Choo Choo! Train-themed Restaurants in Lake County

Most kids go through a Thomas the Tank Engine phase at some point in their lives.  I distinctly remember keeping Thomas, Percy, and Toby in my purse for whenever my family dined out.  Those little engines sure knew how to keep the peace…

However, at these Lake County eateries, you can leave all of Sodor at home!  These train-themed restaurants just might keep your junior conductor entertained long enough for you to finish your meal.  And if you spend the entire time pointing and saying, “Yes, train. Train says choo-choo!” well, thank goodness for to-go bags.

C. Keegan | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
C. Keegan | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Caboose Restaurant, 320 E. Hawley St., Mundelein
(847) 388-3530 | Facebook

From Cheryl, one of our Senior Contributors:

Caboose is a favorite in our family. It’s a charming small business in downtown Mundelein right next to the railroad tracks. It’s walking distance to the Metra station if you’re headed there, and you can stop and get some coffee and takeout for your train ride.

Caboose Restaurant - C. Keegan | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
Caboose Restaurant – C. Keegan | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Inside you’ll find an adorable full-length wall mural of a train. There is also one full wall of windows looking directly at the train crossing. I don’t think we’ve eaten there without seeing a train go by.

If the weather cooperates, I really enjoy their patio. The food is delicious and the menu is extremely family friendly. My children always seem to order the French toast. My husband is actually the reason we eat there so much. He is infatuated with their skillets. My favorite meal, hands down, is the corned beef hash attack. Yum!

The Silo – L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2012

The Silo, 625 Rockland Road, Lake Bluff
(847) 234-6660 | Facebook

The Silo is a North Shore favorite that’s famous for their pizza, which is even available with a gluten-free crust.  The exterior resembles an old-fashioned train depot with a giant grain silo out front.

Overhead Train Tracks at The Silo L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2012

Ask to be seated in the center of the first floor dining area where a model train circles overhead.  In addition to the kids menu, crayons, and coloring place mats, they have plenty of those old water ring toss games to keep the kids entertained.  For more information, read my 2012 review.

Image from Whistle Stop Cafe on Facebook
Image from Whistle Stop Cafe on Facebook

Whistle Stop Cafe, 15 E. Grand Ave., Fox Lake
(847) 584-5654 | Facebook

This place is very popular for breakfast, especially on the weekends, so prepare for a wait if you arrive at that time.  This cafe is known for solid, affordable, comfort food that the locals rave about.  It is extremely family-friendly with lots of train memorabilia on the walls to peruse and enjoy.

Image from Chessie's Restaurant on Facebook
Image from Chessie’s Restaurant on Facebook

Chessie’s Restaurant, Ice House Mall, 200 Applebee Street, Barrington
(847) 382-5020 | Facebook

While Chessie’s calls themselves a “casual dining experience,” the ambiance is far more formal than our previous restaurant listings. The restaurant is located inside an original train station, and you can enjoy your meal in a vintage 1920’s dining car. While families are definitely welcome, the ambiance is more along the lines of “The Great Gatsby” than “The Little Engine that Could.”

Image from Chessie's Restaurant on Facebook
Image from Chessie’s Restaurant on Facebook

Despite being a more buttoned-up affair, I personally wouldn’t hesitate to bring my own children here.  I will have to take them for lunch on a Tuesday for $5 burger day, on the recommendation of Kari at Chicago Parent.  Listen to this lady when it comes to food – this mama knows what she’s talking about.

{Editor’s Update 5/12/2015}
The Lantern of Lake Forest, 768 Western Ave, Lake Forest
(847)234-9844 | Facebook
Our reader and friend, Laura from Chambanamoms,  just told us about The Lantern. A miniature train track circles the ceiling and it’s located close to the Metra station. On Sundays, kids under 11 eat FREE after 4pm and see Holly the Balloon Lady 6-8pm (times subject to change – call ahead to confirm availability.)

Worth the Trip…

The train delivers your food at Windhill Pancake Parlor – S. Younge | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Windhill Pancake Parlor, 3307 W. Elm St., Unit A, McHenry
(815) 385-1172 | Facebook

From our McHenry County Correspondent, Shelby:

For a slice of pure Americana, check out the Windhill Pancake Parlor in downtown McHenry. Located in an historic building, this family-run establishment has been in business for almost 40 years, and still holds all of the charm that it did on the day it opened. The highlight at Windhill for kids is the counter area which seats 14, (reservations here are accepted) where a train delivers your food.

The counter at Windhill Pancake Parlor - S. Younge | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
The counter at Windhill Pancake Parlor – S. Younge | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

An expansive menu of delicious options, friendly service, and antique decor make this an ideal restaurant to dine with your family. On Tuesday nights, our favorite balloon artist is at the restaurant from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., making amazing balloons creations for your children. Even better, kids 11 and under eat free on Tuesdays with the purchase of an adult meal valued at $10 or higher. Try to find a reason not to love it here!

littlelakecounty.com | 2010

Choo Choo Restaurant, 600 Lee St., Des Plaines
(847) 391-9815 | Facebook
A tiny 50’s-style diner with much of the seating around a train track which delivers your food! Read our 2010 review.

{Editor’s Update 7/1/2016}
Choo Choo Charlies 5414 13th Avenue, Kenosha, WI
(262) 220-3634 | Facebook
From Jenna:

Choo Choo Charlie’s is located in the old Metra train depot in Kenosha, just blocks from the downtown epicenter. So it pairs well with a family day of visiting the harbor, farmers market, museums or anything else you find your family enjoying in the area.

Learn more about why Jenna feels this place is worth the trip in her Choo Choo Charlie’s review.

{Editor’s Update 1/1/2017}

2 Toots Train Whistle Grill  203 S. Main St.,  Bartlett & 450 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn
(630) 213-6700 | Facebook

This grill is a must go for all train lovers. With authentic Lionel trains that delivers food to your tables, old fashioned comfort food and milkshakes, and nostalgic atmosphere this place is a definite worth the trip. 

Other Ideas…

Many Metra stations throughout Lake County have great restaurants located within walking distance of the train station.  In particular Highwood, Lake Forest, Deerfield, Libertyville and Highland Park have many dining options near their respective stations, as well as charming shopping districts you may want to explore. While the restaurant options themselves are not necessarily train-themed, consider taking your child for a short Metra ride, stopping for lunch, then heading back home on the train.  Your little ones will think it’s an awesome adventure when they hand their ticket to a real live conductor!  Genevieve has more ideas for train travel with kids. 

 

Is there a train-themed restaurant in Lake County that we missed? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Dance academy of Libertyville
About Loralie 341 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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