Amtrak dining

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I've had the flex french toast three times,the masochist that I am. Terrible. I can imagine what the omelette tastes like. The difference in flex and traditional is striking. Ill be on the Coast Starlight and then the Sunset/Eagle to Chicago in three days. The transition from traditional to flex on the Eagle from San Antonio will be jarring.
If the flex dining omelet is the same as what they served us in Acela First Class during the Covid downgrade, that's actually sort of edible. What was inedible was the kosher omelet, provided by a different catering service than the one that supplies the flex meals.
 

Bob Dylan

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That's terrible. They let us hang out in the CCC on the Capitol Limited when I rode it last October.
The reason is there is only 1 Overworked LSA for the 32+ Hour Trip that has to Serve the Meals ( Flex)to the Sleeping Cars passengers, run the Cafe for the 2 Coaches, and since there is no Transdorm on the Eagle now,the Crew uses the CCC as their Lounge and Work Area, hence there's no where to hang out except in your Room or your Coach Seat!🤪🤬
 

Bob Dylan

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If the flex dining omelet is the same as what they served us in Acela First Class during the Covid downgrade, that's actually sort of edible. What was inedible was the kosher omelet, provided by a different catering service than the one that supplies the flex meals.
The Flex Omelette I had on the Eagle last time I rode was probably the Worst Meal I've ever had on a Passenger Train!

I agree the ones on Acela FC were Much Better!
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
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The Flex Omelette I had on the Eagle last time I rode was probably the Worst Meal I've ever had on a Passenger Train!

I agree the ones on Acela FC were Much Better!
The TE was ranked dead last in a Trains Magazine assessment of all LD trains last November. The absence of a sightseer car on a 32 hour trip and the continued flex dining is inexcusable.
 
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The reason is there is only 1 Overworked LSA for the 32+ Hour Trip that has to Serve the Meals ( Flex)to the Sleeping Cars passengers, run the Cafe for the 2 Coaches, and since there is no Transdorm on the Eagle now,the Crew uses the CCC as their Lounge and Work Area, hence there's no where to hang out except in your Room or your Coach Seat!🤪🤬
But the Capitol Limited only has one overworked LSA (assisted by the sleeping car attendants) who did the meals for the sleepers and ran the cafe for the coach passengers, and there's no transdorm on the Cap either, so the crew has to use the CCC for their lounge and work area, yet still they let us hang out there. Yeah, the total trip on the Capitol is faster (18 hours vs. 32+ hrs), but that shouldn't make any difference.
 

Bob Dylan

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But the Capitol Limited only has one overworked LSA (assisted by the sleeping car attendants) who did the meals for the sleepers and ran the cafe for the coach passengers, and there's no transdorm on the Cap either, so the crew has to use the CCC for their lounge and work area, yet still they let us hang out there. Yeah, the total trip on the Capitol is faster (18 hours vs. 32+ hrs), but that shouldn't make any difference.
As always, it's Amtrak so you pay you're Fare and you never know what you'll find when you board!

Look what they did to my Train Ma!😰
 

pennyk

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If the flex dining omelet is the same as what they served us in Acela First Class during the Covid downgrade, that's actually sort of edible. What was inedible was the kosher omelet, provided by a different catering service than the one that supplies the flex meals.
I am pretty picky and I find the flex omelet edible.
 
Joined
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They actually changed the flex omlette with the most recent menu refresh where they added the french toast. The previous one with the spinach was the same served on the Acela. Acela has of course since moved back to its pre pandemic food program. I think I heard somewhere Amtrak has a new vendor that is supplying the Acela food and this vendor may also be providing some product for the western traditional dining but I'm not 100% sure about that - could be hearsay. I will note the "lobster crab cake" I had on Acela seemed very similar to the dinner appetizer I had on the Chief with the same name - both very good I will add though I think the portion was a bit bigger on Acela as it was the entire meal.
 
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Furthermore I think the end result of the required food and beverage improvement process will be possibly taking at least some concepts they are doing out west elsewhere - though I am hesitant to say I see a day where chefs return to every train - especially noting that some of the trains did not have full traditional dining even well before the Anderson era flexible dining. Of the 8 flex routes - only half of those - the Capitol Limited being the first, followed by Silver Meteor, Crescent, and Texas Eagle - lost full service dining with chef prepared meals as a result of flexible dining. The other half lost it well before flex and they used the flex approach to standardize things on those trains as well though they were already operating with less food service crew members and a "re-heated" approach though obviously with differences or the case of the Star with just a cafe car. I could see chefs return to a couple additional routes, but I think others would see a modified pre-cooked re-heated offering possibly with a better presentation. And in reality - you would satisfy the vast majority of passengers on the one night routes with such an approach. As we all know from international airlines you can have perfectly good pre-prepared food and I personally don't find flex as bad as many - though the effort in properly reheating and improving the presentation could clearly be better. The trains out west are a different story and the "experience" factor is a critical component of those trains thus you need that old fashioned dining car experience. Auto Train is in a world of its own - really Amtrak's sole for-profit route - and the shear number of passengers you have to feed.....flex dining just wouldnt cut it.
 
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Zack

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We were in the Texas Eagle for the holidays and were absolutely allowed to hang out in the CCC outside of mealtimes as sleeper passengers.
I rode the TE a few weeks ago and the CCC was closed unless you were eating a meal. They didn't make any announcement that it was closed and there were no signs but I was told to go back to my room when I tried to sit there to see St. Louis.
 

toddinde

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Sierra Vista, AZ
I will never, ever understand why this is so hard. I’ve ridden Amtrak since it’s inception. I’ve crossed Canada. I’ve ridden trains all over Europe. I would prefer traditional dining be restored to all long distance trains. However, it seems to me that the dining cars on the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) have a decent model for Amtrak, at least on the one night and long day trains that would be an overall, vast improvement. On one side of the car is a cafe similar to Amtrak with carry out items and a small lounge. In the middle is a kitchen, and on the longer end of the car are tables. Waitstaff serve the tables. You can get anything from a full meal to sandwich’s, snacks and drinks. The meals are well prepared, but obviously along the lines of flexible dining, but of very good quality. I think this product would be ideal because it could serve all passengers efficiently. It also would be a model that could be used on the long day trains like the Palmetto, Maple Leaf, etc. Again, the food service thing isn’t hard if you find the right model.
 

toddinde

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I will never, ever understand why this is so hard. I’ve ridden Amtrak since it’s inception. I’ve crossed Canada. I’ve ridden trains all over Europe. It seems to me that the dining cars on the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn)
Do you mean you never saw coach passengers using the diner BEFORE flex? Not sure if that is correct. I have seen many eating before flex and I was one of the coach people eating in the diner on a trip out of Atlanta.
I’ve traveled the Amtrak system since Amtrak was created, both coach and sleeper. I’m not sure I have ever eaten in the diner when there weren’t coach passengers eating. It’s obvious when someone at your table had to pay, or I had to pay when I was traveling coach. Coach passengers definitely ate in the diner. If it’s an inconvenience to Amtrak; tough. Coach passengers are customers too, and deserve a decent experience.
 

toddinde

Lead Service Attendant
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Apr 23, 2015
Messages
488
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Sierra Vista, AZ
I rode the TE a few weeks ago and the CCC was closed unless you were eating a meal. They didn't make any announcement that it was closed and there were no signs but I was told to go back to my room when I tried to sit there to see St. Louis.
That is so ridiculous and so uncalled for. Please let Amtrak management know.
 

toddinde

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
488
Location
Sierra Vista, AZ
Furthermore I think the end result of the required food and beverage improvement process will be possibly taking at least some concepts they are doing out west elsewhere - though I am hesitant to say I see a day where chefs return to every train - especially noting that some of the trains did not have full traditional dining even well before the Anderson era flexible dining. Of the 8 flex routes - only half of those - the Capitol Limited being the first, followed by Silver Meteor, Crescent, and Texas Eagle - lost full service dining with chef prepared meals as a result of flexible dining. The other half lost it well before flex and they used the flex approach to standardize things on those trains as well though they were already operating with less food service crew members and a "re-heated" approach though obviously with differences or the case of the Star with just a cafe car. I could see chefs return to a couple additional routes, but I think others would see a modified pre-cooked re-heated offering possibly with a better presentation. And in reality - you would satisfy the vast majority of passengers on the one night routes with such an approach. As we all know from international airlines you can have perfectly good pre-prepared food and I personally don't find flex as bad as many - though the effort in properly reheating and improving the presentation could clearly be better. The trains out west are a different story and the "experience" factor is a critical component of those trains thus you need that old fashioned dining car experience. Auto Train is in a world of its own - really Amtrak's sole for-profit route - and the shear number of passengers you have to feed.....flex dining just wouldnt cut it.
I am actually with you. My experience with the flex meal was really positive on the Cardinal. I’ve had amazing at seat meals on VIA in the corridor. People don’t realize it, but the railroads started using prepared meals. There was a test done at C&O/B&O, I think Paul Reisteup might have been involved. Management was served pre prepared meals without their knowing in a supposed test of dining car recipes. They were shocked to learn they were pre prepared. The Rock Island did the same in in the ‘50s or early ‘60s. I also remember when Amtrak put diners on the Milwaukee to St Louis and Chicago to Minneapolis trains in the ‘70s, and how nice it was to get a full meal on those longer day runs. I think a sit down product of high quality, even if it’s pre prepared, would be a winner on the overnight east coast trains, and expanded to those longer day runs. Have expanded hours in the diner so passengers could come anytime. Offer carryouts, or at seat/room deliveries, for those who don’t want to come to the diner. We should be open to new paradigms. We can even have a fresh flower on the table to go with the good food and fine scenery.
 

crescent2

Conductor
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a little south of normal
Flex, microwave food. Many think it's terrible, most think a much better product should be given, and everyone thinks traditional dining is better. And IIRC the Crescent is only running with a cafe at the moment.


I would say go eastbound, if the train is late you still get to see Glacier in the daylight. Currently they have traditional dining, the diner is only open to sleeping car passengers -- coach passengers must get food from the cafe or bring their own.


Thank you so much!
I hope we can make this trip work. I'll have more questions in the meantime, I'm sure.

It's a shame about the Crescent, and the other LD trains that have no full dining service. Eating in the dining car was such a great part of the experience. The food was good and you get to meet and talk with other travelers. And to spend the $$$$ for all those fancy kitchens and then not use them?? Crazy, no, make that dumb.

It seems to me that Amtrak management WANTS most of the LD trains to lose ridership and fail. Sad.
 
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Also, a friend and I would like to plan a short trip on the Empire Builder for possibly later this year. We want to ride a segment that goes through Glacier NP, not sure whether east- or west-bound, or how long. What's the current dining situation on the EB? It's one of the LD trains I've never taken yet. Thanks!
As others have said, eastbound from Whitefish will be in the daylight almost all year round.

For a good part of the year, the westbound trip will be dark when the train reaches Glacier even if on time. One May a few years ago our westbound train was three hours late and reached East Glacier (Glacier Park station) right as it got dark. Aside from a couple mountains in the sunset, we saw nothing of the Park. However the following May our train was on time and there was good daylight right through to West Glacier and beyond.

That being said please keep in mind that daylight in the summer lasts until quite late and a westbound trip at that time can be incredibly beautiful and in my opinion preferable to an eastbound trip.

It is a nice trip along the Park and you are wise to be thinking of taking it.
 
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