Saturday, July 26, 2008

Choo-Choo Coming Through

You know how sometimes you see something or read about it or hear about it and it becomes a dream? You fantasize about how cool it will be or how much fun you'll have. You plan to go there or do that, and you count down the days.

Then you actually go.

And the dream is dead.

My dad had read an article in the paper a few months ago about the Choo-Choo cafe. It's a diner in Des Plaines that has a train track going around the counter and delivers the food on a train. Train themed, near the train tracks. My dad couldn't wait to go.

About once a week, he'd ask me when we were going, and I kept putting him off because we had other things we were doing. But I realized that yesterday would be the perfect day to go. I wasn't working, Mister Man and Little Miss had soccer camp in the morning and were done just before lunch, and we had no plans in the afternoon. We made a date for yesterday.

We made it to the train station just before the train arrived. Camp ran a little long the last day, and my husband was freaking out that we were going to miss the train. (Ok, so we miss the train. We can drive.) We boarded the train, and the wee ones were fascinated by all the things they saw out the windows.

When we got off the train, I discovered that my dad and husband were a bit turned around by the map. I saw a mom with some boys who looked like they might be going to the same place, asked and got confirmation. We followed them. And soon, we saw:

Being that we arrived at about 11:50, it was a touch busy. From what I've heard, it's pretty much busy from 10:30 (when it opens) on. There's no hostess. There are maybe 12 booths that seat 4 each. There are maybe 12 counter seats. People being the rude and selfish creatures that they are, there's no order and people would just jump on any open table after weaseling their way into the restaurant without regard to the five parties that had arrived ahead of them.

I felt bad. There was a table that became vacant maybe 5 minutes after we got there, and I wouldn't let my husband sit there because we weren't next. A group that came in WAY after us instead grabbed it. And since they were a party of 8, they then took the next booth that opened up. My dad is sure that fistfights break out on a regular basis.

While you're waiting, they have a little yellow train ride like the ones outside Wal-Mart that jiggle forward and back. Since it's free and just has an on-off switch, you can imagine the issues that arise. The wee ones had a short turn, as we made them get off to allow other children a turn. The mom who brought her 8 and 10 year old extremely obese children (and I mention this because this is a toy designed for maybe up to 6) climbed aboard together -- the ten year old couldn't fit in the seat, so she sat on the back of it while her brother sat in the seat.

They didn't get out the rest of the time we were waiting. Their mom finally made the daughter get off so Mister Man could climb in with her son for all of thirty seconds, then Mister Man climbed out and Little Miss had her thirty second turn before it was the other kids' turns again.

Did the wee ones need to ride in it more? No, not really, but I hate it when parents don't teach their children to think of others at all -- and I was already irritated by the three year olds at the park who had blocked Little Miss from going down the slide and swore at her and called her names then did the same to my dad before he found their moms and let them know what was going on. they were totally oblivious chatting on their cell phones and had no idea what their children were doing. I'm sure this was the first time something like this had happened.

Back to the Choo-Choo: We did finally get a booth, and we ordered our typical diner food. I will say that they make a mean milkshake. And the cheeseburger was fine. Having it arrive via train was fascinating to the kids. The angle where we sat didn't give me a good shot of it, as I'm not nearly fast enough, but you can sort of get the idea.

The coolest part (other than the food being delivered by train) was that they had cupcakes with train whistles pushed into the top. These also came via train, and all the kids I saw with them thought they were way cool.

Unfortunately, we had no shot at getting said cupcakes. My dad and husband insisted we had to catch the 1:04 train back home (why we couldn't take our time and get the 2:04, I'm not quite sure). We hustled out of there so quick, Mister Man had to grab some of his food in his hands to eat as we jogged down the street.

The good news is that although the gates went down, we did manage to catch our train. The gates came down for a train going into Chicago, not going north. Mister Man was crushed as we stood on the platform and watched that train go. He thought we were supposed to be on it and was so sad we missed it.

It was totally campy, and the kids loved it. There's no order, so you have to be aggressive. My dad will never and I do mean NEVER go there again. I'd be willing to do it, but I'm not going to rush around like we did this time. And we're definitely getting the cupcakes!


Gina July 26, 2008 at 9:00 PM  

My kids would love that place, but it would make me crazy. I would definitely nget into some kind of altercation with some jackass. Or at the least take photos of the jackasses and put them on the internet (I did that recently at the zoo).

Karen July 26, 2008 at 9:21 PM  

Sounds like an interesting place but that needs some sort of direction.

MzEll July 26, 2008 at 9:21 PM  

That sounds like a great time overall, it makes me sad as well though when parents don't supervise their kids in public places. I want everyone to have fun, ya know? I do wish there was a train station close enough for me to take my boys for a ride!

anymommy July 26, 2008 at 10:04 PM  

Okay, I might have been the one to throw a tantrum about the cupcakes. I love cupcakes. It sounds like fun in a frustrating, crazy way. A place I'd have to be in the right mood to tackle.

Angela July 27, 2008 at 7:25 AM  

Interesting place! I, too am very annoyed with parents who do not pay attention and supervise their children, and/or do not seem to think that what their child is doing is disrespectful/rude/selfish toward others.

If you ever come over to visit our way, Angie and I will get together and take you guys to the Chattanooga Choo Choo!

MaBunny July 27, 2008 at 4:51 PM  

Definitely sounds like an adventure!
Glad you got a table and at least got your food! Don't think we would like a palce like that that you have to be aggresive to get a table. I don't like rude people so I don't think that would be the place for me

Michelle July 27, 2008 at 10:44 PM  

Gina - You definitely have to have the right attitude going in there. Had I not had the warning before I got there, it would not have been pretty!

Karen - Unfortunately, it's packed from open to close daily. With lines around the block. To the point that they enforce a 30 minute eating time. If they can do that without a hostess, etc... they're doing well. I hate it when chaos pays off!

Mzell - Welcome! It was a fun time, and we'll go back (without my dad or husband) again sometime. But yeah... parents not parenting is definitely a pet peeve of mine. I definitely get it!

Anymommy - If you had thrown a tantrum, I would have bought you one. The wee ones actually aren't into cake or cupcakes. They like the idea of them sometimes but rarely actually eat it. In fact, Mister Man now refuses cake at birthday parties. Weird kids! Right mood is definitely right!

Angela - Don't make that offer lightly. Chattanooga is on my list of kid friendly places that I want to vacation with the wee ones!

Mabunny - It definitely isn't for everyone. And were it up to me, I wouldn't have to go back. But if and when the wee ones like it, I'll go back. Ed Debevic's downtown is another place that lots of people love but ... I would be fine never going there again.

Angie's Spot July 28, 2008 at 1:08 PM  

This place sounds way cool, but you've got much more restraint than me. I would have gotten into a fist-fight for sure with people cutting in line and mommies letting their obese kids ruin my kids fun. I'm like you about teaching them to take turns and be kind to others. Some people need to jump on the clue train!

And I second Angela's offer. If you EVER plan a trip to the Scenic City, let us know. We would be glad to tour guide for ya. (Plus I've got an "in" at several local kid friendly attractions!)

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