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Central Station brings rail-theme eatery back to life
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General Manager Mike Tellez, chef Lynese Cabida and owner Kris Klair pose for a picture in the newly opened Central Station restaurant at 10 E. Main St., in downtown Turlock (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

The train station theme is back on track at one of Turlock’s oldest eateries.

Central Station Bar & Grill, situated just feet from the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, has embraced the train station motif that was abandoned by 10 East Kitchen & Tap House, its predecessor at 10 E. Main St.

Owner Kris Klair of Turlock has renovated the entire facility, which served as Turlock’s central rail depot beginning in 1915.

Before the restaurant was 10 East it was Wellington Station. Before that it was Traxx Bar & Grill, and before that it was called Track 29.

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GM Mike Tellez points out the renovated train cars that make up Central Station (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Central Station had its grand opening on Tuesday in preparation for the holiday weekend.

“Tonight is going to be big,” Klair said Wednesday as his staff scurried around the pub preparing for Thanksgiving Eve, long regarded as America’s busiest pub night. “We’re not quite 100 percent ready — we’re still putting the finishing touches in back — but we wanted to be open for the community.”

Community is another big theme for Klair, a resident of Turlock since 1982.

In its final days, 10 East Kitchen & Tap House gained a reputation as more tap house and less kitchen. Klair wants to change that.

“It’s a sports bar, yeah, but I want to bring back that family-friendly atmosphere,” said Klair, who also owns Exit Realty Consultants in Turlock. “That’s a major thing for all of us here in Turlock … taking care of family.”

Central Station — so named because the depot was literally the epicenter of old-time Turlock (a stamped seal in the floor near the bar confirms this) — offers traditional pub fare, but chef Lynese Cabida has put her own unique twist on some old favorites. For instance, she’s revved up a standard cheeseburger with the Mack Attack, a 100 percent beef patty with macaroni and cheese and bacon jam.

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In honor of the restaurant’s railway history, a miniature train will make its way around the seating area every hour on the hour (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Customers looking for a more formal dining experience can retreat to one of the famed dining cars, dubbed Wellington, Tracks and Track 29 (the latter of which will be for VIP and private dining only), and Chef Cabida suggests you try the ribeye steak or the rack of lamb.

On the pub menu, burgers, hotdogs and wood-fire pizzas are featured, with vegetarian and vegan options on both the pub and fine dining menus.

General manager Mike Tellez, who has worked in the food industry for 20 years and managed multiple restaurants in the area, is excited about Central Station’s potential.

“We wanted to keep the history of the place,” said Tellez. “We fixed up the miniature train that will make its way around the bar every hour on the hour. And the foot rails at the bar are made of discarded railroad track.”

And, of course, there’s still the occasional — and unmistakable — blast of a horn when a real train comes barreling past the restaurant.

“I’ve already gotten used to it,” said Cabida.

Klair believes Central Station will be successful because it intends to focus on three key factors: service, food and atmosphere.

“With those three things put together, I think we’ll be able to provide a unique dining experience for the people of Turlock.”

Central Station is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For reservations, call 209-669-1010.