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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Stewart

small town train

I grew up in a town where on every edge of the city limits you could hear the train go through. At 7:05 am and then again at 9:15 am. You’d hear it at 12 and then again around the 3:30 hour… the last train came through around 10:00 pm. Headed for Chicago. The train tracks ran in the middle of town…. Designed to go north and south. When I was little there was a restaurant that sat right next to the train tracks. Inside it had a little toy train that went around the building, so while you waited for your food you would just follow the train in and out of walls. In between cracks and trinkets and people dining. It was my favorite part of going out to eat there…. And I honestly don’t even remember the food. Perhaps an occasional Horse Shoe was ordered and a shirley temple. But what I absolutely loved and looked forward to when we got to that restaurant was the Choo Choo Train.

My son is 2 ½ years old and absolutely loves Trains. It’s such a joy to see his face when we drive over the train tracks or stop to watch a Freight Train go by. He screams, “Mommy!! Choo Choo Train!” I’m reliving my childhood through my son’s eyes and I can’t describe that feeling other than saying, it’s just the best.

I’m going to pair one of my favorite Illinois recipes in honor of my son and in honor of the train that continues to ring it’s whistle through that small town. This might be gross to some, but really delicious to others. There is nothing healthy about this recipe, so this may be best for your kids in a global pandemic ?? Maybe…


Original Recipe by Big Oven but tweaked by ME!

o 1 pound hamburger or some folks use ham

o Russet Potatoes – Sliced

o slices Texas toast


· Eggs

· 1/2 cup beer

· 2 tbsp butter

· 1 1/2 cups Velveeta

· 1 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese

· 1 small can of green chilis

· 1/4 tsp dry mustard

· 1/2 tsp black pepper

· 1/2 tsp red pepper

Slice Potatoes into thin strips and place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in Oven at 450 Degrees. And bake for 30 minutes. Stirring every 10 minutes.

Season hamburger to your liking and divide into four patties. Cook in a skillet on medium-high.

Spread both sides of Texas toast with margarine. Grill in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Cheese Beer Sauce:

Mix beer and eggs together in a bowl. Set aside.

Melt butter in a pot over low heat. Add Velveeta and Cheddar cheese and melt, stirring frequently. Add Chilis.

Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and red and black pepper.

Stir in egg-beer mixture, a little at a time.

Allow sauce to heat, stirring frequently, until bubbles begin to form at the edges.

Remove from heat.


Place two slices of grilled Texas toast on a plate. Place a hamburger on top of each slice of toast.

Toss a handful of roasted potatoes over each burger.

Pour cheese beer sauce over everything.

Sprinkle red pepper on top and serve.

It’s been more than 30 years since there was a restaurant by the train tracks in my hometown. After visiting my parent’s house, my son can easily hear the train go by while sitting in the backyard or in the dining room. He insists every day that we drive up to see the choo choo train. He loves the Engine and goes on and on about the Caboose. He chooses to stand by the tracks as the trains goes by and counts the cars. I’m giving a shout out to my dad for giving me the inspiration for today’s pairing. He knows music well and thought this song would be the best to go with our Hometown Train and Midwest Horseshoe. Savoy Brown sings ‘Train to Nowhere’ in an English Blues Rock Band from 1965. “Train I ride goes to God knows where I don’t know and I don’t care”… Soulful rock bleeds cheesy greasy meal from the 80’s. I love it.

These days I’m trying to focus on simple. As a parent I think we try too hard to teach and to create and to enforce all the things that make us feel like we’re doing our job so that our kids will grow up smart and loving and good. We’re not meant to do that all the time. Especially during a pandemic, which is exhausting all of us. I have a beautiful image of my son embracing my dad right by the railroad tracks… right where that restaurant use to sit in my hometown. He’s crying because all he wanted to do was walk on the choo choo train tracks. It might be one of my favorite pictures of my father and my son…. it’s a reminder to me of the journey we’re on. Of whats behind us and what’s ahead. And braving it all in the in between…

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1 Comment

May 15, 2020

I love your writing. You are so creative and talented!

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