Whistle Stop at The American Cafe (Travelers Rest)
Published Feb 20 2017
Hours of Operation: M-Th 11A-8:30P, F-Sa 11:30A-9:30P, Su 11A-3P
Location: 109 S. Main St.
Menu items consumed: Thomas Creed Red Ale, Shrimp & Grits Pizza, Swamp Rabbit Club Salad, Caesar Salad (Add Chicken – Fried), Junior Hot Dog, Veggie Pasta with alfredo, Strawberry Cake
Okay, so I admit, knowing I’m going to a restaurant that is a glorified train museum for dinner sounds as appealing as sitting through a 4-year old’s first piano recital. However I was VERY thankful this joint, instead of having the put-me-to-sleep-boring Lionel train theme, had more of an underground, rustic, modern feel: hip TR in full-swing, yet with just 17 tables and 10 bar-stools they still kept the smaller-town fell still, mixed with that cool updated feel I so much appreciate and enjoy.
Our server was super cool/chillaxed (much like the atmosphere). He was ready to provide silent service when necessary but also was very good with interaction, anticipating our needs while also telling my Sprite-downing son that he would get him another beer (my drink of choice) each time my son requested a refill...my son was hoping he was serious but thankfully, for both my sanity and the server's job-security (and freedom) he was jesting. Our server also knew how to speak-up (literally, in volume), a needed commodity for a server here but WOULD NOT be so pertinent if there was some much-needed-music to kill the sound of background chatter (Pandora, Youtube, ya know, A BILLION OTHER free options of music…and now this is the 2nd or 3rd place I have found in Travelers Rest to which I’ve been with this same epidemic; just pay for some speakers and DROWN-OUT THE NOISE). Our service was very good, though, despite the food taking a minute to arrive (not literally, that would be ridiculous...and at which point so would this complaint). Thankfully our friend ordered an app that helped fill the time-gap. Good for all involved, this good service even extended to the busser who offered us drink refills, too. Now THAT is team service!
When our food came to the table it looked VERY appetizing (presentation very good). My Shrimp & Grits Pizza (a choice I made via the website prior to arriving) had a great flavor with perhaps the best pizza crust I’ve ever consumed. However the amount of salt-flavor in the pizza was borderline offensive and definitely too much to fully enjoy the entree without noticing the salt-to-rest-of-pizza ratio being amiss. My wife’s Swamp Rabbit Club Salad was a locally-named club salad…to clarify that statement it was JUST a club salad...with the term "Swamp Rabbit" to make you feel like it was special...ya know, 'cause the Swamp Rabbit Trail is prevalent in TR...spoiler alert: the salad was NOT special. My daughter had the Caesar Salad Add Chicken (Fried), another good choice and more unique than the everyone-has-the-same-club-salad but still not worth the price, either. My oldest son had the Junior Hot Dog, one that wasn’t bad but was as generic as one could get without going to your child’s local school cafeteria (not a bad flavor but, ya know…it was what it was - #mostuselessphraseEVER). We also had a friend come to dinner with us and she, because we’re all like family anyway, allowed me to try her Veggie Pasta with alfredo. It was good but not spectacular. I did enjoy washing-down my meal with a couple Thomas Creek Red Ales, perhaps my favorite beer and a HUGE bonus to have as a restaurant I visit. However the definition of price gouging seems to be when I get charged $8.50 (literally about 50 cents cheaper than a grocery store 6er of the same variety) for A BEER…one…singular…uno brew-ha-ha, brosephs.
For our friend’s birthday (yes, we also were there celebrating it) we got her a slice of Strawberry Cake. Wow. The best strawberry cake I have quite literally ever tasted, one with VERY good icing but more so having what seemed to be strawberry seeds IN the cake itself and the most genuine strawberry flavor of any cake ever (fresh, as if...wait for it...they ACTUALLY USED STRAWBERRIES in the making...*GASP*). It was quite the finish.
All-in-all the décor and surround is well done and appreciated, some humorous signs in the bathroom and dining room, pleasant and relaxed (from all) but not slacking service, and some of the food. However for the price ($76 for my wife, daughter, oldest son, our friend's dessert, and me) and amount of salt in my entrée (something effecting my lips an hour later and surely my long-term health, too) I would not say we are going to be going back here (or, as my wife stated ever-so-slightly more assuredly, "we ARE NOT going back"). Sorry, Whistle Stop. Cool vibe, enjoyable service, but just not worth the price to come back to The American Café.