On the grounds next to The
Station is their first creation: The Depot.
This restaurant is housed in a pair of train cars that
once carried commuters on the Long Island Railroad into
New York City.
of the cars houses the kitchen, while the dining car has
been restored to recreate a l930’s atmosphere. Jo
and Steve have beautifully renovated the train car with
black walnut hardwood floors, handcrafted cherry wall
paneling and pressed-tin ceilings. The elegant
surroundings accompany the gourmet food served here
since it’s opening in l997. The operating hours of
The Depot had been reduced for the winter season, but
starting in May, 2010, Steve’s son plans to have the
festive train cars open full time for breakfast, lunch
Jo Werner, the gourmet chef and creative
genius behind the renovation of the Iron River train
station building, said that when she first came to town
and drove past the dilapidated building, she knew it had
I love old buildings, she said, “so I
bought the train station for my 40th
birthday!” When she was shown the interior, however,
she was shocked. Hundreds of pigeons lived in the
attic, some of the wood flooring and windows had been
destroyed and the space was being used to store large
machinery. As a true artist, however, Jo recognized the
original plaster walls, passenger waiting bench, freight
doors, ticket window, huge safe, and porcelain fixtures
in the bathrooms.
She called a special architect to draw up
plans, and after the mess was cleared and floor and
windows were replaced, she was delighted to hear how
sound the l914 building was—even after sitting vacant
for 50 years!
After actually having a dream that showed
Jo the finished fully-restored station building, she met
and married Steve, then started The Depot. The Station
plans sat on hold for 14 years until they could make the
dream come true. While cooking at The Depot, Jo and
Steve would refinish woodwork, sand floors, paint walls,
frame original lithographs and furnish the lounge
portion of the station building to help move towards the
opening date. On
July 1, 2005,
they were finally able to open their doors to customers
and cry “All Aboard!”
Jo, whose mother was a home economics
teacher, has been interested and involved in the food
industry since as a child she sold her homemade cookies
on the sidewalk in front of her home. “My skills have
improved since then”, Jo laughed.
In addition to her college degree, Jo’s
chef training included studying foods at Ohio State,
working at a national park in Texas preparing Mexican
food, and finding her way to the Kodiak Islands in
Alaska, where she worked in a crab-processing factory.
Jo will only cook with fresh foods in
their natural state, using no preservatives, flavor
enhancers or MSG. Her specialties are the certified
Angus beef they feature, seafood, fish and her homemade
soups, which she starts daily from scratch. One of the
house favorite soups is the roasted red pepper and
creamy coconut, but I also love the creamy tomato with
parmesan and basil.
Eight appetizers are offered and include
tavern-battered jumbo onion rings, chipotle chicken
rolls, jumbo shrimp shooters, cod bites and cheese
quesadillas. Known for the 12” thin crust pizzas, the
basic 4-cheese blend ($5.50) can be doctored with a
variety of fourteen toppings to customize your order.
Their certified Angus one-third pound
burgers are served fresh and never frozen. The Basic
Angus ($4.49) keeps company with a deluxe version
($5.49) and a deluxe double ($8.99). The specialty
burgers offer combinations of bacon, cheeses, sauces,
mushrooms, sauerkraut, jalapenos and guacamole, and are
priced at $7.99.
Jo’s love of fish is evidenced by the
variety on the seafood menu. Three types of
salmon---oven roasted Thai Chili, Ginger Teriyaki, or
Mediterranean, with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts all
crusted with fresh herbs are listed. Two kinds of
tilapia, both oven roasted and a Mexican, with crushed
tortilla chips, cilantro, lime zest and sweet red
peppers are offered. A tavern-battered cod and a
potato-crusted cod complete the menu. All these entrees
are between $10 and $12.
Seven interesting dinner salads are
offered including a Tuscan Italian (with Balsamic
chicken and pepperoni), Oriental chicken salad, a Cobb
salad, grilled chicken, a chicken Caesar, a steak salad,
and a Southwestern Chipotle chicken salad. These
entrees range from $8 to $12.
The sandwich menu offers five varied
paninis, plus the more usual BLT, club and a chicken
with bacon and Swiss.
The Station has the best Mexican food
around and on “Taco Tuesday”, they feature beef, chicken
or bean soft and hard tacos, plus a huge wet burrito,
all at incredibly low prices. Occasionally Jo will
feature her pulled pork sandwich, the pork being smoked
for 24 hours, then simmered for 24 hours. I couldn’t
believe the full flavor of this barbecued meat came from
north of the Mason-Dixon Line! A new Monday special
will be Jo’s homemade mac and cheese, made with real
butter, cheddar cheese and whole milk. To this
sensation you can add chicken, steak, shrimp or lobster!
Every Friday night The Station features
their live house band for your listening entertainment,
and from time to time local artists will pull out a
harmonica or step up to a microphone to join in.
Celebrating special events and occasions
is a natural at The Station. Jo and Steve have hosted
several wine-tasting dinners, and around St. Patrick’s
Day each year, they feature a different brewery for a
beer-tasting gala, where they serve special hors d
oeuvres and have live music.
Several years ago, Leinenkugel’s Brewery
used this event as a test market for their new, unnamed
beer. The crowd loved it and the beer is now marketed
as “Sunset Wheat”.
My husband hosted a special birthday
dinner for me at The Station a year ago, and it was a
memorable event. I planned the menu with Jo—offering
our guests both stuffed tenderloin and my favorite
creamy fettucini Alfredo with huge shrimp. They served
a special dry pink champagne and my favorite carrot cake
for dessert. If only all birthdays could be so festive!
In addition to leasing The Station for
private parties (class reunions, wedding and funeral
receptions, baby showers), Jo is also available to cater
meals at other locations.
Complimenting Jo’s culinary skills is
Steve’s ability at the bar. He is a master of social
work (MSW) and a former Stambaugh Hilltopper and
Michigan State Representative. With these credentials,
no wonder he is such a great bartender.
The Station bar offers 26 domestic beers
and 13 imports. Currently on tap are four beers from
Houghton, Michigan’s Keewenaw Brewing Company. They
have the most diverse offerings of liquor in Iron
County, including 2 kinds of single malt scotch, 7
tequilas, 5 kinds of rum, 13 vodkas, plus several
brandies, whiskeys and cordials. During football
season, they offer a Bloody Mary Bar filled with all the
seasonings, sauces and garnish to build a great
So come on into The
Station to enjoy a festive meal, get great take-out
food, sit at the bar for your favorite drink and
enlightened conversation, or relax in the special lounge
seating, listen to music and wait for the next train to