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.
Train-Themed Restaurants in Lake County
As with all our listings, restaurant information is subject to change at any time. Please click on the links provided for current hours, prices, and themes.
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.
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 placemats, they have plenty of those old water ring toss games to keep the kids entertained. For more information, read my review of The Silo Lake Bluff.
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. The Whistle Stop Cafe is known for solid, affordable, comfort food that the locals rave about. It is incredibly family-friendly, with lots of train memorabilia on the walls to peruse and enjoy.
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 welcome, the ambiance is more along the lines of “The Great Gatsby” than “The Little Engine that Could.”
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 a $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.
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 4 p.m. and see Holly the Balloon Lady 6-8 p.m. (times subject to change – call ahead to confirm availability.)
Train-Themed Restaurants in McHenry County
Not located in Lake County, but close enough these restaurants are worth the trip!
Windhill Pancake Parlor
3307 W. Elm St., Unit A, McHenry | (815) 385-1172 | Facebook
For a slice of pure Americana, check out the Windhill Pancake Parlor in downtown McHenry. Located in a historic building, this family-run establishment has been in business for almost 40 years, and still holds all of the charms 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.
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 balloon 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!
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 deliver food to your tables, old-fashioned comfort food, and milkshakes, and a nostalgic atmosphere this place is a definitely worth the trip.
Train-Themed Restaurants in South East Wisconsin
Choo Choo Charlies
5414 13th Avenue, Kenosha, WI | (262) 220-3634 | Facebook
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.
Other Outing Ideas for Train Lovers
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. Plus two routes:
- 5 Kid-Friendly Stops on the Metra Union Pacific North Line
- Kid-Friendly Stops on the Metra Milwaukee North Line
Is there a train-themed restaurant in Lake County that we missed? Please tell us about it in the comments.
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.
Not in Lake County but just over the border in Kenosha, WI is Choo Choo Charlie’s which is relatively new.
Iron Horse in Round Lake.
Why is it I always really feel like you do?