattop grill, being plated, and making its way to tables. No matter the time of day, the intoxicating smell of fluffy waffles and buttermilk pancakes is pure delight. Although the jukebox in the corner is reminiscent of a 50’s style joint, it’s actually a modern rendition complete with TouchTunes. A claw machine with plush toys is nestled in the opposite corner of the space. There are about 10 to 12 booths in total, each with the capacity to seat four people. Four or five stools line a small counter in front of the grill for guests who don’t mind sitting front and center.

A breakfast order of country-fried steak with eggs, hashrbowns, and pancakes.
Mackenzie Schabowski

I visited Merry Ann’s recently for breakfast and had the country fried steak ($10.75), which came smothered in gravy with two eggs, hash browns, and toast. French toast and pancakes can both be substituted for toast for a $0.50 upcharge, and I opted for the pancakes. A small chocolate milk for $1.99 and hot coffee were perfect for washing it all down.

The chicken-fried steak smothered in white gravy with a side of hashbrowns and eggs.
Mackenzie Schabowski

I really enjoyed the country fried steak because it was juicy like a hamburger on the inside and very crispy on the outside. The heap of shredded hash browns were cooked just right for me, but those who like them extra crispy should make sure to request them that way. The pancakes were sweet, fluffy, and absolutely delicious. It was everything I wanted from a basic diner breakfast. I expected something simple and hearty, which was exactly what I got.

In addition to standard breakfast combinations, several omelets are on the menu ranging from $8.25 for a cheese omelette to $10.75 for a Mexican omelette with chorizo, veggies, and cheese. All served with hash browns and toast. A stack of three buttermilk pancakes is just $6.50 and adding fruit or chocolate chips adds $1 to the cost.

The cheeseburger and fries at Merry Ann's Diner.
Mackenzie Schabowski

When I visited a second time for lunch, I decided to go for a cheeseburger with all the fixings ($6.25) and an upgrade of chili cheese fries ($5.75). I got the smallest option in terms of burgers, but hungry diners can opt for a double ($8.25) or a super burger ($8.75), which I was told is a bigger patty. All burgers and sandwiches come with potato chips, and fries can be substituted for $1.25. The burger was a thin patty, but still juicy, and didn’t get crispy on the outside like a typical smashburger. There wasn’t much flavor in terms of seasoning, so I added salt and pepper. My shoestring french fries were covered in chili and a healthy amount of that delicious yellow cheese sauce that reminds me of the Champaign County Fair food.

A strawberry milkshake at Merry Ann's Diner in Champaign.
Mackenzie Schabowski

I ultimately decided that my meal of burger and fries wouldn’t be complete without a strawberry milkshake ($5.99). It was hand-dipped and super thick, blended with real strawberry puree, and topped with whipped cream. A few milkshake flavors are always available: chocolate, coffee, cookies n’ cream, strawberry, and vanilla. Seasonal flavors change all the time, with options like chai and hazelnut latte in rotation.

Parking for Merry Ann’s is easily accessible from Neil Street. While the parking lot is somewhat small, it reflects the capacity for indoor seating. If the dining room is too full or prefer to eat at home, call-in an order for takeout anytime. Delivery is also available through GrubHub.

Merry Ann's Diner menu
Mackenzie Schabowski
Merry Ann's Diner menu
Mackenzie Schabowski

Check out Merry Ann’s website here.

Merry Ann’s Diner
1510 S Neil St
Champaign
24 hours, 7 days a week

More Articles