In the 19th century, railroad lines crisscrossed the land, and train stations popped up everywhere. By the 1950s, automobiles replaced trains as the preferred commuting choice, causing the abandonment of numerous depots. However, many of those havens were given new lives as museums, community centers, libraries, private homes, and restaurants. In 2011, local residents Doug and Lisa Wallerich opened The Railhouse Grill in Lake City.
The restaurant is built on the original site of the Lake City Depot, a once-revered lunch-stop for train passengers traveling through the city, during the last century. The cleverly-adorned, cozy venue also includes an outdoor patio that comfortably seats 18 people. It is an exhilarating, dining experience for folks to observe the Amtrak, barreling through a couple of times a day, or to rubberneck at an occasional freight train, zipping by. Literally lacking in any previous restaurant experience, the Wallerichs had a passion to share with others, the foods they were having so much fun preparing at their home. “It has grown into something much bigger than we ever imagined, and we’ve experienced things that were never even on our radar. We often smile (or yell…or cry) and ask, what kind of monster have we created? Well, it’s a giant, friendly, welcoming, warm, family-driven, demanding monster that has become the center of our lives, and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Lisa.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is offered six days a week. Tuesday through Friday breakfasts are served in the adjoining Coffee Depot, where fresh-ground espressos, cold press smoothies, teas, homemade pastries, oatmeal bakes, and breakfast sandwiches, are featured. The Coffee Depot fills a void in Lake City for great refreshments, and also provides a space for friends to gather in a relaxed atmosphere. It has grown into a special retreat, managed by Heidi Walker, who always has a smile on her face. Saturday/Sunday breakfast is presented in the main-room Railhouse, with a full slate of classics (awesome pancakes) and originals, including the “Big Boy” Steak Skillet. Wednesday lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday dinner, also includes a pizza/salad/soup buffet, showcasing Doug’s infamous wood-fired pizzas. The same menu is offered for lunch and dinner, with special entrees added to the dinners: ribs, rotisserie-style chicken, fresh fish, pastas, steaks, etc. Mother’s Day highlights a brunch buffet with carving and omelet stations, fresh fish, breakfast items, pasta, and more. “We also have a Burger of the Month special; created by our talented cooks who are given the freedom to experiment and develop fun, new, taste combinations,” expressed Lisa. The Railhouse Grill selections boast traditional favorites with unique twists. A popular pasta dish is the Cajun Steak Penne (tender steak bites, with a creamy Cajun sauce, peppers, onions and just the right amount of heat); salads are fresh-cut Romaine, and paramount among those are the Salmon Salad, Grilled Steak Salad, and Fiesta Black Bean. “One of our signature appetizers is the Walleye Fritter (walleye nibblets) which are a house exclusive – green peppers, onions and walleye, mixed in a secret batter and gently deep-fried. We don’t always have them, but when we do, they don’t last long!” Lisa exclaimed. The “simply can’t do without” meals include the Seafood Trio: seared Ahi tuna, bacon-wrapped scallops, and jumbo shrimp served with house-made mushroom/onion orzo risotto and grilled asparagus; Surf & Turf (one of the most popular): blackened bourbon-grilled steak medallions and jumbo shrimp (hand-shined, bock-battered or wood-fired) with smashed Yukon gold potatoes and grilled asparagus; and Pecan Bourbon Chicken: pecan and crusted chicken breast with bourbon sauce over smashed Yukon gold potatoes and grilled asparagus.
Lisa and Doug pride themselves in offering the best in cuisine and service, employing a courteous, knowledgeable staff, and presenting a clean, welcoming milieu. “We are all about homemade; from soups to slices, sandwiches to salads. We take no short cuts and your taste buds will attest to that,” suggested Doug. The Railhouse supports local talent, by supplying live music on the weekends; always free and always entertaining. Come and experience The Railhouse Grill. You’ll find sincere service, unmatched passion, synergy, and of course food that rivals all the biggest cities’ best. Come to charming, picturesque Lake City…a definite hidden gem. I highly recommend that you order the Walleye Fritters, the mouth-watering Surf & Turf, and the Fiesta Black Bean Salad…what a meal! It was an awesome dining experience for me, and it is 5 big stars for Doug, Lisa, and the entire staff!
“This adventure has been a life-changer in many ways. After having our children involved in the business, we believe that everyone should be in the service industry at some point in their lives. There are life skills to be learned that just can’t be taught anywhere else. The relationships you form, the lives you become a part of, what you learn about other people, and ultimately yourself, is absolutely invaluable.” – Doug & Lisa Wallerich
(800 West Lyon Avenue; Lake City, MN; 651-345-5762); Open 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Tue. – Fri.; 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. – Saturday; 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. – Sunday; Closed Mon.
By Pat Garry, Contributing Writer