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  • Banana Nut Bread Waffle from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Onion rings from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Mushroom and Swiss burger from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Roast beef hash from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Hand-pattied, Tim Didier Meats sausage from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • The Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • A biscuit and a cup of gravy from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Prime rib from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Some items from the Creek Chub Bait Co. that are part of the decor at T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Some items from the Creek Chub Bait Co. that are part of the decor at T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Railroad items still mark the former Railroad Inn in Garrett, which is now T&R Junction.

  • T&R Junction in Garrett had a very respectable salad bar.

  • One room of the T&R Junction in Garrett is devoted to the B&O Railroad.

  • Coconut cream pie from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Some items from the Creek Chub Bait Co. that are part of the decor at T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • A sign from the Creek Chub Bait Co. in T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Strawberry pie

  • A cross-section of the Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • One room in the T&R Junction in Garrett is devoted to rairoad memorabilia, specifically from the B&O railroad.

  • Bang Bang Shrimp from T&R Junction in Garrett.

  • Crab and Lobster BLT from T&R Junction in Garrett.

Sunday, July 29, 2018 1:00 am

New owners bring Garrett spot back to life

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

T&R Junction

★★★1/2

Out of a possible five

$$

Though food has been served at its Garrett site for more than a century, T&R Junction is turning out the kind of items that have never been seen at the historic spot that was most recently the Railroad Inn.

There are still some old standbys that locals grew to love over the years, such as prime rib and a great salad bar, but it was the modern spin and ingenuity that co-owner Tammy Frost has put on the menu that really makes it a spot to check out again.

Frost and partner Rick Purdy bought the shuttered building in 2016 and what they did to transform the dated space is remarkable.

Not only has it been modernized with new paint, carpet and furnishings, it has been turned into a local museum of sorts with a devotion to local businesses – the Creek Chub Bait Co. and the B&O Railroad. Seeing the old lures, prototype sketches and advertisements hanging in cases along the walls was really neat, and the big wooden fish-shaped sign is the highlight for sure. The railroad paraphernalia is limited to just some models and photos, but it was still interesting enough to grab your attention.

As did the salad bar.

It had more than 30 items, and all of the salads – including pasta, macaroni and bean – are made from scratch. And I even found teriyaki chicken wings there one evening. It was a jewel. The restaurant also regularly has buffet nights with things like fried chicken, wings and tacos.

When it came to unique items, the breakfast menu is where the best were found.

Is saying there were banana nut bread waffles enough to peak your interest? They proved to be as fantastic as they sounded.

The batter caramelized wonderfully in the iron and made the exterior of the waffles super crunchy. The inside was very soft and moist and, well, tasted just like your mom's banana nut bread. Add bananas in a warm caramel poured over the top and you had a masterpiece.

The roast beef hash listed next to the traditional corned beef caught my eye, and it was tasty, too. Made with roast leftover from the weekend buffet, the meat was surprisingly tender and juicy, and, though basic at its core, was very good, especially with a cup of the Junction's spot-on sausage gravy.

Speaking of sausage, the biggest stars at breakfast were the big slabs of hand-pattied sausage I had on the side. Frost gets the sausage from Tim Didier Meats in Fort Wayne, and it had just the right amount of fat and spices to make them zesty but not really spicy. I think she could offer a great sausage double burger option with the behemoths she forms.

The burger I did try, a mushroom and Swiss, was also worth having again. It was a half-pound patty, and the mushrooms were seasoned nicely to add a lot of flavor on their own. The only thing I might have wanted was more cheese and mushrooms given it was such a big burger.

The two most unique items from the lunch and dinner menu did not end up tasting as good as they sounded.

The crab and lobster BLT was enticing for sure with crab and lobster cakes joined by cheese and the signature ingredients between nicely grilled sourdough. What I got were two OK cakes with some big pieces of lobster meat masked by the strong bacon and the oozing American cheese.

The grilled mac and cheese grilled cheese sounded like something from a carnival booth. Its bread could not have been more buttery and delicious. It was freshly baked, just like the baskets of it you receive during dinner, and was simply delightful. It looked the part, too, with cheese oozing out the sides, but it appeared that plain macaroni was used instead of macaroni and cheese. The American cheese melted nicely but did not coat the pasta well enough so some bites were dry. Had there been cheese on the macaroni before it was put in the sandwich, it would have been a winner.

Though the salad bar is clearly the best appetizer option, I found a soup that I must have again.

The Philly cheesesteak soup had very tender pieces of beef – leftover prime rib this time – onions and peppers, and its cheesy broth had the perfect consistency.

The hand-battered onion rings were also top-notch, and the bang-bang shrimp were respectable, but they were no more exciting than versions of this popular spicy-sauced battered shrimp I've had.

The most disappointing dish at T&R Junction was one that was made famous by the previous family of owners – the prime rib.

I asked for mine medium-rare and it was refrigerator cold in the middle. It had also not been dipped in au jus so its exterior was a bit dry. I got jus on the side and poured it over, but it was not hot enough to help the cold beef.

The mashed potatoes with it were mundane and were not helped by a subpar gravy that I think was made from a mix. Making a good one from scratch using the beef drippings would have been a huge upgrade.

But there was pie. Good pie, too.

The signature homemade strawberry was my favorite as you could really taste the freshness in those berries. I also liked that they were cut up before being folded in the sweet jellied base instead of left whole, which most places do and which makes them hard to eat.

And the coconut cream was perfect. It was rich and creamy, but not too thick, loaded with coconut inside and toasted coconut on top.

The only thing as perfect as those pies was the service, which was impeccable.

When I added it all up, T&R Junction is a place that the locals can be proud of and outsiders should check out for its unique ambiance and its owners' efforts to fill the menu with those old favorites and unique, modern offerings.

Restaurant: T&R Junction

Address: 104 N. Peters St., Garrett

Phone: 260-553-9023

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup and salad bar ($8.50), banana nut bread waffle ($6), mushroom Swiss burger ($8), crab and lobster BLT ($9.50), macaroni and cheese grilled cheese ($7), soup ($3 cup; $4 bowl), onion rings ($4.50), shrimp ($8), hash ($8), pie ($3; $3.50 for strawberry)

Rating breakdown: Food: ★1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: ★ (1 maximum), service: ★ (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall