One of the best things about being a travel writer is when a story assignment takes you to a place you hadn’t heard about before and want to go back to right away. A story on restaurants in train stations brought me on a road trip to Unusual Junction in West Lafayette, Ohio, east of Cochoctan.
Unusual Junction is a fun, worth the drive to get there, tourist destination with the Lava Grill restaurant, a gift shop, and a wide assortment of Ohio-made products.
The main building is an 1895 train depot that used to be in Fredericktown, Ohio but ended up in pieces on a farm until 1978 when Jerry McKenna saw an advertisement, “Railroad Depot For Sale. “ Until he saw the ad in a magazine he happened to leaf through one day, McKenna didn’t even know he wanted a railroad depot.
After months of pouring over photographs of the depot people gave him, McKenna put the station back together adding it to his antique business that also boasted an ice-cream shop. The station purchase led to the purchase of antique railroad cars that still grace the property.
The railroad cars are now used for storage, and McKenna’s son Bob, who recalls putting down the train tracks with his sister when they were teens, now owns the business. His sister owns the bridal shop next door.
Bob, a memorabilia aficionado, incorporated the family’s antiques into the decor of his brain child The Lava Rock Grill. But, he added a LOT more. Bob McKenna’s eclectic collection includes a Partridge Family board game, a signed photo by Joan Rivers and vintage telephones that grace the Formica tables. The Lava Rock Grill also has a 1950s diner counter adding to the fun, family-friendly atmosphere.
While savoring one of the best hamburgers you’ve ever eaten, and a bowl of made from scratch soup that you’ll want to take a quart home with you—it’s that good–browse the record album covers on the ceiling and the walls. You’re sure to find your favorite group from way back when.
McKenna’s most prized possession is the original Price is Right sign. It was signed by Bob Barker and still lights up. Before you leave make sure to pick up Ohio-made gourmet food items. McKenna is huge on promoting his fellow food producers and has some of his own recipes in the mix. All of it is a taste treat. The caramel corn and roasted corn snacks are yummy. I know that personally.
If you go, Unusual Junction would make a great road trip combining historic Roscoe Village and Raven’s Glen Winery. The Raven’s Glen Winery is right across the street, and Roscoe Village is about 10 minutes away.
Post and top photo courtesy of Jamie Rhein. Inside photos courtesy of Unusual Junction.
56310 US Route 36
West Lafayette, Ohio 43845