Amtrak Dining

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fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
282
On our last cross-country trip before the pandemic, in early 2019, we took the Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited and Crescent in that order. The dinner menu was identical, or nearly so, on every train, and green beans were the vegetable accompaniment to every dinner entree. On the Crescent, the green beans were actually well cooked and quite good, after being nearly raw and barely edible on the earlier trains. So a good chef can still make a difference for the better even with a highly standardized menu. Of course, that chef on the Crescent is probably one of the ones that was let go with the switch to flex-food later that year.

Perhaps I was just lucky, but all of the dining car crews I encountered in the decade or so before flex food, east and west, were at least competent and in many cases very good. Of course, the service standards and presentation on Amtrak were informal and uneven, especially when compared with VIA Rail or the private railroads of old. But my sense is that Amtrak's staffing issues were much better in recent years than in the '90s and early 2000s, when I sometimes ran into crews who were just awful.
 
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20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,539
Location
Oregon Coast
Agreed... during the 'good old days' of full service dining... that sadly became 'standardized' with exact menu throughout the system, the chefs still made a difference in how the food was cooked and presented. Example... the whipped topping on the cheese cake, fruit plate presentation at breakfast, and that delicious angus beef burger at lunch with all its yummy accoutrements. (My favorite Amtrak food bites!) :)
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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On the Crescent, the green beans were actually well cooked and quite good, after being nearly raw and barely edible on the earlier trains. So a good chef can still make a difference for the better even with a highly standardized menu.
Many years ago I had a similar experience going from the Capitol to the Crescent. It was really hard to believe that the mashed potatoes on both trains started as the same instant potatoes.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
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Location
Oregon Coast
I always liked the Amtrak Burger in the lunch menu and do miss it. The Amcafe Burger is a very poor substitute mainly because it is missing all the accouterments.
I've experienced many 'levels' of perfection on that angus burger... here's where a good chef makes all the difference... cooking it just right to have that BBQ taste. Pre covid you could lather on some of that very decent guacamole which doesn't seem to be appearing on the somewhat pared down full service menu that Amtrak is saying will begin at the end of May.

We shall have to wait and see... !
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
54
When I rode the SWC from Los Angeles, the Chef overcooked almost everything. Chicken breast was so dry and tough, I finally gave up and only ate about half of it. Scrambled eggs were dry and rubbery.
I would HAPPILY trade all those free meals for Internet WiFi on the long distance trains.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
22,710
Location
Austin Texas
I've experienced many 'levels' of perfection on that angus burger... here's where a good chef makes all the difference... cooking it just right to have that BBQ taste. Pre covid you could lather on some of that very decent guacamole which doesn't seem to be appearing on the somewhat pared down full service menu that Amtrak is saying will begin at the end of May.

We shall have to wait and see... !
I'm by no means a Vegetarian, but I used to love e ordering the Veggie Burger with Cheese for Lunch( and for awhile it was a Dinner option), we called it the " Cheater Burger".😄
 

jis

Conductor
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Aug 24, 2003
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Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I'm by no means a Vegetarian, but I used to love e ordering the Veggie Burger with Cheese for Lunch( and for awhile it was a Dinner option), we called it the " Cheater Burger".😄
In my experience, the Veggie Burgers have become better and better over the years.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
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I used to get the veggie burger, too. Smothered it with ketchup. (Not to hide the taste—I smother lots of things with ketchup!😁)

I really loved the potato chips. My first LD Amtrak trip was the first time I had kettle chips, and now that’s the only potato chip I eat.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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3,652
I'm by no means a Vegetarian, but I used to love e ordering the Veggie Burger with Cheese for Lunch( and for awhile it was a Dinner option), we called it the " Cheater Burger".😄
You could tell who the experienced Amtrak diners were if they ordered the veggie burger with bacon! Best lunch on the menu!
 

fdaley

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
282
I ate and loved those veggie burgers for lunch on trains all over the country. The fresh lettuce, tomato and red onion really worked to jazz up something that otherwise was basically a pre-packaged item.

Does anyone remember the baked half-chicken? It always had the feeling of being cooked onboard, and it did seem to vary depending on the train and the chef. The chicken breast that replaced it on more recent menus was much less good and clearly reheated from a box.
 

Gary Behling

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
54
I ate and loved those veggie burgers for lunch on trains all over the country. The fresh lettuce, tomato and red onion really worked to jazz up something that otherwise was basically a pre-packaged item.

Does anyone remember the baked half-chicken? It always had the feeling of being cooked onboard, and it did seem to vary depending on the train and the chef. The chicken breast that replaced it on more recent menus was much less good and clearly reheated from a box.
The ONLY thing I really miss is the Cheese cake.
 

nferr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 24, 2009
Messages
301
Was pretty decent before they went to the standardized menu. I had thick center cut pork chops on the Lake Shore, pretty sure I had trout on the Zephyr and catfish on the Crescent. There was almost always a chef special that was really good. The standardized menu brought it down a big notch, with basically the steak being about the only thing cooked fresh on board. Of course, still way better than the flex meals lol.
 

tim49424

Conductor
Joined
Dec 20, 2010
Messages
5,289
Location
Holland, MI
I would HAPPILY trade all those free meals for Internet WiFi on the long distance trains.
Wifi on LD trains is literally impossible, especially since a good deal of them go through very remote areas, primarily the Western LD trains. The Wifi signal depends on cell phone towers and they just plainly don't exist in many of those states that are served by Amtrak.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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Jul 16, 2010
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Next time, try taking a 'screen shot', and then save and print....
I did that. That's what I posted in my first post on this issue

Unfortunately, my laptop has a small screen so the text was somewhat messed up.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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Jul 16, 2010
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4,119
Your best bet is not to obsess over such things. Nobody knows the answer to the date of return of traditional dining on any LD train. I've heard so many different rumors, theories, guesses, news from "reliable sources" on AU that it makes my head spin. I decided to ignore it all until we get first hand accounts of it actually happening. I think I posted something similar recently but it's worth repeating again, I suppose.
I'm obsessed with it enough that if there is no traditional dining at least a week before my trip in early June, I will cancel and reschedule it for later in the year. All my hotel reservations and my car rental are cancel-able without cost. I expect and will make a big stink if they fail to provide traditional dining and refuse a refund to my credit card.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,652
Does anyone remember the baked half-chicken? It always had the feeling of being cooked onboard, and it did seem to vary depending on the train and the chef. The chicken breast that replaced it on more recent menus was much less good and clearly reheated from a box.
Yes I remember! It was much better than the chicken breast and I agree it tasted like it was cooked on board.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,652
I would HAPPILY trade all those free meals for Internet WiFi on the long distance trains.
I’m always surprised people still want this. I’ve been tethering my laptop to my iPhone for years now. It’s way more reliable than any public WiFi.

By the way the Pacific Parlour Car had WiFi available so it certainly can be done.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,537
Location
Washington State
Did the PPC go through huge remote areas like North Dakota, Montana and other large barren areas without cell towers?
Yes, it went through some very remote areas of the coast around Point Conception and Point Arguello around Vandenberg AFB.

And the wifi had no internet connectivity there because of the lack of cell towers there, and very unlikely there will be any.

It used to be my phone had no signal on much of the Empire Builder, except for a few places, like around Havre. Now I have bars on most (though not all) of the route. This was T Mobile before the Sprint merger, which wasn't known for great coverage outside urban areas and major highways. So the great blank spaces of cell service in the West away from Interstates appear to be being filled in.
 
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