Sitting in the heart of Payette’s historic downtown, Meechan’s Diner resides at 116 N. Main St. in a modest storefront with bright mirrored windows. On the inside, your senses are overwhelmed by the mouth-watering smell of fried food.
Meechan’s is run by Gary and Sidni Mordhorst. They have been at the helm of the diner since Jan. 1. The business has been in their family for the last 30 years.
“It’s very casual, we’ve got all ages,” Sidni said. “We’ve got the retired-age guys who come in and drink coffee all day, we’ve got young families that come in. Guys come in with their work boots at lunchtime, and that’s cool. We want everybody to feel welcome.”
The diner is known around the area for its finger steaks. It’s one of many homemade recipes the diner offers in addition to burgers and other grill food; coffee; and breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as beverages.
Unlike a chain restaurant, Sidni said the diner and its staff have a much more personal feel and enjoy the presence of regulars whom the staff often know by name.
“Great staff, couldn’t do it without them,” Sidni said.
Jim Meechan opened the diner in 1952. Initially it was one block south of its current location. It was moved to increase the dining space and started as a pool hall.
Over the years it has transformed into the restaurant it is today. Although Meechan’s Diner does still have pool tables, there are also video game cabinets for kids.
With more changes on the way, Gary said they are working on updates to gear the diner more toward a dinner crowd.
“It’s kind of been just like this for the past eight or 10 years, so we’re just trying to clean up the place, redo some lighting,” he said.
But some things, like their popular chicken fried steak, will be staying the same.
Meechan’s Diner has had a long history in Payette.
It began as an offshoot of the Town Tavern, which opened in 1949 on Main Street. Customers could come in for sandwiches, milkshakes, beer and pool. Later, a sporting goods store was added to the business, which sold tennis supplies, boating equipment and even model trains. However, the business had to relocate to its current location in 1952, where Lee and Fat Mordhorst were hired to build the bar, counter and other carpentry projects.
The business has had several different owners over the years. So many that it took James “Jimbo” McCure, the former mayor of Payette, to set the record straight.
Meechan sold the business to Boyd Hopkins in the late 1960s, but later took it back again for a while before selling it to Bob Trosper. Again, Meechan wound up taking back the business and ran it with his wife, Ruby Lou Meechan, until Jim Meechan was tragically shot and killed on Dec. 23, 1970.
The business was then sold by Ruby Lou as the first of several more owner changes including Roger Bowling, Morris Hartung, Ernie Engberg and then back to Hartung. It then went to Wayne and Darlene Adams, then to Alan and Lynda Pollock. Finally the Mordhorsts took the reins of the diner, and they are the owners today.
“We’re probably one of the oldest businesses on Main Street, and Gary and I are just really proud to be carrying the torch,” Sidni said. “We love Payette; we both grew up here. So we just really value that we’re keeping the legacy of this place, and his family has put a lot of hard work into it.”