June 1, 2015

Next Stop: Delicious Dishes at More Train Depots-Turned-Restaurants

  • By: Jamesha Gibson
The Rio Grande Café is located inside the former Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Station that was built in 1910.

In our last post we invited you to take a trip to three historic train depots that have been revamped into swanky restaurants which offer both warm hospitality and meals that will make your taste buds sing. Today, we’re introducing you to three more historic train depots-turned-eateries, each with their own culinary delights. So pack your bags and get ready for an excursion to a foodie’s paradise.

Rio Grande Café

270 South Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Mexican | $

What would become the Rio Grande Café began as the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Station. Built in 1910, the station served passengers traveling the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and the Western Pacific Railroad for over 60 years.

In 1977, the state of Utah bought the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Station for $1 and in 1980 the Utah State Historical Society moved into the building. A few years later, the Rio Grande Café joined the Utah State Historical Society in the station and has been Utah’s “Mainline to Mexico” ever since.

Although passenger rail service ended at the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Station in 1999, the Rio Grande Café continued to be Salt Lake City's ticket to cuisine from South of the Border. Tostadas, burritos, chile rellenos, and carnitas platters are the bill of fare, all complimented by ice cold Dos Equis and sweet margaritas.

H. Harper Station

904 Memorial Drive
Atlanta, GA 30316
American | $$

For quality southern-inspired dishes (like the famous Beltline burger) paired with expertly mixed bourbon cocktails (like the Pappy Van Winkle), be sure to stop and unwind at the upscale H. Harper Station in Atlanta.

Before it was a favorite local eatery, H. Harper Station restaurant was the Atlanta and West Point Railroad Station. In 1920, the Atlanta and West Point Railroad built a brick depot to accommodate the multitude of businesses and large population that they expected in the Reynoldstown neighborhood. After an initial spike in commerce soon after the depot was built, prospects moved elsewhere and the Atlanta and West Point Railroad station was abandoned and boarded up.

Years later, mixologist Jerry Slater opened a “modern watering stop” in the old Atlanta and West Point Railroad Station. H. Harper Station -- named in honor of Slater’s maternal grandfather who was a railroad engineer for 40 years -- offers locally bought, farm-fresh ingredients cooked and served as down home favorites such as deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, and smoked wings.

The Pufferbelly

152 Franklin Ave.
Kent, Ohio 44240
American | $

In 1875, Marvin Kent -- founder of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad Company, and for whom the town of Kent is named -- completed a brick, Tuscan Revival-style train depot. The grand depot was a symbol of the town’s new thriving economic prosperity due to the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad’s ability to put Kent on the map as a major commercial hub.

This economic success lasted until the Great Depression, when Kent’s commercial importance decreased. In addition, new forms of transportation caused a decline in the city’s use of the railroad. As a result, the depot fell into decline.

In 1970 the depot was closed and abandoned. But it was soon revived when, one year later, the newly formed Kent Historical Society made saving the old depot their first preservation project. After the building was saved, the historical society and the Kent Chamber of Commerce occupied the building.

In 1981, the Pufferbelly Ltd. Restaurant joined them in the depot. The Pufferbelly offers a variety of American-style cuisine -- including ribs, steak, and seafood -- and a laid-back atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy. Their signature dish -- the Chicken Pufferbelly -- consists of a moist, parmesan-encrusted chicken breast served over creamy fettuccini alfredo.

$ = Value, $10-19 per person
$$ = Moderate, $20-29 per person
$$$ = Expensive, $30-39 per person
$$$$ = Splurge, $40+ per person

Jamesha Gibson is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. She is passionate about using historic preservation as an avenue for underrepresented communities to share their unique stories. Jamesha also enjoys learning about other cultures through reading, art, language, dancing, and especially cuisine.

The National Trust's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has awarded $3 million in grants to 33 places preserving Black history.

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