It’s All Aboard for Flavor at Atlanta-Based Eatery
Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Jason Graves
Liz Nelson, co-owner of the Choo Choo Cafe in Atlanta, Indiana, says her restaurant started because people were looking for a place to eat near another business she co-owns – the popular MrMuffin’sTrains.
“My husband Steve Nelson, who is also known as Mr. Muffin, and I officially got started on the Choo Choo Cafe because we had so many people who wanted some food here in Atlanta after looking at all the trains,” Liz Nelson says. “As I like to say, the number-one question we got after, ‘Are you people crazy?’ was, ‘Is there any place in town to eat?’”
Nelson says MrMuffin’sTrains has a fairly large, operating O-Gauge twin-train layout, and a model train collection that is open to the public. They also sell model trains.
“When we purchased our nearby cafe building at the location of the former Fletcher’s restaurant, the building had been vacant for over 10 years,” Nelson says. “The kitchen was an add-on to the building that was put in some time in the building’s history. It was in terrible condition, so we tore it down and built a new kitchen. We renovated the original building ourselves, and the dining room now seats about 40 people.”
The Nelsons received assistance from local residents and others to get the cafe, which was officially renovated in 2018, off the ground.
“We were very fortunate with response to our crowdfunding campaign to help with the cost of the restaurant’s addition, and restaurant equipment,” Nelson says.
The Choo Choo Cafe has garnered a large following.
“‘The Choo,’ or ‘The Chew,’ as it’s nicknamed, is special as an unexpected cafe,” Nelson says. “Our feedback is often people telling us they are surprised at the quality of food in such a small-town diner. We also have a bakery, and we bake to order. We also have our bakery staples.”
Nelson says the deserts and sandwiches are very popular.
“We are becoming known for our cheesecake, including having a cheesecake wedding cake, and for ‘bruffins,’ a pull-apart muffin filled with cinnamon and pecans, with a pecan streusel topping and a maple glaze,” Nelson says. “Our tenderloin sandwich is also popular.”
Nelson says community support has been terrific.
“We have become a destination for many from our northern towns,” she says. “Our dinner business is gaining more and more followers looking for our next red-plate special.”
Nelson adds that the cafe has so far weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we reopened in late 2020, we closed due to the pandemic and we looked for someone to come in and operate the restaurant for us,” she says. “We hired Lilly Roberts and Jeremiah Jones, who are doing an excellent job of running the Choo Choo Cafe, and providing great food and service to all our customers.”
Nelson says regulars at the cafe already have their favorites.
“I would say our favorite menu item is the Atlanta Sampler,” Nelson says. “The Sampler is a breakfast for the hearty appetite, or enough to share. It’s two eggs your way, with bacon, sausage, hash-brown casserole, a roasted Parmesan tomato, a half order of biscuits and gravy, silver-dollar pancakes and baked cinnamon apples. The second most popular would be our cheeseburger, or any of our desserts.”
Roll in to the Choo Choo Cafe at 185 West Main Street in Atlanta, Indiana. Call them at 765-292-2088, or check out their website at thechoochoocafe.com.