“I had worked for Krekel's on North Grand,” Carol said about the historic company that began originally on Wood Street in Decatur with William Krekel in 1949. He started out with Kernel’s signature sandwich, the Krekel Burger. The Krekel’s name is famous for their fresh never frozen, ground beef smashed onto a sizzling hot griddle as well as the ; handmade shakes offered in 16 flavors, chili made daily with their own special meat and piping hot fries.
Today there are seven Krekel’s locations in Central Illinois and one of those seven locations happens to be in Pawnee, Illinois. “They opened this branch in May of 2005,” Carol said.
When the original owners decided to sell, they asked Russ and Carol if they were interested in purchasing it. “We said we would, so we bought it in October of 2005.”
This October, they will celebrate 15 years of business in Pawnee! The Krekel’s in Pawnee is a bit different than the other six locations. “For the first five years we had to stick to the original menu,” Carol said. “Then we expanded because of being in a smaller town. We thought everyone would only want hamburgers so many days a week.”
As far as the business goes she said, “It is a lot of hard work, but so much fun.”
Some of what makes Krekel’s special Carol said is the quality of the meat. “The meat is fresh never frozen. We get our meat from Magro’s Meat in Springfield. Tony worked with us to get a blend of meat with no additives.”
Besides the great quality meat, Carol added, “All of our specialty sandwiches like the Italian beef, Philly cheese steak and more we make ourselves. Plus, the chili and the cheese sauce are homemade.”
In April Carol said they usually add a Reuben sandwich. “After we started doing that I will never do a deli corn beef as long as we live!”
When asked how she and Russ learned to cook and run a restaurant Carol said she learned the basics at home. “I learned from my mom. I had five sisters. Mom went to work and when I was in was in the fourth grade I just took over doing the dinners.”
As for Russ, Carol said, “Before Russ went to work in the coal mine he worked in restaurants too.”
Carol said that between the two of them they have five kids. “I always cooked homemade stuff at home and the recipes we have at the store are mostly things we had at home except the cheese sauce that is Russ’s he nailed that.”
When asked what the favorite foods are at Krekel’s Carol didn’t hesitate. “The favorite is the burgers. That is the best seller, and neck and neck is a regular double cheese and a jalapeño burger.”
As for ice cream, the top seller on ice cream she added is any flavor of the concretes. However, she added, “Everyone waits for strawberry and lemon. That is individual or you can get it twisted together. It is unbelievable together, very refreshing.”
They also have a new treat, the Pineapple dole whip. “That is best twisted with vanilla and is like a pineapple dream sickle.”
A new flavor that Carol just nailed is a recipe for a banana jam made in a water bath that she is using on her banana shakes!
Everyday, they offer specials and they would like to start having special nights as well like Mexican night and adding fried chicken. “We are always looking for new things. A couple years ago I stumbled on a sweet tea shake so we made one. It tastes like old fashioned ice cream. So I will have people shoot me a text or idea if they hear of something, we are always looking for new items and ideas. We are also working on a family basket menu.”
Over the years Krekel’s has grown. “We have expanded over the years we now have seating capacity for around 90 people inside. The first year we were open it was so tiny. We had rushes one row of booths and one row of tables. We expanded I think about five years ago.”
Krekel’s works with their customers offering special things like bagging sandwiches individually for farmers and customers. They also have been putting up local art from the Pawnee school and sharing it on Facebook. “The kids were so excited. At Christmas they have a Christmas tree from classes and kids get excited to see which is getting the most money in the jar it’s really cute.”
At Krekel’s they employee around 20 employees and a few more during busy times.
Being in Pawnee is a joyful thing for the Turners. “I’ve ran restaurants for 30 years now and this is the best location ever. Pawnee is such a little family. I used to open corporate stores but I would do this over that any day because it is a good community. Everybody does what they can. People in Pawnee are really nice.”
For more information check out their facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/Krekelspawneeillinois/ or call 217-625-4952.