Amtrak dining

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Joe from PA

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2022
Messages
165
Location
Philadelphia
Ok. So that’sa big bummer. But my trip might be later next June. Unless that changes, looks like the cafe for me……
Trust me, you'll not be missing much. The cafe menu has a pretty good cheese burger as well as a Hebrew National hot dog. We order those when going to Boston. A few years ago the coach people were allowed to use the dining car, but as far as I could see, very few did (enter from the front).
 

JCTakoma

Train Attendant
Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
27
Location
Georgetown, DC
Latest twist, on the 20 Crescent to New York, in a roomette. Flex meal breakfast was served in a standard bag at 7am with a loud banging on our door. We were still snoozing. No option was provided to have it served at any particular time during a window, as some have described, and as has been offered to us on previous trips.

My impression was that this had nothing to do with our attendant. Rather, in the absence of a dining car in the consist, the solo cafe car attendant was prepping and assembling the flex meals, and presumably needed to get that out of the way so that he could open the cafe car to the coaches.

As to the meals themselves, for breakfast, the English muffin in the breakfast sandwich was tough, a sign that it had been heated together with the contents of the sandwich, rather than toasted separately, of course and as expected, but worth pointing out I think in case anyone from Amtrak tries to tell us that flex meals are better than dining car meals where staff actually prepare meals rather than merely assembling them like on an airplane. The “railroad” French toast (it wasn’t really, since it was simply normal slices of bread) was actually not too bad on this trip; it had been shoe leather on a trip last year. They ran out of yogurt, sorry.

As for lunch just before DC, several entrees were unavailable, there was butter but no bread (really?!?), and there was no dessert. I picked the reasonably tender chicken out of the fettuccine swimming in sauce. Salads were crispy iceberg and a lonely cherry tomato with packet ranch. The can of beer from Mexico was ice cold, as were the sodas.

We mostly missed the dessert. On the 19 Crescent down the week before, we discovered Amtrak is now offering Frank and Louie’s (from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware) butter cakes for dessert. My, those are good, though husband still prefers the brownies. Desserts are about the only thing good I have to say about so-called “flex dining” on Amtrak, so when the dessert runs out, well…
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
2,262
Location
Oregon Coast
Latest twist, on the 20 Crescent to New York, in a roomette. Flex meal breakfast was served in a standard bag at 7am with a loud banging on our door. We were still snoozing. No option was provided to have it served at any particular time during a window, as some have described, and as has been offered to us on previous trips.

My impression was that this had nothing to do with our attendant. Rather, in the absence of a dining car in the consist, the solo cafe car attendant was prepping and assembling the flex meals, and presumably needed to get that out of the way so that he could open the cafe car to the coaches.

As to the meals themselves, for breakfast, the English muffin in the breakfast sandwich was tough, a sign that it had been heated together with the contents of the sandwich, rather than toasted separately, of course and as expected, but worth pointing out I think in case anyone from Amtrak tries to tell us that flex meals are better than dining car meals where staff actually prepare meals rather than merely assembling them like on an airplane. The “railroad” French toast (it wasn’t really, since it was simply normal slices of bread) was actually not too bad on this trip; it had been shoe leather on a trip last year. They ran out of yogurt, sorry.

As for lunch just before DC, several entrees were unavailable, there was butter but no bread (really?!?), and there was no dessert. I picked the reasonably tender chicken out of the fettuccine swimming in sauce. Salads were crispy iceberg and a lonely cherry tomato with packet ranch. The can of beer from Mexico was ice cold, as were the sodas.

We mostly missed the dessert. On the 19 Crescent down the week before, we discovered Amtrak is now offering Frank and Louie’s (from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware) butter cakes for dessert. My, those are good, though husband still prefers the brownies. Desserts are about the only thing good I have to say about so-called “flex dining” on Amtrak, so when the dessert runs out, well…
It's always a good idea to bring some of your own food to supplement 'flex' dining which is monotonous, poor quality, and small portions. Every once in a while you'll find someone who thinks flex passable... but most don't like it and can't wait for freshly prepared full service meals to return. Don't hold yer breath!
 

Sidney

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
874
i'll be on the Texas Eagle/Sunset in a little over two weeks from Chicago to LA. Going this direction the change to the Sunset is akin to black and white to color in "The Wizard of Oz". You wake up on the second morning and real food and a sightseer car emerges!

I have had my share of flex meals over the last four years. They range from awful to barely adequate.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
24,689
Location
Austin Texas
So, no dining car on the Crescent?
Sadly no! 🥺

And under the Old Schedule, it used to be so Cool to have Breakfast in the Diner as you rolled across the Causeway heading out of New Orleans, and then wake-up in Virginia heading for DC while having another Breakfast in the Diner.( "..Nothing could be finer than Dinner in the Diner..")

I've been riding the Crescent since the Southern RR Days, ( miss the Slumber Coaches)and that Virginia Ham and Southern Cooking was so good!( and Grits, that's how you knew you were across the Mason-Dixon Line, one of the few traditions Amtrak still followed on Trains that served Traditional Dining!)
 

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,968
Location
Socal
Sadly I haven’t tread through this thread fully. It’s been a while since my last (and only Amtrak trips empire-coast starlight-zephyr) I was fortunate to have bedrooms for those trips. Full service dining had recently returned so I was very lucky. My question is, has the dining car opened up to coach passengers? I’m looking into taking the Empire chi to sea but coach this time. TIA
Diner is sleeper only stoll
 

Cal

Engineer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,968
Location
Socal
I have had my share of flex meals over the last four years. They range from awful to barely adequate.
Definitely disagree. Flex meals may not be great quality, and I’m sure their nutrition value isn’t anything to brag about either. But I’ve had several flex meals which weren’t bad, at least not as bad as many people here slate them to be.
 
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
6,280
Location
NYC/Queens
One factor with the flex meals seems to be staffing. When you have one person in a hurry to get the meals out, and then having to deal with the coach passengers as the cafe car attendant as well, the results don 't seem to be as good as when there is additional staff, and the meal prep is not as rushed. The single person staffing virtually guarantees inadequate service. The idea of the meal at your schedule can't happen with one LSA.
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
163
Location
Columbus, GA
Sadly no! 🥺

And under the Old Schedule, it used to be so Cool to have Breakfast in the Diner as you rolled across the Causeway heading out of New Orleans, and then wake-up in Virginia heading for DC while having another Breakfast in the Diner.( "..Nothing could be finer than Dinner in the Diner..")

I've been riding the Crescent since the Southern RR Days, ( miss the Slumber Coaches)and that Virginia Ham and Southern Cooking was so good!( and Grits, that's how you knew you were across the Mason-Dixon Line, one of the few traditions Amtrak still followed on Trains that served Traditional Dining!)
Bob Dylan: Just scanning the various posts today. This one of yours reminds me of those happier days gone by on the Crescent. I have been a passenger on the Crescent (and the Southerner, etc.) since 1966. I actually think my very first trip was a "safety patrol boy" trip (coaches) Columbus GA to Atlanta to Washington in 1959 (I was 12). I have been on Amtrak's Crescent sleepers dozens if not hundreds of times over the years: and recently. I am sad about the general status of services these days. My ultimate railroad idol--W Graham Claytor--I suspect is too. I am trying my best not to let COVID19 issues destroy a very long term love of the passenger industry.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
2,262
Location
Oregon Coast
i'll be on the Texas Eagle/Sunset in a little over two weeks from Chicago to LA. Going this direction the change to the Sunset is akin to black and white to color in "The Wizard of Oz". You wake up on the second morning and real food and a sightseer car emerges!

I have had my share of flex meals over the last four years. They range from awful to barely adequate.
I so agree with you! And have been ordering the kosher meals which is a little more food in volume and variety; but mediocre quality. I do bring along my own comfort foods such as fritos and chips... lots of fruit, cookies, and 'happy juice' allowable in your own room. Also when boarding in NYP or etc. I will bring on board some items from the breakfast buffet and / or the Amtrak Lounges. As so many have said... being able to enjoy a meal or snacks in the privacy of your own space while watching the world go by makes it a feast... !
 
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
787
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Definitely disagree. Flex meals may not be great quality, and I’m sure their nutrition value isn’t anything to brag about either. But I’ve had several flex meals which weren’t bad, at least not as bad as many people here slate them to be.

I agree with this. My preference? No. But they have improved since the beginning a few years ago. I suggest that if they were just presented a little better people wouldn't gripe as much, But, yes, I do long for the return of Traditional Dining in the east.
 

joelkfla

Engineer
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,212
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Seems like there is another round of Chef and LSA job postings in Miami.


That is both a promising sign, and also an indicator that the rumored fall/winter start of Traditional Dining with the return of the Meteor may be an overly optimistic timeline.
Maybe they're suffering a high washout rate. Or maybe it's taking them so long to make offers that applicants have already moved on.

I haven't really seen any rumors on this board that Trad Dining would resume in October, just a lotta wishin'.
 

river

Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2010
Messages
154
Location
GRR
We are heading out of Chicago to New Orleans in the near future on the CONO. I know we'll have flexible dining. I've seen the menu and it says something like seasonal desserts. Any idea what the current desserts are?
 

saxpower

Train Attendant
Joined
May 26, 2022
Messages
39
Location
Wilmington, DE
We are heading out of Chicago to New Orleans in the near future on the CONO. I know we'll have flexible dining. I've seen the menu and it says something like seasonal desserts. Any idea what the current desserts are?

As of a few weeks ago, the desers were brownies or butter cakes- both of which I liked (not 4 star restaurant, of course but tasty). I can't remember which desert came with which entry.
 

Maverickstation

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 2, 2017
Messages
333
Location
Boston, MA (Eastie)
Seems like there is another round of Chef and LSA job postings in Miami.

Read that job description, it talks about preparing meals for Amtrak employees (it mentions that a few times in the posting). Further it notes the job is Florida based with no Travel Requirement.
It does not sound like a Chef position for one of the regular trains serving Florida.

Ken
 

Rizla Ronnie

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Messages
19
Location
UK
Currently on the CZ heading to Chicago.
Lots to enjoy about this first-time trip but sadly the food isn't one of them.It's virtually inedible.
We left Emeryville three hours late because maintenance couldn't fix the grill.
So no steaks for dinner and no eggs for breakfast for the entire journey.
No lunch available on the first day - the buffalo sandwich we were given was frozen solid.
Last night the chicken arrived barely tepid and was awful - so many people left so much unfinished food on their plates.
Breakfast is just high sugar crap.No toast and jam, no fresh fruit.
The goats cheese salad for lunch came with a dreadful vinaigrette - we were told it came with the salad so there was nothing they could do.
Went for the pasta for the second night's dinner but they'd run out.
That left just the chicken again or salmon.
But they did offer another goats cheese salad - and yes I could have it without vinaigrette...
My wife said the burger - served with potato chips only - was ok.
Tbh, there is not a single thing I've eaten on this journey that I've liked and I'm the world's least picky eater. The microwave is putting in a shift and a half.
I understand the post-pandemic pressure Amtrak is under but I can't understand the company's nickel and dime attitude.Why go to the trouble of tablecloths and fresh flowers and serve food with plastic plates and cutlery ?
If we stayed long enough at a station I'd resort to trying to find something healthy and tasty to eat but we haven't.
There's much to enjoy on this journey - the scenery is fantastic, our Roomette much more comfortable than we expected and the shower is great.
But the train is filthy and surfaces in the observation car haven't been cleaned since the start of the journey.
Now running five hours late so missed the Rockies in darkness.
Such a shame really.One of the world's great train journeys deserves far better than this.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
1,345
Currently on the CZ heading to Chicago.
Lots to enjoy about this first-time trip but sadly the food isn't one of them.It's virtually inedible.
We left Emeryville three hours late because maintenance couldn't fix the grill.
So no steaks for dinner and no eggs for breakfast for the entire journey.
No lunch available on the first day - the buffalo sandwich we were given was frozen solid.
Last night the chicken arrived barely tepid and was awful - so many people left so much unfinished food on their plates.
Breakfast is just high sugar crap.No toast and jam, no fresh fruit.
The goats cheese salad for lunch came with a dreadful vinaigrette - we were told it came with the salad so there was nothing they could do.
Went for the pasta for the second night's dinner but they'd run out.
That left just the chicken again or salmon.
But they did offer another goats cheese salad - and yes I could have it without vinaigrette...
My wife said the burger - served with potato chips only - was ok.
Tbh, there is not a single thing I've eaten on this journey that I've liked and I'm the world's least picky eater. The microwave is putting in a shift and a half.
I understand the post-pandemic pressure Amtrak is under but I can't understand the company's nickel and dime attitude.Why go to the trouble of tablecloths and fresh flowers and serve food with plastic plates and cutlery ?
If we stayed long enough at a station I'd resort to trying to find something healthy and tasty to eat but we haven't.
There's much to enjoy on this journey - the scenery is fantastic, our Roomette much more comfortable than we expected and the shower is great.
But the train is filthy and surfaces in the observation car haven't been cleaned since the start of the journey.
Now running five hours late so missed the Rockies in darkness.
Such a shame really.One of the world's great train journeys deserves far better than this.
I am sorry to hear that your trip has not been more positive. It appears that a number of Amtrak flaws have conspired to all be present on your trip. I hope that the rest of your visit to the U.S. goes much better. This is not a great time to be traveling on Amtrak.
 

Rizla Ronnie

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2022
Messages
19
Location
UK
I am sorry to hear that your trip has not been more positive. It appears that a number of Amtrak flaws have conspired to all be present on your trip. I hope that the rest of your visit to the U.S. goes much better. This is not a great time to be traveling on Amtrak.
Thanks for your thoughts.
We're actually having a ball and enjoying the trip immensely.
The delays are nothing anyone can really do much about and frankly we don't care what time we arrive in Chicago.
We're more frustrated than angry that Amtrak don't make much more of such an iconic route.
We're not sure why it's treated as just another of their services - it is so ripe with potential.
And simple things - how easy and cheap it would be to load a box of fresh fruit at the start of the journey.
We'd be more than happy to pay an extra premium to have somebody actually cook a meal for us rather than reheat crap.
Dining in good company as the sun sets on the wonderful landscape should be a joy to be savoured - not rushed through for convenience.
And not thoroughly cleaning trains with COVID still about is reprehensible.
The WiFi issue is not a problem for us as we have a cheap compatible roaming SIM from the UK for 4G.
But we've been in third world countries that have internet on local bus services - how Amtrak are unable to offer it, even at a fee, in this day and age is just bizarre.
 
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