Donna Pearson started The Tracks eight years ago, on a budget that most financial experts would have laughed at, but Pearson and her stalwart friends Nikona Tidwell and Becky Wammack have made it work. The Tracks hums with activity, old friends great each other, and regulars don’t even bother to look at the menu. This place feels like home, both comfortable and inviting. Plenty of places know their customers by name, but how many of them check on their regulars when they miss a day or two? How many owners and partners say farewell with “I love you?”
The Tracks was the town’s train depot, and although there is no longer regular service, maintenance crews still stop by for lunch. The building is rustic, you would not mistake it for anything else than a train station, and there are lots of memorabilia on the walls to enhance the theme. The ceilings in the back room where I sat have to be eighteen feet high, there was a switchboard there that once controlled the tracks, and the original ticket counter is still there as well. This is a very cool place.
The atmosphere is important, but it doesn’t matter a hoot if the food is not good. Donna and her friends worked diligently to get this menu right, and I loved everything I tried and saw come out of the kitchen. I will be upfront with and tell you what won my culinary heart—it was the pimento and cheese. It is made with sharp cheddar cheese, smoked Gouda, and just a hint of Worcestershire sauce. You can get it as a side, on a burger, or the Box Car Willy, as I did. It was a delicious, messy, and fantastic chicken sandwich, smothered with warm pimento and cheese, bacon, and just a tad of barbecue sauce. Along with house-made potato chips, it was delicious, and I’d drive to Winona just for another.
There are a handful of burgers on the menu, with the G-Daddy being the best seller. It comes loaded with pepper jack cheese, grilled mushrooms, and onions, and is easily a two-hander. You also might want to check out the Reuben, the country fried steak sandwich, deep-fried pickle spears, catfish, and, if you are lucky, shrimp and grits might be on the menu.
The food is excellent, the atmosphere is historic and comfortable, but I can’t help going back to the three lovely ladies that run this place. They call it a “community hub,” and I think that is accurate. But they also describe The Tracks as “not just a place to eat,” and that is good too, it does have a family feel to it. It is a welcoming place where a community gathers and a place where people genuinely care about each other. But the statement that says the most to me was when Becky Wammack said: “We dazzle people that come here.” Dazzle with good food, love, and friendship.
The Tracks is a great place to visit for lunch or dinner, an excellent place to relax and meet friends, but whatever you do, don’t forget to try the homemade caramel cake that is delivered three times a week but the local master baker Nyce LeGrand. It is stunningly good.
100 N. Front St., Winona
Open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.