Smile Politely

Nighthawks at the diner: Merry Ann’s is a real life Hopper painting

In 1942, Edward Hopper created one of the most iconic works of art in American History called Nighthawks. As you can see in the header, it’s a depiction of a downtown diner called Phillie’s and there’s a handful of folks winding down their night.

The painting has been often recreated or parodied, the one the stands out most to me is on an episode of the Simpsons, and its lasting imagery is a reflection on an ideal snippet of the American city. Every great city has a late-night spot for grub where industry workers can grab a bite after hours, the intoxicated can refuel before heading home, and nighttime lingerers can stop in for a soda. It truly is an age-old type of establishment, and there’s something hip and cool about that storefront in the evening light.

Having been in Champaign for a number of years now, every time I see Nighthawks I immediately think of our own downtown diner— Merry Ann’s. It’s rare to see a group of folks in there in suits like in the painting, but nevertheless the spirit of the establishment is the same. Attentive diner staff waiting on the nighthawks, a bright sign in the dark sky, and an attractive window front that shows everything in its late-night glory.

Of course Merry Ann’s is open for breakfast and lunch, too. But there’s just something cool about the downtown location amongst the hustle and bustle of the bar and restaurant scene. It’s a monument to the beauty and personality of Downtown Champaign. It’s our own, real-life Edward Hopper painting and it’s the pulse of countless Champaign nighthawks.

Related Articles