When I strolled up to Weits Cafe at 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday, I figured the lunch crowd would be long gone.
Boy, was I wrong.
My companion and I were in downtown Morris after a morning hike on the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail. Our 10-mile walk had put us in the mood for a hearty meal, so we decided to give Weits Cafe a try.
The restaurant has been a Morris staple since 1928, when it was opened by Herb and Conrad Weitz. Over the years, the business transferred ownership several times, and the Z in Weitz was changed to an S. The establishment most recently reopened in February under new owners Aren Hansen and Matt Workman.
From our first step through the door, it was clear the menu still is a comfort-food favorite among locals. The dining room was packed, with only one high-top table left open. We got in line behind another group of customers, who told us to step in front of them because they preferred to wait for a booth.
Luckily for both our parties, the dining room moves at a good pace. We were seated immediately, and placed our order shortly after, while the other party was seated minutes later.
The menu features a variety of homemade hot plates, sandwiches, wraps and salads for lunch and dinner. I gravitated toward the Weits Famous Smashburger, which includes a house smash burger sauce similar to Thousand Island dressing. My companion ordered the garlic pot roast sandwich. He chose the half-size version of the hoagie sandwich, which turned out to be plenty. The full-size sandwich comes with a full pound of meat, and the pieces of beef were tender, resembling prime rib.
One highlight of the menu is the variety of sides to choose from. The usual options such as fries and chips are accompanied by refreshing choices like macaroni salad and soup. My companion made several mentions of the turkey and rice soup in the days following our visit, because it had a touch of garlic that gave it a wonderful flavor.
A fun addition to the lunch was the poutine, featuring fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy and topped with green onions. The dish originated in Quebec in the 1950s, we learned from a Google search. Anything on the Weits menu that includes their gravy is bound to be a good choice, because it elevated the poutine to the next level.
My companion almost ordered the Colonel Sanders, a dish featuring fried chicken tenders over house mashed potatoes and topped with white-peppered chicken gravy. After tasting Weits gravy, that will be on our list to order next time.
While we were too full for a dessert, the restaurant offers ice cream, old-fashioned root beer floats, malts and shakes.
To save a little on your bill, you can pay with cash. Otherwise, a 4% fee is added for cards. On our $31 bill, that fee only came to $1.24. On the plus side, smartphone users can expedite the payment process by scanning the QR code. Serving staff also will collect the bill from the table, if needed.
If you’re in the mood for comfort food during a visit to Morris, seek out the classic Weits Cafe neon sign on Liberty Street. If the dining room is crowded, stick around. It’s worth the wait.
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. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Weits Cafe
WHERE: 213 Liberty St., Morris