Amtrak Dining

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Oaxacajo

Train Attendant
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
37
Location
Chicago
Again...if flexible dining is here to stay,and I'm afraid it is,why can't there be an improvement in what is being offered?
I recently rode the Texas Eagle from San Antonio to Chicago and was served Flex Meals. I really can not understand what all the fuss is about. The meals I had, while not on a par with traditional dining that I also experienced San Antonio to Los Angeles, were fine. I don't know where everyone complaining about them usually eats...in five star restaurants? My Flex Meals were warm, tasty, and filling. Would I rather have traditional dining on all trains? Of course, I would. However, in my opinion, Flex Meals are nowhere near as horrible as people make them sound.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
9,213
Location
Ithaca, NY
I don't know where everyone complaining about them usually eats...in five star restaurants?
I live in a city which was determined at one point to have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the US. They nearly all make food from scratch with fresh local ingredients and they're all cheap by big city standards.

Yes, I may be a bit spoiled.

My actual issue with Flex Meals is that they have a hell of a lot of additives and as a result, I'm allergic to every one I've seen the ingredients lists for. There are higher grades of prepackaged meal (with *fewer* ingredients -- simpler but better) which I am fine with.
 

Oaxacajo

Train Attendant
Joined
May 10, 2021
Messages
37
Location
Chicago
I live in a city which was determined at one point to have the highest number of restaurants per capita in the US. They nearly all make food from scratch with fresh local ingredients and they're all cheap by big city standards.

Yes, I may be a bit spoiled.

My actual issue with Flex Meals is that they have a hell of a lot of additives and as a result, I'm allergic to every one I've seen the ingredients lists for. There are higher grades of prepackaged meal (with *fewer* ingredients -- simpler but better) which I am fine with.
Your issue (allergic) is a legitimate concern. I wasn't referring to allergy issues. I was refering to descriptions such as "garbage, cardboard, vomit, etc."
 

crescent-zephyr

Engineer
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,974
I recently rode the Texas Eagle from San Antonio to Chicago and was served Flex Meals. I really can not understand what all the fuss is about. The meals I had, while not on a par with traditional dining that I also experienced San Antonio to Los Angeles, were fine. I don't know where everyone complaining about them usually eats...in five star restaurants? My Flex Meals were warm, tasty, and filling. Would I rather have traditional dining on all trains? Of course, I would. However, in my opinion, Flex Meals are nowhere near as horrible as people make them sound.
What would you compare flex meals to if you were describing them to someone who’s never ridden a train?
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,310
Location
Spring Creek, NC
Perhaps I'd describe them as a very limited menu but basic food such as served in a diner. I do realize that the food experience also depends a lot on the cafe person getting it ready and serving it.
I've never had food like that in a diner, and if I did I'd never go back.

Flex food is most like frozen dinners at the cheap end of that aisle in a supermarket.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,838
Perhaps I'd describe them as a very limited menu but basic food such as served in a diner. I do realize that the food experience also depends a lot on the cafe person getting it ready and serving it.
Not my kind of diner and I accept almost any diner food.

I don't know any diners that pull out a ready-made low quality TV dinner from the freezer and microwave it.

I stand by the garbage, cardboard and vomit except recently where some of it has been upgraded to low quality TV dinners. I have yet to finish a single one of them, even recent ones and it's not because I'm full.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
12,967
Location
EOTL
I don't know where everyone complaining about them usually eats...in five star restaurants?
I don't expect five star dining unless I'm paying five star prices and at the time Amtrak switched to Flex meals they were charging the highest fares I had ever seen up to that point.

Perhaps I'd describe them as a very limited menu but basic food such as served in a diner.
Even a basic diner can add or remove items and adjust cooking times by request. Flexible dining is more like those vending machine meals you find in some office break rooms.
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
703
A few of the item like the ribs are OK. Most of the flex meals are sub par. For the cost of a sleeper you expect and deserve better food. I don't understand why they can't serve sandwiches.

Worst is breakfast. Last couple of times I had the french toast I broke a fork trying to cut it. The omelette looks awful. Again if we are stuck with flex on the Eastern trains how about some improvement?
 

Amtrakfflyer

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Messages
679
They could put Acela first meals including breakfasts on the trains if they wanted. They don’t want to and that speaks volumes.

.
 

Cal

Foamer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,380
Location
Socal
About to take a LD trip in a few weeks. What's the latest status of dining in the dining car vs dining in your room. Passenger choice?
on the SWC in mid December you could do either. Diner was packed, although it was around Christmas
 

fillyjonk

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
519
the problem I've had lately with the flex meals is that it seems like they over-microwave them. So the pasta in the pasta and meatballs has hardened up at the edges and is gluey elsewhere. On one trip the French toast was so hard I couldn't easily cut it (wound up breaking it with my hands). When it's heated properly it's OK but...there seems to be a really narrow sweet spot between "dangerously underdone" and "dried out and overcooked.

This most recent trip I ate dinner in my room (the diner had already filled up) and breakfast alone in the diner.
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,507
Seems like Sometimes they put it in the oven and sometimes nuke it. On the flex trains running with a Viewliner II dining car I have seen them use the convection oven for the flex meals - not sure if all LSAs do it or if they do it differently in the split amcafe setup that’s on the crescent and cardinal (or CCC car on cap, CONO, and TE.)
 
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,507
I recently rode the Texas Eagle from San Antonio to Chicago and was served Flex Meals. I really can not understand what all the fuss is about. The meals I had, while not on a par with traditional dining that I also experienced San Antonio to Los Angeles, were fine. I don't know where everyone complaining about them usually eats...in five star restaurants? My Flex Meals were warm, tasty, and filling. Would I rather have traditional dining on all trains? Of course, I would. However, in my opinion, Flex Meals are nowhere near as horrible as people make them sound.
I personally don’t find them horrible - but then again I do like salt. I didn’t think the breakfast omelette one was that great though. Most of the dinner ones I’ve had have been fine with a couple I actually legitimately liked. I had one weird once off deal on the Coast Starlight (just before they went back to traditional) where they had a meat and veggie lasagna as a “special” in addition to the normal flex items and the FSS also had some AmCafe burgers and dogs down in the diner kitchen as an alternative. The lasagna was not in the typical container that the flex meals come in from that new horizons place so this must have been some special deal the commissary whipped up - the lasagna was quite good. Of course then a week later on my trip home on the Chief I got traditional dining and ate like a king - also was that crew’s first trip with the chef back and they were just thrilled to be doing it again.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
4,088
Location
Baltimore. MD
Seems like Sometimes they put it in the oven and sometimes nuke it. On the flex trains running with a Viewliner II dining car I have seen them use the convection oven for the flex meals - not sure if all LSAs do it or if they do it differently in the split amcafe setup that’s on the crescent and cardinal (or CCC car on cap, CONO, and TE.)
It might also depend on the passenger load. If the sleepers are full and they have a lot of meals to serve, they may resort to microwaving the meals to save time. This is especially true if there's only one person serving meals. I think it doesn't matter whether they're using the diner or the Amfleet diner-lite cafe car, as the cafe cars have convection ovens/toasters, too. On the other hand, the diners may have overns with larger capacities than the cafe cars. But the real issue is probably the staffing level, which is also why they're served in the freezer dishes with plastic cutlery.
 
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,838
It might also depend on the passenger load. If the sleepers are full and they have a lot of meals to serve, they may resort to microwaving the meals to save time. This is especially true if there's only one person serving meals. I think it doesn't matter whether they're using the diner or the Amfleet diner-lite cafe car, as the cafe cars have convection ovens/toasters, too. On the other hand, the diners may have overns with larger capacities than the cafe cars. But the real issue is probably the staffing level, which is also why they're served in the freezer dishes with plastic cutlery.
You forget that these "meals" preceded Covid so that argument doesn't hold unless you are agreeing that Amtrak cut the staff too much to provide sufficient service to customers then decided not to restore enough people to do it right. That was deliberate on their part.
 

fillyjonk

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
519
Seems like Sometimes they put it in the oven and sometimes nuke it. On the flex trains running with a Viewliner II dining car I have seen them use the convection oven for the flex meals - not sure if all LSAs do it or if they do it differently in the split amcafe setup that’s on the crescent and cardinal (or CCC car on cap, CONO, and TE.)
You know - that might explain why the first pasta meal I had when I started traveling again (May?) was pretty good - it was served in a foil container and I bet they did it in a convection oven. But more recently, they've been in plastic plates and are pretty clearly microwaved.

It would be - seemingly - a simple thing to just do convection oven for stuff, and serve it in convection oven safe things. I find microwaves are really spotty about how they heat things (sometimes at home I eat frozen dinners when I'm in a hurry and one of my complaints is how part of them gets overdone and part is undercooked. Am planning a kitchen renovation in the coming months and am NOT lookingforward to microwaved everything for the however-long it takes the renovation)
 

George

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 11, 2008
Messages
337
Location
San Francisco
I am boarding the following trains in April. Assuming they depart on time ( I board three at their originating point) can I expect to be able to get breakfast right after departure, or will it be too late?

#6 – Departs EMY 9:10 am

#19 – Departs ATL 9:08 am

#1 Departs NOL 9:00 am

#14 Departs LAX 9:51 am

NOL would probably be the only place I would want to drop cash on a quality breakfast, since I am traveling sleeper on these trains.

Also, I presume I will be able to get dinner on #50, since it departs CHI at 5:55 pm.

I am aware that #9 and #50 have café cars only, so it would be flex dining on them.

Thanks.
 
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