If you enjoy homestyle food, a friendly atmosphere and sports memorabilia, then PJ’s Diner in Breese may be just the place for you.

JoAnn Hempen and Pam Staser, the mother/daughter duo behind PJ’s Diner.

Since 1999, the mother/daughter duo of Pam Staser and JoAnn Hempen, (P and J) have been serving made-from-scratch food in this family-owned and operated establishment. Its warm, welcoming environment, friendly employees, and homemade food draw folks for meals, coffee, conversation and Cardinals baseball.

Pam and JoAnn chose Breese because it’s a family-oriented community. “From the time we opened, the community has embraced us and been very supportive,” says JoAnn. “Over the past year, we’ve seen many challenges, but the community has been with us every step of the way.”

Last spring, the diner had to close for three months due to COVID-19. When able to open again, a tent was set up in the east parking lot and drive-thru meals were offered. The restaurant is now open with a limited capacity they hope will soon be lifted. They are beginning to see former customers return and Pam contributes that to more people being vaccinated and more comfortable eating out.

Handmade Italian food and pizza were on the menu when the diner first opened. Pam and husband Jake had an acquaintance in New York who taught them to make his mother’s authentic Italian pasta and sauce. They brought those recipes back to Breese.

Southern Fried ChickenEventually, Pam and JoAnn expanded the menu to include food from Pam’s southern roots in Memphis. The southern fried chicken is one of her secret family recipes and a popular dinner item. They take pride in not taking shortcuts. The chicken and almost everything is from scratch.

Breakfast includes many hearty selections such as Papa’s Haystack, a combination of biscuits, hash browns, sausage, and two eggs all smothered in gravy. For those with a lighter appetite, it is available in half-size. Wash it all down with a bottomless cup of coffee.

Strawberry French toast

Kolten’s Stuffed French Toast is stuffed with a cream cheese filling, battered, grilled and topped with strawberries and whipped cream. The breakfast menu includes a variety of egg and meat combinations, breakfast sandwiches and omelets.

PJ’s posts daily lunch and dinner specials on Facebook. Lunches include a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads and homemade soup. Entrees such as southern fried chicken, grilled or fried porkchop, shrimp, and country fried steak, etc. are on the dinner menu. Recent dinner specials include a ribeye, meatloaf, Polish sausage and kraut, and fried manicotti. Pasta dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli and fettuccini alfredo are served with a salad and garlic toast. You can build your own pizza or choose one of their specialties such as bacon ranch chicken, chicken Caesar or Mega Meat.

The décor pays tribute to local high school teams, NASCAR, football and especially the Cardinals.

Pam says Jake went to a Cardinals Caravan one January in St. Louis and met former Cardinals great Red Schoendienst. While there, Schoendienst gave him signed jerseys of six former Cardinals players. Pam displays the jerseys of Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter and Schoendienst in glass cases and says, “It’s an unusual collection and there’s not another one like it, because Red did it.”

If there is a Cardinals game, the television is on and fans are wearing Cardinal red attire. You may even hear some good-natured ribbing if a Cubs fan walks in.

IL-Map-BreeseLet’s EAT!

PJ’s Diner
560 N. 4th St., Breese
(618) 526-0600

Pj’s Diner on Facebook

6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
7 days a week