Dining at its Absolute Finest

While most fine eateries aspire to a five-star rating, for the dining team at The Merion, five stars are just not enough. “When we first opened, Mr. Michael (the owner) said, ‘I don’t want it to be five-star. I want it to be seven.’ I replied, ‘we will make it happen’, and we really have,” said Alberto Riquelme, dining services manager for The Merion. “Our residents tell us all of the time how wonderful the food is. They have nothing but great things to say about our cuisine.”


The formidable team of Alberto and executive chef Anthony Krause serve up the very best in dining with a focus on excellent food, great variety and superb service. The Merion boasts upscale fine dining in the JEM Dining Room, with an ever-changing menu featuring a catch of the day, three or four daily specials as well as more standard fare such as steaks, burgers, shrimp, chicken, salmon, rack of lamb and more. “We try to also include comfort foods that residents remember from when they were younger,” said Anthony. Dining venues include the JEM Dining Room, Crystal Lounge, Sapphire Room, and the Bistro. The new North Tower will introduce the Emerald Dining Room which will serve upscale lunches and will host a happy hour and Friday night live entertainment.


Service is extremely important to the dining services team, both of who come from a country club background. “An upscale dining room isn’t much different than a country club where you get to know your clients and anticipate what they want,” said Anthony. “At The Merion, if a resident asks me to make something that they especially love, I say ‘of course.’ It’s all about making them happy.”


Alberto, who has been with The Merion since it first opened its doors, sought Anthony out for the executive chef position. “I knew him from Ravinia Green Country Club where we worked together for many years. I knew that Anthony had great skills, is wonderful to get along with and is very smart,” said Alberto.


A fine addition to the dining services team was Jenna. She’s been with The Merion since it first opened and became a dedicated pastry chef for the past year. “Mr. Michael wanted us to have a pastry chef so he sent Jenna to school to learn more, to bring our services to the next level,” said Alberto. “We have fresh cakes and sweets. Nothing cookie-cutter and nothing frozen.”


Although they’ve exceeded expectations for a fine dining eatery, the team is not yet satisfied. “We’re always working on what we can do better. We don’t want to stay where we are. We want to take it to the next step,” said Anthony.


“The food is so good, that it’s not unusual for us to have guests from a neighboring retirement community. “We have some who come here two or three time weekly,” said Alberto. “We have great food. The word is out. It’s the best-kept secret. It’s the best place to eat in Evanston.”