Station House – The Show Must Go On!

Saturday, September 6, 2014 - by Willie Mae

A few weeks ago, Lou had invited me to dinner and a show all wrapped up in one place at the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Market Street. The restaurant they call “The Station House” has entertainment while you eat and their ‘singing servers’ perform.

Now, I could tell Lou had something up his sleeve by the tone in his voice. He began telling me about the place but then quickly threw in, “It would be a great place for you to meet my sons.”

Oh, that didn’t bother me at all.

I don’t know why he acted so nervous (I guess by this time folks could call Lou my sweetheart, but I just don’t go into all that mushy stuff).

Lou said that his sons don’t talk much, so he thought there would be less awkward moments if we had dinner with a show. Lou picked me up and his two boys were already seated in the back. He was right – they didn’t talk at all (they must take after their mother).

Lou’s oldest son Mike had just turned 60 and his younger son Mitch was about my son Jack’s age. Though they were a few years apart, they could have passed for twins – they had the same eyes, the same smile and the same receding hairline just like their dad.

I tried to break the silence by asking a question or two, but I nearly broke my neck having to turn around toward the back seat just to hear their quiet answers. I was glad when we arrived at the Choo Choo, their silence was unnerving.

It was dark inside and we were led upstairs to our table. Lou had made reservations and one would think he would have asked for a table on the first floor.

A young girl on the stage was belting out “Harper Valley PTA” – a song I hadn’t heard in a long time and she was quite young, I was surprised she knew it. Our waiter’s name was Eli and, after seating us and getting our drink orders, he was up on stage next.

Eli sang the Roy Orbison hit “Crying” and was pretty good. All of these talented waiters and waitresses were.

The Choo Choo is about to be remodeled and I don’t think they are going to bring The Station House back, so I am glad I was able to write a story about my experience there before they close.

Eli took his bow and then came to take our order. He looked at the two boys first but they both sat quietly looking around so the waiter started with me and Lou. I ordered the stuffed pork chop with mashed potatoes for $18.95. Lawdy, that chop must have come from a prize-winning pig!

Lou ordered the Bourbon Chicken and mashed potatoes for $16.50 while his sons looked at each other to see who would go first. Mike ordered the jumbo shrimp and mashed potatoes for $16.99 and Mitch ordered steak and shrimp combo with sautéed mushrooms for $23.00. Mitch also ordered an appetizer of crab cakes he intended to share with us, for $8.00.

It was pretty pricey, but I think they make the food so costly because the entertainment comes with your meal. I could understand that, but I think it would come across better if the food items were less expensive and they just charge a fee to get in. I didn’t say a word, I just minded my own business.

Our waiter was gone for quite a while and then he got up on stage to sing again (a person doesn’t need to visit this place when they are really hungry and ready to eat). I had to not think about eating and I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

Salad came with our meals, but we had to go down the stairs to the salad bar to get it. Lou and I decided we didn’t want to tackle all those stairs in a dark and loud place so we just waited for the rest of our meal, but Mitch went down to get his.  I think ol’ Lou was getting hungry because he told Mike to text his brother and tell him to bring back some Captain’s Wafer crackers.

Eli brought the crab cakes – there were only two, so Mitch cut them in half and offered us one of the halves. I was hungry, but I passed. Our waiter was talking to us about the place closing, but the music was loud and I couldn’t hear a word he said. I looked like some foreigner who didn’t speak the language but just nodded and smiled.

One young man sang a Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues”. He was terrific! He even matched pitch when he sang the really low notes. I was impressed.

I appreciated that the servers sang many songs I knew. A group of gals sang “Big Wheels” Tina Turner style. It was good to have the entertainment, because there sure wasn’t much conversing going on – even from Lou. His boys never said a word. If I tried to ask a question, they just nodded sort of creepily.

We were there for a good long while and our food still hadn’t come. At first, I thought it was just hard for the servers to get up on stage AND make sure to wait tables properly, but we found out that our order somehow got lost in the shuffle. They had to start over.

Eli apologized to us and said the food would be right out. He gathered all the empty glasses we had collected with our refills and Lou handed him the appetizer plate too. Mitch handed him his salad bowl and the poor waiter ended up dropping the bowl that still had dressing. It went under our table and dressing was splattered all over Mitch’s pants. Our waiter apologized again, but I think it was our fault for handing him so many dishes all at once.

There was a gal that sang “New York, New York” and she was absolutely fabulous! She was worth the long wait for our food. Mike was bopping along to the song and Mitch made fun of him. They seemed to finally come out of their shells and actually smiled.

Mitch was still trying to get the dressing off his pants when he said, “I wonder if they wash their hands after they sing before they bring our food.”

Mike rolled his eyes at his brother and said, “They don’t touch your food.” Mitch shuddered and replied, “Germs are like grasshoppers!” I giggled, but I think the boy was serious.

We were finally served our meals which tasted pretty average and certainly did not compliment their prices, but it was fine and we enjoyed the experience just to hear great talent (although, I think the servers sang “Happy Birthday” more than a hundred times the whole night). I guess a lot of people celebrate their birthday at the Choo-Choo.

As we were about to leave, a girl joined the Johnny Cash singer on the duet “Jackson”. That was good too. I am sure The Station House is not noted for great prices or gourmet food, but for the nostalgia and the entertainment – which was great!

We really didn’t mind waiting for our food as we enjoyed the older style of music. Don’t go when you’re famished and don’t go planning to have a conversation, but DO go.

It may not be a place you’d go every week, but you should at least go just for the experience, especially before they close. I really hope whatever they rebuild, that they offer something with this style of entertainment again because I think the show must go on.

Tue - Sat

6 p.m. - 10 p.m.

*Reservations are recommended. 

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