Caboose-housed barbecue restaurant to chug over to a new Bluffton location

August 17, 2010 

Owners of Choo Choo BBQ Xpress have found a new station in Bluffton.

Regular customers and Facebook fans have clamored for the return of the quirky restaurant that dispensed hand-pulled chicken and pork from a bright-red replica caboose since it served its last meal on May River Road on May 29, owner Pat Blankenship said Tuesday.

The restaurant, which has been run by several proprietors since it opened in 2003, has sat in Blankenship's driveway in Levy since it was derailed by the sour economy and an illness in April that put him in the hospital.

At the suggestion of a customer, Blankenship and his wife, Sandy, plan to pull the caboose to 129 Burnt Church Road in Bluffton and reopen it in the home of a former coffee shop as soon as Labor Day.

The Blankenships considered moving the caboose to Hardeeville before deciding to keep it in Bluffton.

"It's pretty much a part of Bluffton," Pat Blankenship said of the caboose, after explaining their plans to the town's Development Review Committee.

Like the old location, the new one will have indoor and outdoor seating.

The Blankenships might pursue a beer and wine license to allow people to enjoy a brew with their lunch or dinner, Pat said. They are also considering branching out to serve pizza and breakfast.

Town rules might require them to paint the caboose a slightly different, rust-like color to fit its new home, Pat said.

He said he will comply with the direction of the town's Planning Commission, which he expects to receive later this month.

Regardless of its hue, the caboose should stay at its new home for a long time, the Blankenships say.

"We're not moving again unless we have to," Pat said. "I think we're going to be here for a while."

In other action, the committee discussed with a representative of Palmetto Bluff plans to build five "sports cottages" as part ofa "low-density, residential community with a limited commercial-use element," according to a description provided by the town.

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