Choo Choo Grill is a family owned place that has been running for over 60 years and open 6 days a week for breakfast and lunch. Inside is a step back in time with 8-10 seats at the wrap-around counter and 2 booth-like tables. The cooking is on the griddle just in front of the bar and they’re known for their olive burger – a Grand Rapids tradition. Rick Mack bought the place from his father in 1997 but now is tired of the 2 a.m. mornings and the daily grind. So the place was listed for sale and no one knows if a buyer will keep it the same or what. It’s obviously filled with regular customers where much of the talk centered on the possible sale and how that will change life. The tiny place is actually next to the railroad tracks and it’s filled with train photos and replicas. You’d hate to see a place like this change but profit and big rule our world. Meantime you can still hurry in and enjoy a fresh made burger and malt. They do a lot of take out and have parking so I encourage you to grab a stool while they’re still in business.
A special that day was the chocolate peanut butter malt. It was plenty for 2 and came in the metal container it was mixed in for additional refills. It was thick (not enough to hold a straw upright) but not too thick to drink. Nicely flavored, it was like drinking a liquid Reese’s peanut butter cup.
We had to try the olive burger – it seemed to be a favorite in Grand Rapids. They came in 1/3 or 1/2 pound options and we chose the former. Standard accompaniment was mayo and we added Swiss cheese, per the server’s suggestion. The bun was quite soft and had been lightly toasted on the griddle. The olives added a salty and savory touch and blended well with the melted cheese. It was surprisingly good and a nice balance of ingredients. The dill pickle slices on the side were okay, nothing special.
We added an order of fries and they turned out to be a slab cut variety. Not coated and not too crispy but with good potato flavor. They were fine but the olive burger was the fun novelty here and the malt a good rendition of a standard offering.