In front of the train tracks on Leonard and Plainfield, you’ll find the Choo Choo Grill, a humble establishment that has served burgers for 77 years. The seating consists of only two booths and a lunch counter, accommodating approximately two dozen people, most of whom are regulars. However, last month, the owners of this family-run business listed the property for sale.
Rick and Darcie Mack have owned the grill for over 25 years but have decided to retire and sell the property. Before their ownership, Rick’s father-in-law operated the business, having purchased it for $1,000 in ’57. Rick hopes that whoever takes over the grill will continue the business, even though the contract does not require it. The contract also includes the nearby tattoo parlor, which the Macks also own.
Rick is saddened by the prospect of selling the diner, as traditional Americana diners are becoming increasingly rare. He, along with many regulars, hopes that someone will carry on the business. Many of the regulars were crestfallen to see the property up for sale, but they understand the Macks’ decision. The Macks have to rise at 2 a.m. every day to prepare for business, which operates from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (2 p.m. on weekends), serving both breakfast and lunch menus.
Breakfast is available until 11 a.m., offering eggs, muffins, pancakes, French toast, and more. The lunch menu boasts a wide variety of burgers, including half-pound and one-pound options, shakes, sandwiches, and salads. This is what keeps many people coming back. However, it’s also the sense of “sitting at the dining room table with friends,” as one regular puts it. The food, people, and the diner’s old-fashioned aesthetic hold a special place in their hearts.
Unfortunately, there is a slim chance of the diner remaining, as the housing market in Grand Rapids has been rapidly growing. The property will likely be repurposed for a new development. Nevertheless, the Macks are still flipping burgers. And they won’t stop until they receive an offer, so many are flocking to the small diner to savor the food, possibly for the last time.
Hello, my name is Luke Fann. I love to read and write myself into a fantastical realm, but I love all genres. Of course, such a task requires assistance from my parents and older brother. I've feasted on alligators and tamed beasts like alpacas (my favorite animal), but none of that compares to my greatest weapon: a pencil. I am an editor here for the City Voice, and this is my second year writing for it.