It’s not the most advanced form of transportation, but riding the rails still holds a romantic place in our nation’s heart. Many restaurants pay homage to railroad history through train décor and menu items. If you’re looking for a unique dining experience and love trains, step aboard one of these themed restaurants across northern Illinois.
2 Toots Grill
450 N. Main St.
As they sit trackside at 2 Toots Grill, youngsters eagerly watch the model Lionel electric trains zip by carrying their loads of baskets filled with burgers and fries, wondering when the train will pull up with their order. The grass-fed beef burgers are cooked with crispness around the edges and pair nicely with a premium hand dipped shake or root beer float. The menu also features diner fare like egg and tuna salad sandwiches and BLTs as well as healthy items like a spring garden salad. For those with dietary restrictions, 2 Toots offers gluten free buns, cookies, burgers and hot dogs. Kids up to age 12 can sign up for the Kids Birthday Club to receive a special treat. Be sure to try the homemade desserts, which come topped with a train whistle souvenir to take home.
20831 S. La Grange Road
Pull into the southwest suburbs for family dining and amusement at this train themed diner. Grab a seat along All Aboard’s tabletop tracks, where food is delivered via a model train. The train themed menu features a selection to please passengers of all ages from hot dogs and burgers to train car tacos and drawbar dinners complete with choice of side salad or soup. While waiting for your food, you can pass the time playing retro games. Weekly specials include BOGO kids meals, free meals for kids with a paid adult entrée, and a special discount for grandparents and nannies. Souvenir train whistles and hats are available for purchase. All Aboard also offers options for hosting parties with a choice of Mexican or Italian food buffets and special birthday treats.
The Silver Palm
768 N. Milwaukee
For an upscale train themed dining experience, look no further than The Silver Palm. The dining room is situated inside an actual 1947 Budd dining car that once made runs along the former Atlantic Coastal Line Railroad (now run by Amtrak) from Washington, D.C. to Florida. The car features the original four top tables with gray padded chairs. Or sit along the high topped bar or a cocktail table near the railing taking in the history of this place over a glass of sauvignon blanc or beer. Start your meal with a shrimp cocktail or one of the salads on the menu. A popular menu item is Silver Palms’ Three Little Piggy sandwich – a handheld treat of double smoked ham, pork tenderloin, bacon, Gruyere cheese and a fried egg. Other offerings include a variety of burgers and sandwiches, ribs, seafood and flat iron steak.
The Junction Eating Place
816 W. Lincoln Highway
For more than 40 years, this family owned train-themed restaurant has been an institution in DeKalb. The eatery is adorned with railroad décor, including photos of old locomotives on the walls. Guests are greeted at the hostess stand, which resembles a train station ticket window. The Junction Eating Place serves up country home cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Kick off the day with a Junction Skillet, served in a skillet overflowing with hash browns, diced ham, onions, green pepper and mushrooms topped with a trio of cheeses and eggs. Lunch selections include a variety of sandwiches, salads and lighter fare entrees. Dinner offerings range from comfort foods like fried chicken and spaghetti to steaks, chops and seafood. Be sure to stop by between 3 and 5 p.m. for the happy hour special: pie and a cup of coffee.
Choo Choo Charlie's
5414 13th Ave.
Tucked inside the historic Kenosha Metra station, Choo Choo Charlies pays homage to the days when train stations featured dining rooms for travelers. Commuters can grab a bite of classic American fare brought to the table via a model Amtrak train before catching their real train to Chicago. Young travelers delight in meeting Choo Choo Charlie himself – the restaurant’s loveable doggie mascot who enjoys greeting customers. Breakfast options range from quick portable bites like bagels and breakfast burritos to more hearty entrees such as omelets and silver dollar pancakes. Lunch and dinner options include specialty or plain mac and cheese, Philly cheese steak and burgers. For a taste of both Wisconsin and Chicago’s culinary scenes, try pairing your Chicago style hot dog with deep fried cheese curds.
3307 W. Elm St.
Family entertainment is served up for guests of all ages at Windhill Pancake Parlor from the counter where customers await their meals delivered by model train to free dessert for kids and balloon animals on Tuesday evenings. Many breakfast entrees feature customizable options. For example, the pancakes come with your choice of batter, add-ins like fruit and chocolate chips, and toppings including ice cream and Nutella. Those with a hearty appetite can take on the Attack the Stack challenge by consuming five pounds of pancakes within an hour. For lunch and dinner, offerings range from sandwiches and salads to heartier entrees such as pot roast and carnitas. The all-you-can-eat fish fry on Fridays features your choice of hand-dipped beer battered or boiled cod, potatoes, baked rye loaf and coleslaw.