My 15-month-old nephew says "choo-choo" about a
thousand times a day, so it seemed like a no-brainer to take him to
a local restaurant bearing that name: The Choo-Choo in Des
The tiny diner doesn't look like much from the outside;
you could easily pass it without a second glance. But the building
has been serving food since 1951 and if the line out the door
during a recent Saturday lunch rush was any indication, they have
some pretty satisfied customers.
Inside, there's not much space to spread out-I estimated
seating for 50 people-but train memorabilia distracts from the
cramped quarters. From the railroad crossing sign that cheekily
reads, "Stop, Look and Eat," to the two-person train ride, the
locomotive is king. The highlight is the model train that delivers
food to those seated at the counter-but parties that require high
chairs must sit in a booth.
With a 30-minute eating limit for each table, there's
little time to linger over your meal, although the excellent and
polite service guarantees you don't waste any of that precious time
waiting. Our food arrived, piping hot from the grill, in a
remarkable six minutes. And the tastiness of this standard diner
fare-think burgers, BLTs and grilled cheese-meant that we scarfed
it down quickly.
The restaurant retains its '50s charm with authentic
treats like hand-dipped milkshakes, root beer floats and
from-the-bubbler lemonade. The seemingly original cash register (no
credit cards or checks accepted) and vintage decorations add to the
After waiting 40 minutes to be seated, we grown-ups were
ready to be wowed. But in reality, The Choo-Choo isn't really for
us. Just looking around at the excited and remarkably well-behaved
children throughout the restaurant, though, it was clear they were
all having a ball.
And the first word we heard when we got back in the car?
"Choo-choo," of course.
Elizabeth Diffin is the senior editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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