Ray’s Dining Car & Bar, Snoqualmie, WA–Take the Next Train Out Of Town Fast and Don’t Look Back!

Ray’s Dining Car & Bar

8072 SE Railroad Ave, Snoqualmie, WA 98065

Adults: 2/5 Kids: 1/5   $$$/$$$$$

We have found quite a few wonderful little off-the-beaten-path dining places over the years. We love to visit the places that might not look like they are fabulous restaurants from the outside, because, all too frequently, they turn out to be total gems in the rough.

Ray’s Dining Car & Bar was NOT ONE OF THESE! Oh my gosh! We should have turned around and taken the first train out of town–as the place is kitty-corner across from the Snoqualmie Train Museum this would have been easy to do.

To be fair, we must mention that the waitress that greeted us as we arrived was very friendly and pleasant. She directed us to a both quickly and arrived shortly with our menus (menus that sported way too large of a selection for an establishment as small as Ray’s). She remained the nicest part of our entire dining experience at this establishment.

The place had a previous life, obviously, as a Mexican restaurant that they have attempted to turn into a train-themed dining establishment. Unfortunately, some hand-crafted, train-print covers placed over the old carved Mexican headers on the banquets and some strange train decorations a theme restaurant does not make. The place is still very Mexican looking and not even the admittedly cute train the runs along the ceiling can change that.

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Adult review:

One of us ordered the Medianoche with the horseradish coleslaw.

The other wanted to split a Croque-Monsieur with sweet potato fries with one of the kids, but was told that there was a $2.00 ‘Split Plate Fee’. So on top of the $11.00+ that the sandwich cost originally we would also be charged $2.00 for the use of an additional plate? WHAT!?!?!? We could see this being the policy if two full grown adults walk in and wanted to take up a four-top table and buy one meal, but there was four of us, and it was an adult meal being split with a child. $2.00? FOR REAL?

We ended up giving in to the split fee (not intentionally, but through a misunderstanding by our waitress…well it was a mess and way too long to go into here).

So, as you may know, a Medianoche is a Cuban sandwich that is really all about the mustard and the pickles. This one barely qualified. Yes, it had mustard, and yes, it had pickles, but other than that it was bland and boring. Not to mention the presentation and ‘plate-appeal’ was severely lacking. Even the horseradish coleslaw—which from the name alone would imply lots of flavor—had none!

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A traditional Croque-Monsieur is a French pub-food grilled cheese sandwich, which may or may not contain ham and be topped with a béchamel sauce. This was NOT that. This was a grilled ham and cheese sandwich made from Texas toast, dipped in an egg wash and pan fried. This was far closer to a Monte Cristo Sandwich—and not a very good one of those either. Again, it had absolutely no presentation and was very home-cooked looking. The sweet potato fries were obviously from the bottom of the bag as the longest one was maybe an inch long and they, too, were as lunch-room as you get.

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The chef clearly has no real idea what they are doing.

There was one item on the menu we really wanted to try though. That was the Pittsburg Pirogues. They were described as a ‘ravioli’ stuffed with potato, onion and cheddar cheese. Sounded pretty great! Unfortunately, when these greasy little pockets of flavorless, ‘potato glue’-filled wanton wrappers arrived, they fell far short of the mark. There really is nothing more to say about them. They were gross!

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The one other thing we noticed is that the spirits list conspicuously was missing anything from the town’s hometown pride—The Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, one of the best beers around. The brewery and tasting room is just a street over from the restaurant, but their huge list of beers, wines, etc. had no mention of it at all. Now, to be fair, that might be the fault of the brewery itself. Maybe they don’t allow restaurants so close to them to serve their product, but, if that is the case, then they are missing out on amazing exposure. If it is the restaurant that does not want to serve their beer (why they wouldn’t we have no idea) then they are really, really, really missing out on an opportunity.

Kids review:

The one child that ordered the half of the Croque-Monsieur and sweet potato fries declared the sandwich was ‘disgusting’! She told us she was happy she had only ordered half of it as she would never have wanted to eat any more than that.

The other one ordered from the very limited kids menu. She ordered the Angus Slider burgers and fries. The burger patties were overcooked and very dry. She was highly disappointed and said that under no circumstances did she “EVER want to come back.”

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The girls too decided that the pirogues were bland and gummy and that they did not care for them at all.

Overall, this is an establishment to skip while you are in Snoqualmie, Washington. Go anywhere else! This is not your train stop and defiantly not your ‘dining car’.

May you family always eat well!

Aloha Alabama BBQ, Westport, WA–BBQ in a Fishermans Village?

Aloha Alabama BBQ

2309-Westhaven Dr., Westport, WA 98595

Overall:  Adults—3/5   Kids—4/5     $$$/$$$$$

If you’ve never been to Westport, Washington, you are missing out on this quaint, fisherman village.  With its adorable cottages lining the dock port to its multiple ice cream shops and its overall small-town, not-a-clock-in-sight, nothing-much-to-get-in-a-hurry-about feel, a trip to Westport is a “must do”.

On our recent side-trip to this quiet hamlet nestled on Washington’s coast, we stopped into Aloha Alabama BBQ for a quick bite of lunch and, in doing so, found a gem within a gem.  The restaurant is located right across the street from the docks and just down the street from the Maritime Museum.

The awesome, beach surf décor and bright hues scream, “We are excited you are here! Welcome!” the moment you walk through the door.

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The friendly staff was quick with a greeting and we got seated immediately.

The place was clean and well laid out.

The menu boasts that all their meats are cooked low and slow, in a blend of Yakima Applewood and Hawaiian Klawe smoke–Sounded great and our interest was officially peaked.

Adult review:

We started with the Fried Oyster Appetizer.  We are very picky about our fried oysters, and how well an establishment executes this dish says a lot about their overall cooking ability.

The oysters were perfect!!!  They were breaded in panko and fried to perfection.  Their creamy, warm interior combined with a crisp outer shell of breading made for the perfect bite.

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We ordered the Half-Chicken Platter with broccoli slaw and fries and the Pulled-Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw.

The waitress brought us a trio of BBQ sauces for our sampling pleasure: White BBQ Sauce, Honey BBQ Sauce, and Chipotle Sauce.  We never really figured out if these were all made in-house or not, but they were all very good.  The Honey BBQ was our favorite.

The chicken was really rather tasty.  It had a wonderful light smoke flavor, but wasn’t exactly falling off the bone nor was it sauced—both things that we would have liked to have seen.  But overall the flavor was really good and we would eat it again.  We added the honey sauce to it which brought it from just okay to a couple notches above ‘OK’.  The broccoli slaw was passable, but needed some seasoning and the fries were…fries.

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The Pulled Pork Sandwich was yummy, with a nice smoke flavor and good texture but, as far as BBQ goes it was the middle of the road.  The Baked Beans were tasty—perfectly seasoned, sweet and smoky.  The coleslaw was bland, but had a nice creamy texture and, once it was salted, rather flavorful.

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We washed it all down with the house-made ice teas (one peach and one Arnold Palmer) which were delicious and refreshing.

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Kids review:

First the girls’ thoughts on the oysters:

“They were horrible”

“I like them!  I like them with cocktail sauce!”

Obviously, a split review—but hey, a 50/50 percent ‘like’ rate for kids when it comes to oysters, that’s not bad!

The girls ordered from the Keiki Menu (kids menu).

One of the young ladies ordered the Fried Mac n’ Cheese with baked beans.  The other ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich with House-Made BBQ Chips.

It was declared that the Pulled Pork Sandwich was “the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had!” and that the potato chips were “AMAZING!”

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Parental side note: The BBQ chips were AMAZING! (We had to request one as ‘parent tax’ of course!) They were thick and seasoned with this delicious blend of spices that put Lays potato chips to shame.

The fried mac n’ cheese received rave reviews as well, but again it was the baked beans (after adding liberal amounts of the honey BBQ sauce to them) and the chips that made the biggest impact on her taste buds.  She couldn’t stop talking about how good both of them were.

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For the most part both of the girls liked their meals, but even more so than that I think they enjoyed the overall youthful, young, energy-filled feel of the place, not to mention, just watching people go by along the docks.

Looking for a fun spot while in Westport, WA?  Stop here!  Have a peach ice tea and some good BBQ.  Then take a walking tour of the town and enjoy this community’s charm and colorful local personalities.

Trails End Taphouse & Restaurant, Snohomish, WA

Trails End Taphouse & Restaurant, 511 Maple Ave, Snohomish WA 98290

Over All Experience: 4/5      Cost:  $$$

This unassuming restaurant positioned at the Snohomish end of the Centennial Trail has a little something for everyone.   It offers craft beers and a modern spin on pub food.

Our family tried this establishment on a recent very warm summer day.  The atmosphere was both physically cool and visually interesting.  From its unique artwork to its green faux marble top tables and heavy industrial flair chairs it lends itself to a feel of an old-world pub meets a modern fern bar.

The cost to value was moderate and the food quality was above average.

Adult Review:

We both ordered the Brie Burger with Poppy Seed Broccoli Cole Slaw, one of the daily specials. We fell in deep smit with the sweet salty bacon jalapeno jelly and melted gooey brie cheese combination.  We both felt the beef patty was delicious and juicy as well, but that the bun was a little too firm of an option (it might have been a ciabatta) and, as a result, when we bit into it the cheese and jelly squished out all sides. However, that wasn’t a deal breaker as all the flavor was there and, after all, some of the best burgers are the messy ones.

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We also liked the broccoli slaw salad, but it did need a little additional salt and the poppy seed dressing was lacking a ‘poppy seed’ flavor.

Our waitress was especially friendly and well-informed.  She knew the answers to all of our questions and was knowledgeable about the daily specials even making sure to let us know that she (and the rest of the staff) is encouraged to taste all of the specials at the beginning of each shift.

We finished off the meal with the in-house made Red, White and Blue Cheesecake and a cup of coffee.  The coffee was passible as coffee goes—not the best we’ve had, but far from the worse (you’ll notice coffee mentioned in all of our reviews if we ordered some as coffee is a favorite of ours).  The cheesecake however was really delicious.  It was creamy and not overly sweet and the berry compote was a nice combination of sweet and tart.

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We liked the atmosphere and have no complaints about anything, unless it was that the place was packed and, as a result, a little loud.

Kid Review:

The kids ordered from the kids menu.  They did make the comment that they felt the children’s menu was small and from their point of view limited.  After some deliberation they decided on the Chicken Strips with in-house made Potato Chips.

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They both really enjoyed them.  According to our waitress the chicken is hand breaded in-house with a gluten-free corn meal crust and served with homemade potato chips.  The girls’ one complaint was that the ranch served with their meal (which our waitress let us know was house-made too) was lacking flavor and ‘blah’.

The cheesecake was split 50/50 as far as them liking it.  One of them felt it was “AWESOME!”, but the other one took one bite and declined the rest of her dessert all together.

The girls appreciated the coloring sheet provided for them and decided that the fact that they were entertained while they waited for their meal was a positive.

The girls felt that the fact that there is a large bar that monopolizes the space was a negative as they ‘don’t want to see a bunch of people drinking’.

The kids did feel that the place was ‘fine’ and that they would eat there again.

Over all we all really liked the Trails End and would recommend it to anyone looking for a pub food meal with a modern flair.  If you do try it soon, please check back here and add your thoughts to the comments section.

May your family always eat well!