If you’ve never eaten at the Whistle Stop at the American Café in Travelers Rest, do yourself a favor and stop in with the kids one afternoon or evening.
The first thing you’ll notice is all the train décor, which is a tribute to the town and café’s history as a whistle stop, an unscheduled stop on the railway where travelers took an hour or so to rest and eat. The building even has a vintage steam train tractor outside to greet guests, along with a 3D mural of the old Swamp Rabbit train with its last engineer, George Hyder, in the cab. The base of the restaurant’s wood-fired pizza oven protrudes from the building and has been painted to mimic the front of the train used to push cows off the track. Of course, there’s also a replica train set that runs along the ceiling once you step inside, and plenty of nostalgic images and signs line the restaurant’s walls.
While the atmosphere is a kid’s dream come true, you’ll be glad to know the food is great for all ages, too. Children under 12 can order a kid’s meal that arrives in a souvenir train box with a toy and drink for only $6. They can choose from choo-choo or barbecue sliders, a chicken sandwich known as the Rail Bird, chicken tenders, a hot dog, corn dog, grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, mozzarella sticks and Smucker Uncrustables. All kid’s meals come with a choice of sweet potato rails, French fries, fruit or yogurt.
I tried the All American Cheeseburger on the menu during my first visit and the thing was delicious. My lunch companion — who is a frequent diner at the Whistle Stop — assured me everything on the menu is always good, and I’m not kidding when I say there’s something for everyone. I hear the Whistle Stop is renowned for their shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes, but they also have wood-fired pizzas, seafood, sandwiches, soups, salads, hot dogs, burgers and ice cream.
Depending on when you visit, you might even catch Hyder playing bluegrass and sharing tales from his days on the railroad. What kid — young or old — wouldn’t enjoy that?
The bottom line: Kids will love the history and atmosphere of the Whistle Stop at the American Café, and the whole family will enjoy the food. This is one restaurant that’s a total experience for all ages.
Eat Out tip: Be sure to like the restaurant’s Facebook page for daily specials and special event listings.
You Can Go
Whistle Stop at the American Café
109 S. Main St., Travelers Rest
Lunch: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Dinner: 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Fridays to Saturdays.