The Whistle Stop Cafe in Travelers Rest, South Carolina was originally built in 1932 and billed as The American Cafe. Renovated in 2013, the restaurant is now known as The Whistle Stop American Cafe and is one of the most popular restaurants in Travelers Rest. Adjacent to the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the restaurant offers lunch, dinner, cocktails and ice cream treats. With its unusual, but signature, locomotive, paying homage to the Greenville & Northern Railway, the restaurant has always been family owned and operated.
History of The Whistle Stop
According to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania:
“A whistle stop is a small railway station between the main stations or a station where the train stops only on a signal, generally found on rural branch lines where passenger traffic was light. They were sometimes marked by a three-sided shed equipped with a flag, which a passenger would wave at an approaching train as a signal to stop.”
Keeping in tradition with the rich history of Travelers Rest, the restaurant has preserved as much of the original building as possible. The Caboose Express sits on the back side of the restaurant and offers shakes, smoothies, hand-dipped ice cream, shaved ice and root beer floats to patrons and to visitors along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Entrance to The Caboose Express is convenient and attractively landscaped. it is open till 6 PM on Sundays for those desiring a sweet treat.
The roof top view allows patrons to be above Main Street and listen to live music most Friday and Saturday evenings. The Railcar Bar offers wine, beer and signature cocktails.
Busy on a Saturday
Dining at the Whistle Stop American Cafe several Saturday’s ago. I arrived shortly after noon and eager for lunch. The Travelers Rest Farmer’s Market had just concluded and diners were filtering in at a steady rate. My husband and I decided to eat at the bar (which seats about 12 total people), instead of waiting for a table.
The eclectic decor was full with railroad memorabilia, including an operational toy train and track, suspended above the first dining room. Upon entering the restaurant, a beautiful array of dessert choices are displayed.
The restaurant was full in a matter of minutes on this Saturday afternoon. The front door hostess greeted us and asked what we wanted to drink. My husband ordered a beer and I asked to ponder the cocktail menu. After 10 minutes, a waitress arrived at the bar and asked again what we wanted to drink. Again, my husband ordered a beer and I ordered a strawberry daiquiri. My husband finally received his beer another 10 minutes later. It would be a full 10 more minutes before my daiquiri appeared, which was chunked with ice, it had not been thoroughly blended. A full 30 minutes had passed between me sitting down and finally receiving a beverage.
Upon receiving my daiquiri, we inquired as to why it took so long to receive our drinks. The bartender explained, due to the restaurants participation in events at the farmers market, they were under-staffed at the cafe. Our food order arrived within 15 minutes of placing our order.
I decided on the fried chicken sandwich and my husband ordered the BBQ pulled pork sandwich. The chicken sandwich was very delicious. The breading was not too heavy and not greasy at all. Surprising, I enjoyed the chipotle honey mustard sauce with the melted provolone cheese. I adored their french fries. Deep fried to a good crispy texture and lightly salted, they were perfect with the sandwich.
However, my husband was not impressed with this BBQ pulled pork sandwich. The menu says, “slow smoked pulled pork,” however, no smoke flavor was in the meat at all. Being a professional, barbecue competition team, we pay very close attention to the smoke that should be evident in a “slow-smoked” piece of meat. The sandwich was on a dry hamburger bun, not a brioche bun.
Try the pizza?
While patiently waiting at the bar for just something to drink, we did observe the meticulousness of the pizza oven operator. He paid very close attention to the pizza’s he would slide in the stone oven, most of which looked delicious. I would be willing to visit again and try the pizzas.
I understand this is a city landmark and appreciate the rich history the restaurant has to offer, however, being a family owned restaurant, my expectations were high. I expect a higher level of customer service because the owner is directly involve with personnel and day-to-day operations, my expectations were not met. Personally, I enjoyed my sandwich and would order it again, however, I will definitely call ahead, and get it to go because the service was poor.