Stopping in at The Whistle Stop Café

  • Spencer Hunt, his father Dan Hunt, and Amanda Edson of The Whistle Stop Café in Millers Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dan Hunt, owner of The Whistle Stop Café in Millers Falls, working in his kitchen. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The cozy interior of The Whistle Stop Cafe in Millers Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Whistle Stop Café in Millers Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Dan Hunt, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe in Millers Falls, with a finished meat loaf. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli from The Whistle Stop Café in Millers Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 11/8/2022 4:16:13 PM
Modified: 11/8/2022 4:15:45 PM

In 2018, Dan Hunt was ready for a career change after years of working in construction. “I didn’t really want to do that anymore. I enjoy cooking. It occurred to me that I could open a café … and I saw this spot in Millers,” he said in a recent interview.

“This spot” was on East Main Street in Millers Falls, where Hunt is the owner and head cook at The Whistle Stop Café. The name of the café was inspired by the fact that it isn’t far from the railroad tracks … and by nostalgia.

Growing up in Connecticut, Hunt told me, he had a neighbor who actually ran a small train through his yard and who gave frequent rides to neighborhood children.

Hunt’s menu evokes the quite contentment of those rides. It’s filled with comfort foods, from hearty breakfasts and nourishing soups to the new Friday- and Saturday-dinner offerings.

The Whistle Stop is very much a family affair. When he opened it, Hunt had help from his mother and his sister. His mother has since died, but his sister has returned to help out. The non-related employees, two waitresses who do a little bit of everything, feel as though they’re family, according to their employer.

Hunt’s son, a good cook like his father, has recently joined the team as well and is responsible for one of the café’s most popular breakfast items. Known as the Hobo, it consists of “eggs and home fries and your choice of meat in a sausage gravy,” his father explained proudly.

Hunt prides himself on his baking, which is all done from scratch. He uses local ingredients whenever possible. “I try to make everything like you would at home,” he emphasized.

Like most local restaurants, the café closed for months during the depths of the pandemic. Today, however, business is booming. The café, which seats about 24 people, enjoys a lot of regulars, Hunt noted.

“Some people come twice a day,” he smiled. “They’ll come in for breakfast and come back for lunch or dinner ... And we get new people all the time. Rustic Romance (a shop that features décor and vintage items) is right across the street. Good business brings business.”

Running the café can be tiring, Hunt admits. He likes to arrive at least an hour before the café opens at 8 a.m., and of course he stays after it closes to clean up and prepare for the next day. He also likes to do his own shopping; he is proud to be careful about the ingredients he selects.

Nevertheless, with the help at hand and the enthusiasm of his customers, he is excited that The Whistle Stop is now open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.

Hunt is considering staying open on Thursday evenings as well. “It’s different working at night,” he told me. “Things are more prepared. We have two specials and then fish and chips and one or two other items. A lot of our people are older people. It’s nice to see the regular people come in. They like the food.”

The recipe he shared for readers of this paper is a typical dinner special, a classic meatloaf that leaves customers full and happy.

“It’s been exciting and fun,” he said of the café’s recent changes. “I just wish my mom were here to see it get so busy.”

The Whistle Stop Café Meatloaf

Ingredients:

for the meatloaf:

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 cup milk

1 cup dried bread crumbs

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup chopped bell pepper

2 eggs

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon oregano

for the glaze:

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon mustard

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the meatloaf. Shape the mixture into a loaf form on a cookie sheet.

In a smaller bowl, combine the ingredients for the glaze. Spoon it on top of the meatloaf.

Bake the loaf for 45 minutes; then increase the oven temperature to 400 and bake for another 15 minutes. Serves 6.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her latest book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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