Mystery Diner

Mystery Diner in Crest Hill: Don’t limit yourself to beef on a Merichka’s poor boy

Try grilled chicken or vegetarian options on this classic sandwich at the Crest Hill venue

Merichka’s in Crest Hill is a longtime favorite restaurant in the Joliet area and known fo its popular poorboy sandwich. The atmosphere is casual and Merichka’s still covers its tables in red and white checked cloths.

Merichka’s in Crest Hill is a longtime favorite restaurant in the Joliet area.

Say “Merichka’s” and people immediately think of Merichka’s popular poor boy sandwich: cubed round steak with garlic butterine on a French roll. Optional toppings include grilled onions (always a “yes” for me) and mozzarella cheese. I only ever order a poor boy at Merichka’s. And I’ll bet lots of people can say the same.

Say “Merichka’s” and people immediately think of Merichka’s popular poorboy sandwich, pictured above. This is a cubed round steak with garlic butterine on a French roll. Optional toppings include grilled onions (always a “yes” for me) and mozzarella cheese.

Merichka’s has been in my memory and my family’s memory for as long as I can remember. So whenever we gather as family, we often head over to Merichka’s as we did recently.

The food is always great, and the venue has a charm you don’t find in many restaurants anymore. Merichka’s doesn’t have TVs at every turn, loud music or sharing of the plates. The atmosphere is casual, and Merichka’s still covers its tables in red-and-white-checked cloths.

Mary (Merichka) Zdralevich and her son Joe opened Merichka’s on April 18, 1933, and the Zdralevich family still owns and operates the Crest Hill restaurant. Merichka's is known for its poorboy sandwich with garlic butterine.

A few fun facts about this legendary Joliet area restaurant from the Merichka’s website:

• Mary (Merichka) Zdralevich and son Joe opened Merichka’s on April 18, 1933, and the Zdralevich family still owns and operates the restaurant.

Mary (Merichka) Zdralevich and her son Joe opened Merichka’s on April 18, 1933, and the Zdralevich family still owns and operates the Crest Hill restaurant. Merichka's is known for its poorboy sandwich with garlic butterine.

• Merichka is a Slovenian translation of Mary.

• All meat is graded choice U.S.D.A.

• All meat is cut in-house.

• All beef is ground in-house

• No meat tenderizer is used.

• All hamburgers and steaks are broiled.

• Merichka’s used to have a dance hall and beer garden.

Back to the poor boys. If you don’t like beef, or have cut back on beef for whatever reason, or if you are a vegetarian, you can still try a Merichka’s poor boy. The restaurant offers grilled chicken and vegetarian options, too. I’m a traditionalist and was very happy with my mouthwatering cubed round steak with grilled onions poor boy, complemented by hot fries on the side.

Now, one of the diners in our party, who normally orders beef, decided to try the grilled chicken poor boy, which this diner said was “seasoned perfectly.” The grilled onions and mushrooms were thickly cut and generously topped the meat.

Merichka's in Crest Hill offers this grilled chicken variation of its classic cubed round steak poorboy. The grilled chicken was seasoned to perfection and it was generously topped with grilled onions and mushrooms.

The chicken was tender. The fries were crispy golden.

The fries at Merichka's in Crest Hill are consistently golden brown and served hot.

One vegetarian in our group loved the “unbelievably tasty vegetarian poor boy,” and was happy Merichka’s offered other sandwich options — like fish or cheese — and a good seafood and chicken selection for non-beef eaters. The garlic butterine was not too heavy on the sandwich, and the extra pickle request was accommodated.

Merichka's in Crest Hill offers a few vegetarian options, too. This "poorboy" featured a veggie burder and generous vegetable toppings: grilled onions and mushrooms on the burger and lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles on the side.

The salad, which includes onions, and came with the vegetarian poor boy, had just the right amount of dressing.

Pictured is a side salad as served at Merichkas's in Crest Hill. I felt the balance of dressing to salad ingredients was perfect.

About to celebrate nine decades next year, it’s easy to see why Merichka’s remains a longtime favorite.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Merichka’s

WHERE: 604 Theodore St., Crest Hill

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

INFORMATION: 815-723-9371, merichkas.com