We might as well admit it: the food isn't really the focus at most of Chicagoland's choo-choo restaurants. We go for the ambiance, the transportation-inspired décor, the model trains delivering food to the tables. And for kids, that's enough.
But wouldn't it be great if a choo-choo restaurant actually tried to provide healthier food along with the train-themed fun?
That's the new emphasis at 2Toots Train Whistle Grill (locations in Glen Ellyn and Bartlett), which recently introduced hamburgers, hot dogs and chili made with meat from the Tallgrass Beef Company. Tallgrass, founded by newsman Bill Kurtis, produces beef that is 100 percent grass-fed, all-natural, and preservative and hormone free.
I took my nephew, a choo-choo fanatic, to test out the new food. In addition to his healthier hot dog, he was able to select a fruit cup instead of the normal fries and organic milk to go along with it. Gluten-free buns also are on the menu.
My cheeseburger was perfectly grilled and crispy around the edges, exactly what you'd expect from a place styled after a `50s lunch counter. But there also are several meatless options, like the spring garden salad, that sounded tempting to the modern girl in me.
Of course the highlight of the visit was watching the train zip by with customers' orders-every table is along the track-throughout the meal, although it kept my nephew too distracted to completely clear his plate.
Of course, like any good aunt, I couldn't forget about dessert. Aidan thoroughly enjoyed a train whistle cupcake (and blew the whistle through the icing), while I indulged in one of the delicious hand-dipped strawberry shakes. But those extra calories were probably counteracted by our healthier dinner... right??
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.