Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Dining on the Rails
CityBeat ^ | Tuesday, June 29,2010 | Michael Schiaparelli

Posted on 06/29/2010 3:01:10 PM PDT by Willie Green

Cincinnati Dinner Train offers a fun, nostalgic dining experience

For me, “dinner train” conjures visions of the Orient Express: mustachioed men in spats smoking cigars and drinking cognac and quietly efficient, uniformed waiters serving caviar on mother-of-pearl spoons to women dripping with diamonds...

Yes, I have an overactive imagination. But when I first heard about the Cincinnati Dinner Train, I immediately started searching for my cummerbund.

Our Saturday night date begins surprisingly early. Our food will be prepared in BBQ Revue’s kitchen and loaded onto the train just before departure, so we have to order entrées and desserts for our four-course, fixed-price ($69.95) dinner on Thursday. We’re offered chicken, salmon or prime rib; dessert choices include cheesecake and chocolate cream pie. We skip the boneless chicken breast in white wine sauce (it sounds like something easily made at home) and order one of everything else.

When Saturday rolls around, the parking lot is packed and a 40-year-old GP-30 diesel locomotive looms over Madison Road. We’re given tickets from a windowless trailer, then hurry past smokers frantically finishing a final cigarette before the smoke-free, three-hour trip.

An eager conductor in dark-blue cap and uniform with shiny brass buttons greets us beside an orange-and-maroon 1947 dining car and arranges for us to be photographed ($10). We’re ushered up several steep steps to find our table set for four. Luckily, the train isn’t sold out, so we command the entire table, moving from side to side depending on the direction the train is moving.

Our appetizer (Crudités with a Sundried Tomato Basil Spread) is just a scoop of whipped, barely flavored cream cheese with some mini carrots, sliced cucumbers, red grapes and whole wheat crackers. It’s innocuous, but we eat it while awaiting two very stiff cocktails ($6 each) — Jim Beam with ice and a Gin and Tonic — from the “Queen City Tavern,” an un-air-conditioned 1953 bar car. Two sips in, my wife confesses that she’s already drunk and proves it with an enjoyably sloppy kiss.

We rumble away right at 6 p.m. while perusing a handy guide to the trains and the evening’s route. Looking around, I realize I’m the only man wearing a tie, and — except for a large party celebrating a birthday — the average age onboard appears to be in the low seventies. Many are clearly train buffs reliving trips they likely took 50 years ago or more, yet the youthful anticipation of a rail journey still touchingly shines in their eyes.

An iceberg lettuce “wedge” arrives, slathered in Ranch dressing. My wife wishes the dressing was served on the side like the crumbled bleu cheese and bacon, but she admits it’s consistent with the period theme and delicious.

Trundling along toward Sawyer Point, we glimpse Cincinnati anew from between breaks in the overgrown foliage, seeing the backs of homes and warehouses, crumbling cemeteries, the glistening river and the remains of Torrence Road Station razed in the 1940s, its historic frieze vandalized by generations of bored kids. (Some things never change: On our return, we pass six maliciously grinning children boldly throwing rocks at the train windows!)

A parade of servers appears with our main courses. Cooked in the BBQ Revue’s hickory smoker, my prime rib is moist and juicy with a hint of pink at its center. It’s so flavorful it doesn’t need the accompanying horseradish sauce. A fluffy baked potato and side of green beans cooked with corn and bacon are old-fashioned and satisfying.

My wife’s salmon is beautifully moist and hot — no small feat given the kitchen’s limitations. Unfortunately, its “spicy hoisin” glaze lacks intensity, though it maintains sufficient Asian flavor to make it enjoyable.

Our souvenir color photo arrives along with dessert; it’s a nice keepsake but should really be printed in black and white. My cheesecake with a graham cracker crust is lush and creamy, topped with strawberry sauce and served with a cup of coffee. But my wife has the better dish: A chocolate cream pie that reminds me of desserts my mom assembled long ago with Jello pudding and ReddiWip. (Tasting it, my own eyes likely betrayed a misty touch of nostalgia.)

Returning to the station, pedestrians and stoop sitters along the way break into wide grins and wave unselfconsciously. We consider how we’ll review the evening. While the food is good, it’s not gourmet. And it’s an expensive outing — especially with drinks and a bottle of wine ($22)!

Yet the staff is warm and accommodating, including our waitress, who never gets annoyed though we pepper her with questions; that conductor, Mackenzie, who eagerly shares his passion for trains; and even the train’s owners, who temptingly promote their luxury private rail excursions to Chicago, Washington D.C. and beyond.

So, bottom line: If you can afford the freight, climb aboard the Dinner Train. It’s a unique experience that’s nostalgic, romantic … and utterly Cincinnati.


Go: Departs from BBQ Revue parking lot at 4725 Madison Road, Oakley
Call: 513-791-7245
Hours: Three-hour trip departs every Saturday at 6 p.m.
Entrée Prices: Fixed-price four-course meal costs $69.95 per person
Red Meat Alternatives: Chicken and salmon; vegetarian plate upon request
Accessibility: This beautifully restored, historic train is boarded via steep steps from track level, and passing between cars while moving will doubtless prove challenging for some

TOPICS: Food; Travel
KEYWORDS: railroads; trains

1 posted on 06/29/2010 3:01:12 PM PDT by Willie Green
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Willie Green

Sounds great.

I remember the time I took a FIVE HOUR Amtrak trip from Ann Arbor to Chicago, and the restrooms were inoperable and the food machines weren’t working, either.

It sort of killed the romance of the whole thing.

2 posted on 06/29/2010 3:04:22 PM PDT by SJSAMPLE
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green

I used to use the train a lot on the eastern NYC — Philadelphia — DC corridor or whatever they call it. Always enjoyed the train. My favorite way to travel by far.

3 posted on 06/29/2010 3:17:06 PM PDT by Mere Survival (Mere Survival: The new American Dream)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green
Taking the grandkids on a 45 minute ride on Amtrak to the next stop. Cost is only $4.50 for adults and $2.24 for the kids. Most have never been on a train, so it should be a treat. Kids age 4-14. There's 7 of them. Expecting a great time!

Our son, the train engineer, won't ride along. Says he doesn't go on a train except when he gets paid...LOL!!! He's going to drive down and pick us all up at the other end.

4 posted on 06/29/2010 3:29:41 PM PDT by Pure Country (“I’ve noticed that every person that is for abortion has already been born.” -Ronald Reagan)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green

This sounds like a lot of fun. And it’s a role that passenger trains can play in America..a cruise line on wheels, for when the journey itself is the point, rather than the destination.

5 posted on 06/29/2010 3:34:00 PM PDT by Notary Sojac (I've been ionized, but I'm okay now.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Notary Sojac

Exactly. We used to have a dinner train in Seattle, that ran from Renton to Woodinville. About the same price per person ($70), and a fun few hours for a dinner date. But for commuting? Doesn’t really work...

6 posted on 06/29/2010 4:35:14 PM PDT by PugetSoundSoldier (Indignation over the Sting of Truth is the defense of the indefensible)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green
And if you have the time and the money to enjoy luxury, scenery, history, food, wine, and the elegance of bygone rail travel you can do this:The American Orient Express - Click here if you wish to experience the ultimate in ferroequinology

Click for more info and pictures

7 posted on 06/29/2010 4:47:36 PM PDT by N. Theknow (Kennedys: Can't fly, can't ski, can't drive, can't skipper a boat, but they know what's best.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Notary Sojac
years ago we took the California zephyr from Denver to San Francisco and the coast starlight up to Seattle. we paid for a sleeper compartment so our meals were free. it was GREAT. the food was good, the lounge car was comfortable and i, having been in the army, can sleep in or on anything moving. i didn't want to go to sleep and miss the scenery.
more expensive than air but, if you aren't in a hurry or have to be at a specific place at a specific time, it is a lot of fun.
8 posted on 06/29/2010 4:50:54 PM PDT by bravo whiskey (If the little things really bother you, maybe it's because the big things are going well.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green
My daughter and her husband took me on this little gem when I visited them in Snohomish WA a few years ago. A wonderful experience.
9 posted on 06/29/2010 4:52:11 PM PDT by redhead (BP Gulf Blowout Debacle: Obama's CHERNOBYL.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green
If you like a little mystery with your dinner train, and you're in Fort Myers, this is fun.
10 posted on 06/29/2010 5:05:49 PM PDT by luigi
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: luigi
Thank-you, luigi!

Yes, a dinner/theater/train excursion looks like it would be a very memorable evening!!!

11 posted on 06/29/2010 6:20:54 PM PDT by Willie Green ("Some people march to the beat of a different drum - and some people polka. ..")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: redhead

Wow! Dinner with a fantastic view!!!

12 posted on 06/29/2010 6:48:58 PM PDT by Willie Green ("Some people march to the beat of a different drum - and some people polka. ..")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Willie Green

“...visions of the Orient Express...”

PBS is broadcasting a special program about the Orient Express on July 7. David Suchet, the actor who plays Hercule Poirot, steps out of character to ride the train.

13 posted on 06/29/2010 6:57:06 PM PDT by LibFreeOrDie (Obama promised a gold mine, but will give us the shaft.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson