Amtrak dining and cafe service

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We road the Sunset Limited last week from LAX to San Antonio. The sleeping car attendant was outstanding and there was always good coffee in the sleeping car. The dining car staff were likewise outstanding in service and attitude. The food selections sounded great, but were largely mediocre. Using plastic plates is cheap and environmentally unfriendly. There was zero scotch available on the menu. That sounds strange to me as selling booze has to be profitable for AMTRAK.

There was one German father and son on board. The son was allowed to run unsupervised through the cars. The conductor and AMTRAK police had contentious discussions with him. They were put off the train at El Paso for not complying.
 
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We road the Sunset Limited last week from LAX to San Antonio. The sleeping car attendant was outstanding and there was always good coffee in the sleeping car. The dining car staff were likewise outstanding in service and attitude. The food selections sounded great, but were largely mediocre. Using plastic plates is cheap and environmentally unfriendly. There was zero scotch available on the menu. That sounds strange to me as selling booze has to be profitable for AMTRAK.

There was one German father and son on board. The son was allowed to run unsupervised through the cars. The conductor and AMTRAK police had contentious discussions with him. They were put off the train at El Paso for not complying.
Yeah, I found the lack of scotch the last few years annoying. I strongly dislike bourbon and bourbon-like (looking at you, Jack) whiskeys since throwing up Jim Beam one too many times in my college days. Scotch's disappearance from the menu is fairly recent.

The current iteration of "traditional" dining seems to have gone downhill a bit to me, too. It was great when I rode fairly shortly after its introduction on my November 2021 trip. It seemed to have slipped slightly but noticeably on my 2022 trip. They were supposed to have gone back to china for traditional dining but haven't yet, or at least not consistently.

The relatively few times I've the Sunset I found the crews on it among the best I've ridden with.

Glad to hear the conductor dealt with the out of control kid. Kind of surprised there were actual Amtrak police involved. They're kind of thin on the ground in Texas.
 

TEREB

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I’m wondering if pre Covid suppliers and gone out of business, or is cheaper products being used. In my many, many pre Covid trips, I cant remember one bad meal. As a matter of fact, I looked forward to that 27hr trip because of their menu. I still miss their black bean (corn?) veggie burger. And their crab cakes.
 
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I’m wondering if pre Covid suppliers and gone out of business, or is cheaper products being used. In my many, many pre Covid trips, I cant remember one bad meal. As a matter of fact, I looked forward to that 27hr trip because of their menu. I still miss their black bean (corn?) veggie burger. And their crab cakes.
I think what they're doing now is actually better than pre COVID. But I suppose everyone has their preferences. I had it recently on the Silver Star and there was little difference from what I was served on the Chief back in October which little different from what I had on the Zephyr in March of 2022. Any "dropoffs" could be specific crew related.
 
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I’m wondering if pre Covid suppliers and gone out of business, or is cheaper products being used. In my many, many pre Covid trips, I cant remember one bad meal. As a matter of fact, I looked forward to that 27hr trip because of their menu. I still miss their black bean (corn?) veggie burger. And their crab cakes.
While the "new" traditional may have slipped a bit from what it was at its introduction, IMHO, it is still an improvement over the final iteration of traditional pre COVID.
 
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While the "new" traditional may have slipped a bit
I had the signature steak several times (which is my traditional dining go to) - there was basically no difference quality wise between the first time I had it since the relaunch in June of 2021 to when I just had it on the Star. I can’t speak for all the other choices as they have made some alterations - the last time I didn’t have the steak was my second dinner on the first trip as I love the steak entree so much. But the steak is on par - in my opinion no change or slip in quality. I liked the “lobster crab cake” appetizer they had on the first version of the menu - the current apps don’t interest me as much - but as far as my go to entree I’ve felt no decline in quality. Breakfast and lunch really haven’t changed all that much anyway since pre pandemic - the big boost in quality is dinner which comes off as more of a restaurant presentation than before.
 
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I had the signature steak several times (which is my traditional dining go to) - there was basically no difference quality wise between the first time I had it in June of 2021 to when I just had it on the Star. I can’t speak for all the other ones as they have made some alterations - the last time I didn’t have the steak was my second dinner on the first trip as I love the steak entree so much. But the steak is on par - in my opinion no change or slip in quality. I liked the “lobster crab cake” appetizer they had on the first version of the menu - the current apps don’t interest me as much - but as far as my go to entree I’ve felt no decline in quality. Breakfast and lunch really haven’t changed all that much anyway.
Steak's always been good, pre-COVID, post-COVID, first reinstated menu and later ones. If memory serves it was the Panko chicken on the 2022 menu in particular that seemed not as nearly good as the 2021 chicken offering. I cycle through the menu, can't have steak every night. Agree that breakfast and lunch are largely the same and miss those crab cakes, too. Finally, I said "slightly", it wasn't a big drop and remains an improvement over the final pre-COVID iteration of traditional.
 
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I was on the Star fairly recently and had the Sweet Earth plant-based burger and much preferred it to the black bean burger, but I don’t like black beans so that explains it.

Strict vegans will have to be on their toes, though, when they are asked which kind of cheese they want on the burger!😁
I loved that spicy black bean burger, which didn't try in the least to be a ground beef burger and was good as its own thing. But I do like black beans.

It was especially good with bacon and cheese😁.
 
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Steak's always been good, pre-COVID, post-COVID, first reinstated menu and later ones. If memory serves it was the Panko chicken on the 2022 menu in particular that seemed not as nearly good as the 2021 chicken offering. I cycle through the menu, can't have steak every night. Agree that breakfast and lunch are largely the same and miss those crab cakes, too. Finally, I said "slightly", it wasn't a big drop and remains an improvement over the final pre-COVID iteration of traditional.
Yes I have heard now that you mentioned it the Panko chicken wasn’t popular - they went back to the previous chicken with the most recent menu change.

Steak's always been good, pre-COVID, post-COVID, first reinstated menu and later ones.
The actual steak very well may be the same as before but I like the sauces and general presentation better that they use now and how they present it with the steak and sauces over the starch with veggies on top - just come off as a better effort.
 
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Yes I have heard now that you mentioned it the Panko chicken wasn’t popular - they went back to the previous chicken with the most recent menu change.
That's good. Seems like they're listening if they switched it out.

Kind of goes to show that a single relatively poor item can color one's impression of the whole thing, though.

Probably won't be partaking of this year's traditional, unless I take a trip that I haven't planned on. This November it'll be VIA both ways. Hope the Panko doesn't come back in 2024.
 

TEREB

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I think what they're doing now is actually better than pre COVID. But I suppose everyone has their preferences. I had it recently on the Silver Star and there was little difference from what I was served on the Chief back in October which little different from what I had on the Zephyr in March of 2022. Any "dropoffs" could be specific crew related.
I travel the Meteor. Would love to have the new menu. My last trip was April and my next trip is early June. Before the new menu rolls out on the Meteor.

I was on the Star fairly recently and had the Sweet Earth plant-based burger and much preferred it to the black bean burger, but I don’t like black beans so that explains it.

Strict vegans will have to be on their toes, though, when they are asked which kind of cheese they want on the burger!😁
I would add the cheese and bacon. I just liked the taste and texture of their veggie burger.
 
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Has anyone had the new Acela food yet?
I don't know if you are asking about Acela first class or cafe (and maybe both).

My wife and I tried the new Acela cafe menu last week and we both had the "Deluxe Stromboli." I guess it was a new offering. The attendant announced a number of times that the cafe had a new menu. We thought the seasoning was very good but it was a bit dry. I thought it could have used an infusion of tomato sauce. My wife added ketchup and mayonnaise to hers to give it more moisture. I would probably order it again but I don't think my wife would.

Then again, I am not an expert in stromboli - maybe it is not supposed to have tomato sauce.
 
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I don't know if you are asking about Acela first class or cafe (and maybe both).

My wife and I tried the new Acela cafe menu last week and we both had the "Deluxe Stromboli." I guess it was a new offering. The attendant announced a number of times that the cafe had a new menu. We thought the seasoning was very good but it was a bit dry. I thought it could have used an infusion of tomato sauce. My wife added ketchup and mayonnaise to hers to give it more moisture. I would probably order it again but I don't think my wife would.

Then again, I am not an expert in stromboli - maybe it is not supposed to have tomato sauce.
I assumed the reference was to First Class meals, since the Cafe Menus are nearly identical between the Acelas and the NER.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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I finally had a chance to ride in a sleeper on the Crescent over the weekend. I asked about the flex dining and if I heard the service attendant correctly it was going to be a year out before the Crescent had traditional dining. I mentioned I had a bedroom and roomette on a round trip to NY in a few months and was wondering. I thought I had read on here the dinner car was back but there was only the cafe car so we had our two meals in the room. That is fine but it is nice to talk to someone over a mean and here about their travels.


The breakfast was good enough though the edges of the pancakes were a bit tough from the microwave heating. Lunch was the baked ziti and meatballs and again the meal was fine with portions and quality though for the price it would be nice to have a chef cook for me. The brownie was not overly sweet and the syrup for breakfast was also not overly sweet but this is OK. The wine went well with the ziti though I am not a big wine drinker so maybe my views should be discounted here.

We got the roomette on a bid-up for minimum so I do not want to complain as we got our money's worth with the visit to the Metro Lounge at DC for a few minutes on arrival.
 
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Then again, I am not an expert in stromboli - maybe it is not supposed to have tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce (or ketchup if there’s no tomato sauce) can only make it better, in my opinion.😊
A friend had the new lasagna and he said it was good, better then the previous offerings.

He said the worst part is the dessert parfait thing is just way too sweet.
Is it still the same small parfait they had before? If so, yes it is very sweet. But it’s also tiny, so for someone with a sweet tooth, it’s just right. But if it were larger, it would be too much of a good thing.
 
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I was flying DELTA First Class from ORD and my seatmate and I were chatting throughout the flight.

Over the conversation she mentioned that she and her husband had recently rode AMTRAK and were underwhelmed by the Flex Meals.

She then mentioned that she is a Manager for LSG SkyChefs and a large part of the problems with the Flex meals is that Aramark is good at many things, but food in motion as she called it, is not their specialty.

Added to that she said clearly AMTRAK had an idea, but did not know how to execute the Flex meals in any way to make them feel premium, said another way they did not know how to manage Aramark.

She said that LSG could have made better meals, presented far better, still only requiring a minimum amount of employees for about the same cost as the Flex meals if not less money.

She even said that LSG SkyChefs do not have expertise in traditional dinning, so they would not be a great fit there, but in pre-prepared, reheated onboard, LSG Sky Chefs has years of expertise and AMTRAK could benefit from that expertise.

I don't know enough one way or the other, but it was an interesting conversation none the less.

She did add that years ago Acela First Class used to be catered by GateGourmet, so AMTRAK does have a history of working with the inflight kitchens.
 
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Aramark orders those from a vendor called “New Horizons” that’s in Jamaica NY. They also are the source for the current bialy breakfast sandwiches being served system wide and probably some other products.
 

McLeansvilleAppFan

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I was flying DELTA First Class from ORD and my seatmate and I were chatting throughout the flight.

Over the conversation she mentioned that she and her husband had recently rode AMTRAK and were underwhelmed by the Flex Meals.

She then mentioned that she is a Manager for LSG SkyChefs and a large part of the problems with the Flex meals is that Aramark is good at many things, but food in motion as she called it, is not their specialty.

Added to that she said clearly AMTRAK had an idea, but did not know how to execute the Flex meals in any way to make them feel premium, said another way they did not know how to manage Aramark.

She said that LSG could have made better meals, presented far better, still only requiring a minimum amount of employees for about the same cost as the Flex meals if not less money.

She even said that LSG SkyChefs do not have expertise in traditional dinning, so they would not be a great fit there, but in pre-prepared, reheated onboard, LSG Sky Chefs has years of expertise and AMTRAK could benefit from that expertise.

I don't know enough one way or the other, but it was an interesting conversation none the less.

She did add that years ago Acela First Class used to be catered by GateGourmet, so AMTRAK does have a history of working with the inflight kitchens.
A manager for LSG makes a comment that LSG could do better. Well I am sold. ;)


I would be curious of the wage rates for LSG and Aramark. Working conditions should always play a part in these conversations. UNITE HERE represents LSG in Jamaica so one point to LSG. Some Aramark is union but it is hit and miss. I could find nothing on New Horizons in Jamaica, NY but the company does exist in various locations and are based in Iowa from what I could tell.
 
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A manager for LSG makes a comment that LSG could do better. Well I am sold. ;)
I’m so glad you said that. It was my first reaction, too, but I thought maybe I was being too cynical.

She must be doing something right if she gets to fly around in first class while other people are doing the work, but she’s made a basic mistake:

Never bad-mouth the competition. You never know who you might be talking to, and her chances of moving to Amtrak or Aramark and taking a more important position would be gone if her seatmate just happened to be a higher-up in either place.
 
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