Amtrak Dining Car service

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Joined
Nov 29, 2020
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88
Location
Houston
We decided to play Amtrak roulette for the first time since before COVID. Took the SL from LAX to HOS. Sleeper attendant (35-year veteran with Amtrak) was great. Diner staff was excellent and the food was very good.

Now for the downside. Diner crew reported that no red wine was loaded on the train in LAX by the commissary. Huh?
Then reported that they were out of blueberry cheesecake at the first dinner seating. Huh? There had only been the day's earlier lunch seating where it could have been ordered. Commissary issue again. Somebody at the commissary needs to be relieved of their duty. No excuse. They have 3 LD trains to service out of LAX, 2 are daily. How do you not know how many of the items on the menu are required to service the diner on a given train? Do they not have a copy of the manifest? Are they afraid of spoilage?

This did not spoil a very good trip but it emphasized the shortcomings of the commissary. One expects the items on the menu to be available, especially at the beginning of the trip. Again, no excuse. Incompetence.
 

TheCrescent

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
528
That's really unusual. There are a lot of problems with Amtrak, but I've found that the dining/cafe car attendants usually make a bit of an effort.

FWIW, the cafe attendant that "plated" my most recent Amdinner did the best she could with what she had to work with.
In my case, the sleeping car attendant also brought the wrong entree with dinner. I took a look and declined, and told the sleeping car attendant that I was fine and didn’t need dinner.

The sleeping car attendant came back to my room, twice, to argue that I ought to eat what I was given and that I was in the wrong. Even after I had told him that I was fine and didn’t need anything.

What lovely service on Amtrak.
 

trimetbusfan

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
228
Location
Portland
We decided to play Amtrak roulette for the first time since before COVID. Took the SL from LAX to HOS. Sleeper attendant (35-year veteran with Amtrak) was great. Diner staff was excellent and the food was very good.

Now for the downside. Diner crew reported that no red wine was loaded on the train in LAX by the commissary. Huh?
Then reported that they were out of blueberry cheesecake at the first dinner seating. Huh? There had only been the day's earlier lunch seating where it could have been ordered. Commissary issue again. Somebody at the commissary needs to be relieved of their duty. No excuse. They have 3 LD trains to service out of LAX, 2 are daily. How do you not know how many of the items on the menu are required to service the diner on a given train? Do they not have a copy of the manifest? Are they afraid of spoilage?

This did not spoil a very good trip but it emphasized the shortcomings of the commissary. One expects the items on the menu to be available, especially at the beginning of the trip. Again, no excuse. Incompetence.
The commissaries always seem to be a roll of the dice.

I did a big circle trip over the summer, riding various different trains based out of various different commissaries. Notably on the SL, they had an excellent selection of entrees and deserts, but they did not stock any of the empanada appetizers. On the CZ, they had all the appetizers and desserts, but didn't have the pasta entree whatsoever. I also noticed some of the trains were using the terra chips instead of regular potato chips. Keep in mind, this was over a month after they had changed the menu.

One thing that I did have to applaud them on was not running out of food. As far as I could tell, all the entrees were available even on the dinner of the second day/lunch of the third day, which traditionally was an issue. (When I rode the empire builder in the spring, they were not serving desert to pax during lunch and still ended up running out of deserts by day 2 dinner).

Luckily, these didn't ruin my trip, but I find it surprising when they don't stock a train with a given item whatsoever.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
3,692
In my case, the sleeping car attendant also brought the wrong entree with dinner. I took a look and declined, and told the sleeping car attendant that I was fine and didn’t need dinner.

The sleeping car attendant came back to my room, twice, to argue that I ought to eat what I was given and that I was in the wrong. Even after I had told him that I was fine and didn’t need anything.

What lovely service on Amtrak.

“Eat up all of this wrong flex meal that I’ve decided you should have. Or you won’t get a nice butter cake dessert.”
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
2,021
We decided to play Amtrak roulette for the first time since before COVID. Took the SL from LAX to HOS. Sleeper attendant (35-year veteran with Amtrak) was great. Diner staff was excellent and the food was very good.

Now for the downside. Diner crew reported that no red wine was loaded on the train in LAX by the commissary. Huh?
Then reported that they were out of blueberry cheesecake at the first dinner seating. Huh? There had only been the day's earlier lunch seating where it could have been ordered. Commissary issue again. Somebody at the commissary needs to be relieved of their duty. No excuse. They have 3 LD trains to service out of LAX, 2 are daily. How do you not know how many of the items on the menu are required to service the diner on a given train? Do they not have a copy of the manifest? Are they afraid of spoilage?

This did not spoil a very good trip but it emphasized the shortcomings of the commissary. One expects the items on the menu to be available, especially at the beginning of the trip. Again, no excuse. Incompetence.

It’s highly unlikely they ran out of the cake or red wine at lunch or that they miscalculated what to load on the train and were worried about spoilage - they likely either failed to load that item at all or, probably a bit more likely, didn’t have it in stock at the commissary. It may be an ordering mix up at the commissary or it may also be a supplier issue - the cake supplier simply may not have delivered the blueberry cheesecake. Impossible to know - the commissaries are run by one of the biggest outsourced food service providers in the US. When I rode the Chief west bound recently they also didn’t have the blueberry cheesecake though they had a plain cheesecake as a substitute. Could be something with that specific menu item - again impossible to know. Red wine likely also simply wasn’t loaded - again possibly be accident or possibly because the commissary ran out.
 
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
1,409
Perhaps I do not understand the point of some of the comments but I have been on more than one Amtrak trip where a desert selection that was available early in the trip is not available on the second day of the trip. I would say that either an insufficient number of servings of that selection was loaded or that selection proved to be unexpectedly popular and in demand on that trip.
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
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I ordered a gin and tonic and got a small bottle of gin and a plastic cup that had a tiny amount of tonic in it. I would have liked an entire cup of tonic water with ice… like everyone else serves it. Haha.
Actually every time I've ordered a G&T on Amtrak, they serve the single serving bottle of gin, a cup full of ice, and a whole can of tonic water.

20200908_213010.jpg
 
Joined
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Perhaps I do not understand the point of some of the comments but I have been on more than one Amtrak trip where a desert selection that was available early in the trip is not available on the second day of the trip. I would say that either an insufficient number of servings of that selection was loaded or that selection proved to be unexpectedly popular and in demand on that trip.
In this case it wasn’t available on the first dinner - it’s highly unlikely they ran out of it after the first lunch.
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
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Baltimore. MD
You must know how to get the 1st class service ;) haha.
Just a regular cafe car on the Northeast Regional during the pandemic (September 2020). I will say that the attendant tried to get me to take two of those little bottles of gin. At first I thought he meant that they were running some kind of special with doubles for the price of a regular drink, but subsequent discussion made me realize that I would have to pay another $8. I do credit the cafe attendant with trying to upsell to me and improve Amtrak's bottom line, but then again, I was driving home from the station when I arrived in Baltimore, so maybe a double wouldn't have been a good idea.
 

crescent-zephyr

Engineer
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
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Just a regular cafe car on the Northeast Regional during the pandemic (September 2020). I will say that the attendant tried to get me to take two of those little bottles of gin. At first I thought he meant that they were running some kind of special with doubles for the price of a regular drink, but subsequent discussion made me realize that I would have to pay another $8. I do credit the cafe attendant with trying to upsell to me and improve Amtrak's bottom line, but then again, I was driving home from the station when I arrived in Baltimore, so maybe a double wouldn't have been a good idea.
My last flight with American I got a triple shot of baileys - and I wasn’t even in 1st, just “main cabin extra” - I thought I was royalty!!!!
 
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It’s highly unlikely they ran out of the cake or red wine at lunch or that they miscalculated what to load on the train and were worried about spoilage - they likely either failed to load that item at all or, probably a bit more likely, didn’t have it in stock at the commissary. It may be an ordering mix up at the commissary or it may also be a supplier issue - the cake supplier simply may not have delivered the blueberry cheesecake. Impossible to know - the commissaries are run by one of the biggest outsourced food service providers in the US. When I rode the Chief west bound recently they also didn’t have the blueberry cheesecake though they had a plain cheesecake as a substitute. Could be something with that specific menu item - again impossible to know. Red wine likely also simply wasn’t loaded - again possibly be accident or possibly because the commissary ran out.
It should be noted that lately I have encountered shortages of various food items at supermarkets and some restaurants, most likely due to supply chain issues. So it may not be totally Amtrak's fault. Although given the "Russian Roulette" nature of much of Amtrak service it is difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. :)
 
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It should be noted that lately I have encountered shortages of various food items at supermarkets and some restaurants, most likely due to supply chain issues. So it may not be totally Amtrak's fault. Although given the "Russian Roulette" nature of much of Amtrak service it is difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. :)
Seems like people are blaming the commissary vendor more than Amtrak. They might be able to hide behind the supply chain for missing items, but not for delivering frozen or wilted salads.
 
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Assuming you have a room: Preplated, reheated meals in foil containers for lunch & dinner (same menu for both), similar to frozen meals you might buy at the supermarket. For breakfast, a couple of reheated hot items and a small selection of prepackaged "continental breakfast" items, including cold cereal, instant presweetened oatmeal, and usually a muffin. Food can be delivered to your room, or you can eat in the dining car, but in most cases there's no table service, you pick up your food at the galley door and carry it to your table yourself. Your car attendant will take your order and assign a time for lunch & dinner.


If you're in coach, you only have access to the cafe car, not the diner.

 

MARC Rider

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This is inconsistent, but if you are in a sleeper and partaking of flex dining, sometimes the dining car attendant will serve you. Of the past 10 flex meals I've had since 2019, 8 of them have been served to me and 2 I had to pick up at the counter.
 
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This is inconsistent, but if you are in a sleeper and partaking of flex dining, sometimes the dining car attendant will serve you. Of the past 10 flex meals I've had since 2019, 8 of them have been served to me and 2 I had to pick up at the counter.
I did get table service a few years ago, but on all 4 of my trips on the Silver Star this year it was self-service, though on my last trip the LSA carried breakfast to the table for me when I said I would have to make 2 trips for the 2 trays. She also was the only one to put the tableware pack, salt & pepper, and cream & sugar for coffee on the tray instead of setting them out to pick up at a table, so clearly an above average LSA.
 
Joined
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Thanks!

I had thought I read somewhere that dining car service will return with china and silverware. Is that one on just some trains and was I dreaming?
They did state that when traditional dining was restored however it still hasn’t shown up yet - whether it’s still the plan I’m unsure. You will typically see the metal silverware on board.
 
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They did state that when traditional dining was restored however it still hasn’t shown up yet - whether it’s still the plan I’m unsure. You will typically see the metal silverware on board.
Probably waiting for the staffing to be built up enough to add second person in kitchen to handle dishwashing duties.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Thanks!

I had thought I read somewhere that dining car service will return with china and silverware. Is that one on just some trains and was I dreaming?
On the western trains you will see silverware and fresh flowers as well as tablecloth and cloth napkin for dinner. The plates are the hard plastic plates that look like Amtrak China, to me these are perfectly acceptable.

Glassware is inconsistently used for alcoholic drinks as well.
 

Rambling Robert

Lead Service Attendant
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Boston
The LSA on the Capitol Ltd (30) 10/29/22 set me up with iced coffee and allowed me to sit in the non-employee section aka sleeper class. I put $3 in the tip tray and had my bagel and cream cheese delivered to my table. As sleepers arrived he took their order in sort of a classy way. Oh was I happy Coach diner with the iced coffee - the ice did NOT melt!

After breakfast, Harper’s Ferry Bridge -
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