I don’t know about you, but my only experience eating on a train has been a fairly low experience on Amtrak. That’s not to say fine dining can’t be found on trains, just that I’ve not had the chance yet. Trains themselves are special to me. The idea of riding the rails to a new destination is romantic and since I love train travel, I decided that one of the first places I should visit is Bob’s Train.
When you arrive, you’ll wonder if you’re in the right place, especially if it isn’t open yet. After winding through a side street and around a warehouse, you’ll come to a big parking lot in front of a graffiti covered boxing gym. You’ll see three train cars there but they will not look open until Bob Horne arrives to open the door, drop the stairs, and hang out the flag. His nature is at once big and personable and he’s such a fast-talker, you will absolutely have to save your questions for when he takes a breath. Don’t miss a word of his stories, points of history, plans for the trains, or details of the menu itself.
When Bob opens the door, you know it’s time to explore. Three train cars of circus memorabilia are waiting inside.
Grab your drink and wander through the cars, past the kitchen where you’ll see Bob cooking up a storm.
Dinner in this place is like a trip through history. Imagine a life with the circus.
Look for the photo of Marilyn Monroe and Targa the elephant.
You can reserve the dining room for a special Tuesday night Chef’s Dinner with seven courses and a specially designed table. Look at that tablescape!
The burger I had was called the MOOSE burger and it was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Angus beef with a special sauce and olives. OLIVES on a burger? Yes. YES. I’m never eating another burger without them. Hand-cut potato chips and gorgeous salads. The menu is amazing and you should definitely come hungry. Vegetarian options are available and all of it simple fare with a twist. One of the most popular choices off the menu during the week is the grilled brie and berry sandwich: sliced Brie cheese with blueberry, blackberry and red raspberry preserves grilled on sourdough bread. Sunday brunch is simple with either your own personalized omelette or a two egg breakfast.
As you wander, feel free to ask Bob questions about anything you see. He’s got a memory like no one else. And some serious ambition. He’s restoring the JoMar train car back to its original state when it belonged to John and Mable Ringling. Imagine that opulence. All on a small bit of old train track smack in the middle of Sarasota, Florida.
Getting there: 2211 Fruitville Road is the address but your GPS will miss the mark. Look for the intersection of Fruitville Road and School Avenue. Turn North on School Avenue. It’s just before or after the railroad tracks depending on the direction you’re travelling on Fruitville. You’ll turn into a street at what looks like a storage company and warehouse on School Avenue. Follow the small directional signs to the back parking lot.
Before you go: Do not eat. Portions are hearty and filling.
Bring: A camera. You’ll want to snap your favorite circus memorabilia or menu items.
Do: Listen up. Dinner comes with a side of history lesson and circus lore. Kids are definitely welcome but please put the devices away or you’ll spoil the experience for yourself.
This is not fast casual or fine dining, but somewhere in between and it’s wonderful. Slow down and be entertained.
2211 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, Florida 34237