Do something different in the winter. Drive up toward Mount Rainier on Mountain Highway until you come to the brightly colored cabooses, old-fashioned dining cars and steam engines on rails alongside the highway at the Mount Rainier Railroad Dining Company. The cabooses are motel rooms, the dining car is the restaurant, another car is a bar. A small-gauge railroad gives two to three-hour rides on weekends during the holiday season, and daily June to October. Plenty of parking is available on the road.
Sitting in the dining car with tables and chairs, a little bit of elbow room and nice service made us feel as if we were on a cross-country trip. The menu has meats, seafood dishes, pasta, chicken and breakfast items such as waffles and pancakes. Meals range from $10 burgers to $25 for surf and turf.
Barbecue was a featured item, so we ordered the Smoked BBQ Chicken (Â½) for $18.99, and Smoked BBQ Beef Ribs (5) for $19.99. The side dishes were corn on the cob, barbecue beans, steamed vegetables, and a fresh biscuit. On the rib order, we substituted potato salad for the vegetables.
We found the fragrant smoking gave the tender meats a great base for the really excellent barbecue sauce which was sweet and tangy, with whole garlic cloves in the thick coating. Side dishes were ordinary, except for the potato salad, which was delicious. It was tart, and had hand-cut potatoes, celery, onions and mild seasonings.
We stuck to water to drink, and it was welcome with the tangy meals. Food was excellent, as well as the service, and the train theme is lots of fun.
IF YOU GO
Mount Rainier Railroad Dining Company
54106 Mountain Highway East, Elbe
Winter hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Open year-round.
Carolyn Augustine is a freelance food and restaurant writer.