by David Koon
All Aboard Restaurant and Grill, which might win our lifetime achievement award for Most Ambitious/Weirdest/Most Unnecessarily-Complicated Restaurant Concept Ever, is now open at 6813 Cantrell Road next to Stein Mart.
Just to get you up to speed: The food at All Aboard is delivered by a network of small, custom-built locomotives that run on tracks near the ceiling. Helped along mightily by a sophisticated computer system linked to a key-activated doo-dad in each booth, the trains drop off a tray bearing your food (without ever stopping, we might add), which is then slowly lowered down to your table by way of a miniature elevator. Brian Chilson's video of the machine at work is above.
Yeah, it's needlessly complex — something like Willy Wonka bragging that his chocolate is the only chocolate in the world that's mixed by waterfall — but it's kind of amazing to watch it all work, and it'll probably be a hit with youngsters. The downside: the menu is small and spare, with a brief breakfast menu, a few burgers (beef, turkey and veggie), a few wraps (turkey, chicken and veggie), a club sandwich, soup-of-the-day, hummus, four varieties of salads, a kid's menu and... that's about it. Prices for lunch entrees are in the $7-$8 dollar range; $3 - $5 at breakfast. Still, it's worth at least one visit, just for the spectacle.
UPDATE: Somebody in the comments pointed out that we never got around to saying how it tasted. Sorry about that. The technical details are a bit overwhelming. VERDICT: Meh. The burger we had, while nicely appointed and on a soft roll, was rather thin. The fries were oversalted for our taste. Our Companion had somewhat kind things to say about her grilled chicken wrap ("It's not bad," she said with a shrug), and our other friend had similar feelings about his burger. Overall, it seems like a lot of flashing lights and not much substance in the flavor department. Given that All Aboard bills itself as a restaurant, that's a problem unless they brush up their menu offerings, and quick. Clickity-clack can only carry a place so far.
All Aboard Restaurant and Grill is at 6813 Cantrell Road. Call (501)975-7401. Hours of operation at 8 a.m. - 9 p.m., 7 days a week.