Imagine an eatery situated inside a train station – which you can get to via a train or streetcar. A place where model trains deliver classic American food in a train-themed setting – and where kids can receive an activity book upon arriving, draw on a paper tablecloth throughout the visit, eat great food prepared by a real chef, and pull a train whistle before leaving. All this and more can be found at Choo Choo Charlie’s in Downtown Kenosha. The fun restaurant opened inside the Kenosha Metra train station (5414 13th Ave.) in November 2015. You can take the Metra train from Downtown Chicago or a suburb, pull up aboard Kenosha’s Electric Streetcar, or drive your car to get to Choo Choo Charlie’s. Whatever your form of transportation, it will be worth the visit!
Choo Choo Charlie’s is owned by Frank Carmichael, a man well known in Kenosha. He owns Happenings Magazine, is one of the voices on Happenings Q & A on WLIP 1050 AM, and is behind many of the city’s popular events including the Peanut Butter & Jam Concert Series (each July and August) and Celebrate America (each July). Having seen this model train concept done elsewhere, he wanted to open the kids-oriented restaurant. He was inspired by places he went to as a child, and he wanted to bring that to Kenosha, according to Jayson Webb, General Manager/Partner of Choo Choo Charlie’s. The name is based on the Choo Choo Charlie’s-themed Good and Plenty candy commercials from many years back.
Delicious food, a family-friendly environment, and great service are what Choo Choo Charlie’s is all about, according to Webb who has a strong customer service background. Meanwhile, the executive chef, Rory Howell, has a fine dining background. Many customers are surprised by the great food quality, given it’s a kids’ themed restaurant. While families are the focus, everyone will enjoy the food and décor.
The menu is extensive, with Howell using the employees’ input when serving up monthly specials in addition to the main breakfast and lunch menus. One monthly special example is Charlie’s Meatloaf & Mozzarella Sandwich (traditional meatloaf topped with mozzarella sticks, mozzarella cheese, Charlie's twisted sauce, and an over medium egg on Golden Texas toast). Specials can be found on the eatery’s Facebook page.
Choo Choo Charlie’s is open seven days a week. Appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, mac & cheese, chicken, malts & shakes, desserts, and more are available after 11 a.m. Their malts are popular, as is the Chicken Philly Sandwich (peppers, onions, provolone and garlic parmesan ranch served on a French roll). Breakfast is served daily until 11 a.m. and includes an All American Breakfast, a Veggie Wrap, a Breakfast Bowl, a Loaded Breakfast Burrito, omelets, pancakes, and much more. A Kids Menu is also available for breakfast and lunch. Two more menu facts: flavored coffees are offered, while the burgers are hand pressed on the grill.
You can call ahead for a carry out order – or for the full experience, dine in. Your food basket will arrive at your table via a train system that wraps around the restaurant. There’s a switch in the kitchen that sends the food out to the dining room on one of two train tracks. One track goes out to the counter, while the other travels a foot-and-a-half above the booths. Servers take the trays from the trestle to the tables, and push a button to send the train back. There are other trains traveling overhead as well, with train photos and décor on the walls and tables.
As for the mascot Charlie, the costume actually came before the character. They based the friendly-faced puppy character around the train conductor costume.
Kids love Choo Choo Charlie’s and all it has to offer; Webb hopes they come back with their own kids in the future. The place is all about making memories. It’s a great addition to Downtown Kenosha’s dining scene. And as for that train whistle … kids of ALL ages can pull the rope! And we all know what sound a train makes … “Choo Choo!!!!!”
See the KACVB-produced video clip here.
(262) 220-3634, EatatChucks.com