Today, Seattle’s Orient Express is a spot where you can both grab food and croon your favorite tunes at a karaoke bar, but its current life as a dining place for the musically inclined is only a small slice of the train’s history. One of the restaurant’s seven cars even touts its own presidential past: it once served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal transport.
The car, purchased for $18,000 around 30 years ago, was the one Roosevelt used to travel the country during his 1944 reelection campaign. The FDR train still has some of its original presidential luster, with hardwood wall paneling throughout, photos from its famous past, and some original fixtures still in place, including the lamp button which Roosevelt could use to summon his staff.
While the train car performs slightly less esteemed duties these days, you can still catch a glimpse of its history as you eat some Thai and Chinese food while waiting for your chance to shine in the brightness of a karaoke spotlight. Even if you don’t snag a spot in the former presidential car, you can still appreciate the experience of dining within a beloved Seattle establishment.
The restaurant had acquired a devoted following even before the addition of FDR’s train car. The quirky joint began its life in 1949 as Andy’s Diner and soon became a lunchtime favorite for workers in the area and those fascinated by its diner-in-a-train set-up. Andy’s was originally housed in one rail car, but as its reputation as a good place to get a steak and stiff martini grew, it expanded to include several cars salvaged from Seattle City Light.
Following the death of one of its owners, the retirement of another, and a dispute over the restaurant’s land, Andy’s was handed over to one of the owners’ sons, who retained it until it was sold to a developer, after which it remained closed until January 2008. The current incarnation, the Orient Express, carries on its predecessor’s tradition of stiff drinks served in old rail cars.
Know Before You Go
Though it's usually only available for special reservation, restaurant staff will let you look around the presidential car if you ask them nicely.