The last time I dined in a train car was nearly a decade ago in a night car across Egypt.
Let’s just say it wasn’t all that glamorous as the metal rattled through the night and into the morning and our 5 a.m. breakfast was served to our cabins on a plastic lunch tray consisting of an assortment of pre-packaged rolls.
But this week, as all of Northern Utah and the West celebrates the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike, it seemed fitting to visit one of Ogden’s very own classic diners embracing the railroad theme in building and location.
Ogden’s FrontRunner stop, the end of the line for the UTA mass transit passenger train, is unique in that in the parking lot is the Zephyr Grill — housed in a restored 1952 Pullman passenger car converted into a restaurant.
When the grill’s owner Greg Anderson calls it an experience, he’s spot on.
“You get folks that work in the area that come in for lunch, or stop and grab something on their way home,” Anderson said. “On weekends, we see a lot of folks, grandma or grandpa taking the kids out, and want to eat in a train car; it’s an unique experience.”
In the narrow space inside, the passenger car encompasses a kitchen, and a handful of tables that can accommodate 15 or so, though there is also outside seating when the weather is nice.
The restaurant is marked by an older classic sign reminiscent of a Route 66-style standing above the train car exclaiming “Ogden — It’s all within reach,” which was included next to the restaurant as part of the city’s efforts to welcome guests to the area who are traveling via the train.
Feeling festive with the Golden Spike celebration here, a handful of Standard-Examiner staff grabbed lunch at the Zephyr Grill this week. The menu encompasses diner fair, with a lot of snacks, treats and coffee to go for those catching a commute on the FrontRunner — which I think is extremely convenient and a special offering for the Ogden stop considering the city has always been “the hub.” Having traveled on the FrontRunner, other cities would be smart to follow Ogden’s example in embracing such amenities near the stops.
The Zephyr offers breakfast and lunch/dinner menus. We lamented we did not go for breakfast, as their options seemed classic and extremely affordable. Visiting at lunchtime, we ordered a few different sandwiches — French Dip Melt, Rio Grande Sandwich, Buffalo Chicken Melt — and the Meat lovers pizza at the register at the front before sitting down. We attempted to get a Pineapple Dole Whip or shake, but they did not have them in stock.
We chose French fries with our sandwiches, which was a good move as they were crisp and pretty tasty. Fries in Utah would not be complete without fry sauce. Zephyr’s came in a condiment cup and had a sweeter flavor, perhaps from sweet pickles. Your guess is as good as mine, but it was delicious all the same.
We particularly enjoyed the Rio Grande and French Dip sandwiches; the Rio Grande was served on a multigrain bread that was buttered and toasted up nicely with shaved turkey breast, crispy bacon, avocado, tomato, mayo and mustard. The French Dip kept it simple with beef, onions, melted provolone cheese on white bread with au jus. The pizza was a bit lackluster unfortunately. The Buffalo Chicken Melt featured chicken salad with a wing sauce and blue cheese crumbles, onions, cheddar cheese on a bolillo roll.
In our group of four, no meal cost more than $6.75 — quite a bargain.
This week during the festivals, the Zephyr will be offering up a special of Train Fries, topped with chili, cheese and onions.
We did note, that while ordering we located a sign by the front door advertising that the restaurant was up for sale.
According to Anderson, his family has owned and operated it for at least eight years with his children with the aim of running the business to teach them valuable work ethic. Now that his children are grown, he’s hoping a new family will carry on the tradition.