Flexible dining - Requesting a review from a recent rider

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Rasputin

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
723
I have found leftovers from Flexible Dining dinner in the luggage storage area in my sleeping car room.

And I was so hungry after Flexible Dining dinner that I ate the leftovers (brownies still in plastic wrappers).
They must have been placed there by the Flexible Dining Fairy. If you leave a quarter under your pillow at night you might get more.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,569
The previous pics and video have sure turned me off on the slop Amtrak is now trying to swill out as meals. I'd rather fly and do better with airport concourse chow; some of which is pretty good!
To be fair, I still enjoyed my trip on Amtrak with contemporary dining. I can put up with it for 1 night. I actually think it’s ok for trains like the lake shore that would typically only serve dinner and then a real quick breakfast before arriving in Chicago. But even trains like the crescent and silvers that’s several lackluster meals in a row... once you get to multiple days it’s just not right but here we are
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,185
Does anyone have nutrition facts on the ENCHILADAS, CHICKEN MARSALA, and SHRIMP IN LOBSTER SAUCE?
High fructose corn syrup, salt, sugar, salt, fat, salt, filler, leached plastic, micro-plastic particles from packaging, soylent green, The Blob, and a little protein all slopped together. Anything else you want to know? :)

Oh yeah! Forgot. Microwave radiation residue. Helps you see the stuff when it is dark.

Nutrition, taste? Nah! It might encourage people to take the train.

Note, in a blind taste test, customers could not identify which meal was which but then again, Amtrak doesn't have a lot of blind people traveling and they would probably legitimately complain that it was discrimination to be fed slop. On the other hand, Amtrak is encouraging sight-impaired people to travel since they don't have to look at it.

Yes, I know there's no microwave radiation but it's would be nice having something healthy in the meals. The radiation would at least kill any Covid you have.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
98
IMG_20200701_190243.jpg

That's the Red Wine Braised Beef with pearl onions, carrots and mushrooms served with Polenta and Haricot Vert.

The Beef was not awful, but still incredibly salty and definitely not even close to the old grill prepared meat options. But it was cooked all the way through, no cold spots or detectable uneven temperatures.

The veggies held up surprisingly well, the carrots being the most flavorful part. They had the taste and texture of broth boiled carrots, definitely an unexpected highlight.

The polenta was too salty and quite rubbery around the edges. That was probably the least palatable part, but I didn't mind finishing it.

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I opted for dinner in my roomette. Instead of taking a reservation, a dining car attendant came by my room to take my order. It came in a bag at the promised time. The presentation was nice, I was delighted to have two coffees (presumably since you'd get a refill in the cafe car).

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The dinner roll was actually nice and warm and felt like a good touch.

The salad was fresh and crisp, iceberg lettuce, small salad tomatoes and some carrot shavings. Only complaint is that the salad dressing packets are for salads twice that size.

For Dessert, only two choices: Brownie or Cookie. Fortunately it was a Sweet Street brownie that, while packaged, was actually the most flavorful part of the meal.

This is not the same food quality as the old cafe car, obviously. Whereas the old cafe car might be Applebee's but down a nudge, my take is Flex Dining is TV Dinners bumped up a nudge.

Now looking forward to Breakfast in Denver!
 

Skyline

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 19, 2016
Messages
722
While I have certainly had more than my fair share of good dining car meals thru the decades of Amtrak's existence, I now agree with pretty much all you say.
If they can not justify the traditional level of diner experience, I'd just as soon bring my own aboard, and not have to be at all concerned any longer with their trials and tribulations...

If Amtrak is hearing any of this, enough to take action, the reduction in the extra cost of a sleeper must be significant enough to actually matter. Accounting tricks that produce only a nominal reduction must not be tolerated by Congressional overseers, passenger rail advocates, nor the public.

I realize this may make it easier for certain bean counters to advocate for the removal of sleepers altogether. RPA must be ready, in advance, to refute any such arguments with facts. And once exposed, such political subterfuge must be strongly resisted for being inaccurate and offensive. Reducing fares, and allowing sleeper pax choices can only help ridership as Amtrak seeks to recover from downturns related to the C-19 pandemic.
 

Skyline

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 19, 2016
Messages
722
I see where you're coming from but I think the reality of the situation is that dining cars probably won't survive if meals are excluded from sleeper fares. If anything it will likely speed up their retirement. I doubt the separation of meals would result in a discount large enough to buy everything we need ourselves. I do agree that the current food is pretty bad but I'd prefer they improve the experience rather than simply paint the diner into a financial corner as they have. I don't need three meals sitting around all day but I will need at least one and would prefer something hot and tasty over something dry or drippy. Where I travel long distance trains move slowly and stations have few if any meal-related services, which makes dining cars on long haul trains more important than in other situations. We're not just speaking for ourselves when we offer to give up diners for everyone. Sure, we had our fun when times were good, but once these diners are gone they probably won't be coming back again for anyone else to enjoy.

I agree, many smaller stations do not have adequate food resources inside them or within easy walking distance. The answer, for myself and surely others, would be to bring food that is prepared at home or purchased in stores in advance of travel. If you don't have the means to prepare travel-friendly food at home, there are plenty of prepackaged, dehydrated meals that are being sold today -- more than ever thanks to the pandemic -- that only require the addition of hot or cold water and enough time to rehydrate. You can get quite creative with these, with practice, adding spices or other ingredients to your liking; even supplementing with salads or desserts. Quality varies, but for $8-$15 you can have such a meal that is healthy and satisfying.

By opening up diners to coach pax once again, any drop in sleeper pax choosing to provide their own meals should be made up by coach pax who would like to once again enjoy occasional diner food.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
507
How sad this all is. We understand the pandemic... but the new normal full LD dining service BEFORE the pandemic was deteriorating and it is wondered where this is all going. Here's a YouTube video from just 6 years ago... notice the fresh flowers on the dining table. Enjoyable to watch! Dining on the train - done right and truly justifying the passenger train experience; warning: this may frustrate some! :rolleyes:

 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,454
I agree, many smaller stations do not have adequate food resources inside them or within easy walking distance. The answer, for myself and surely others, would be to bring food that is prepared at home or purchased in stores in advance of travel. If you don't have the means to prepare travel-friendly food at home, there are plenty of prepackaged, dehydrated meals that are being sold today -- more than ever thanks to the pandemic -- that only require the addition of hot or cold water and enough time to rehydrate. You can get quite creative with these, with practice, adding spices or other ingredients to your liking; even supplementing with salads or desserts. Quality varies, but for $8-$15 you can have such a meal that is healthy and satisfying. By opening up diners to coach pax once again, any drop in sleeper pax choosing to provide their own meals should be made up by coach pax who would like to once again enjoy occasional diner food.
I'm glad you found a solution that works for you but no further change is needed to make use of these suggestions. Sleeper passengers can bring food from home and coach passengers can eat in the diner (on Western trains). You said you believe a non-trivial discount would come from separating meals from sleeper tickets but outside of the unique circumstances of the Silver Star none of the prior reductions has resulted in substantial savings. Even as service has fallen prices have risen. It is my belief that separating meals from sleeper tickets would put our dining cars in greater jeopardy, likely impacting sleeper and coach passengers alike, while those who bring their own food would see no meaningful discount. Once the diners are gone they will likely never return, and that is not a legacy I want to leave for those who come after me.
 
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Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
98
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Breakfast! They seemed pretty generous with the options and for packaged foods, they were pretty high quality.

The oatmeal was actually one of the best packaged oatmeals I've had. Yes, on the sweet side but they seem to have perfected the water ratio and it was warm (not piping hot) when I got it. I prefer it that way, but I know that may be an issue for some.

The lounge car sells Chobani Blueberry Greek Yogurt, but we had the option for the Yoplait Greek Blueberry as well. It was served mildly chilled.

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The muffin was a standard packaged muffin.

Any questions? I'm here until tomorrow!

Greets from Granby.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
98
I also want to affirm that I'm still taking Amtrak LD sleepers regardless of the food options. The view itself is worth fasting for.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,185
Did they give any butter for it?
Oh stop! The fares are only going up 7%! You think Amtrak can afford butter too? Some people are just SO greedy. You got that wonderful flex dining and all those new room amenities and you still want more?


:)
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
1,922
If it was a DC-8, then it sure wasn't only "a while" ago! 😅
[/QUOTE

1986

Getting to fly on an 8 itself would be worth the run!
It was and I think that is one reason why I remember it. Up to that time, I had not flown on such a large plane. I am questioning my memory as to whether it was Delta or Eastern. (I now think it was Eastern.) It was from MIA to SJU. Home bound flight was on American from ACA to DFW with a connection to CMH which we missed. Had an overnight stay at Dallas with hotel and meals paid for by AA and ended up at DCA. The homebound flights were not nearly as pleasant as the flights to San Juan.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
98
IMG_20200702_121524.jpg

This is the the Asian Noodle Bowl:

"Yaki Soba noodles with carrots, edamame, red peppers, baby corn, scallions and Shiitake mushrooms in a garlic-chili sauce."

The noodles were pretty good, but annoyingly sticky in the manner many straight instant noodles are. It was hard to gather a reasonable bite without going to the knife.

Unfortunately, the sauce was more like an orange sauce than anything else with just a hint of heat and no perceptible garlic flavor. The sweetness of it overpowered everything except for a few hints of mushroom and baby corn that emerged unscathed. Also you'll notice the celery substitution for the red peppers, of which I barely noticed any.

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The warmed up toffee crunch brownie was the highlight. It has that preservative-like spongy crumble to it but otherwise a very well balanced dessert with nice chocolate chips and very flavorful toffee bits.

Side salad was great and fresh as usual.

Note: Coffee is no longer available in the mornings in the sleeper cars. You have to go to the dining car and wait for an attendant.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
507
FOOD REVIEW - Flex Dining Entree: “Red Wine Braised Beef.”
This comprehensive review is personal evaluation with a quality scale,… others may have differing opinions.
(NUMERICAL WEIGHTING: 1-poor - unacceptable / 5-reasonable - pleasant / 10-outstanding uniqueness - quality)

PRESENTATION CATEGORIES
title and/or labeling “1”
Value perception, portions, side dishes “1”
Temperature, and doneness “4”
Taste, seasoning, sauces/condiments “1”
Plate ware or packaging “0” - unsafe*
Timing and other service factors “9”

EATING EXPERIENCE WITH NUMERICAL WEIGHTING - This dish rates as “1” from scale below
10 - indulgent and pleasurable / uniquely different and experiential qualitative tastes and textures / generously quantitative
5 - pleasant, satisfying, and familiar; but not different or unusual; adequately qualitative and quantitative
1 - monotonous and left with the desire of wanting something else that is more pleasing, quantitative, and qualitative

HEALTH, SAFETY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS - Rates as “0” not recommended*
Fat, salt, and sugar content / component nutritional value / processing components
Overall cleanliness and preparation safety / Recycling of eating ware, and food waste

REVIEW: Title of dish misleading; the quality and taste of the beef does not match ‘Red Wine Braising.’ 8 oz portion of all components inappropriately small for a dinner; the salad is inadequately small. The heat dissipates rapidly to lukewarm but the food is definitely done. The taste is bland and the texture is mushy; needs more seasoning and spices for flavor enhancement although some may enjoy bland dishes that are easy to chew. The oil, sodium, and sugar content can make this food hard to digest for some. Plate ware and packaging of plastics is poor quality. The name of ‘flex’ to describe this cuisine is true to its name because it is light and easily portable in the plastic tray. Many sites describe the properties of the plastic used in the Amtrak Flex Meal plate as dangerous when heated.*

*Plastic #1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE or Polyester) From Town of Truckee CA recycling website:
“Several studies have shown that antimony leaches from this kind of plastic, and some suggest that the leaching may even reach dangerous levels. To avoid risk of exposure, you should never microwave plastic #1 or leave it in hot places. Heat triggers the antimony to leach from the plastic.” [Amtrak heats this plastic enough to melt and warp]

SUMMARY: Food content rates a ‘1’ however, overall, this cuisine non recommendable.
1] Carcinogenic properties of Polyethylene Terephthalate plate when heated.
2] Sodium at unhealthy level.
3] Waste is not recycled or reused.

FOOD REVIEW ON WIMS #: 26571 Picture.png
 
Joined
Jul 2, 2020
Messages
4
Note: Coffee is no longer available in the mornings in the sleeper cars. You have to go to the dining car and wait for an attendant.

Hi everyone. I have been a ''lurker'' here for a while and have been reading all the interesting and informative information on the site.
Besides the Flex meals, now they have taken away the coffee in the sleeper car. I hope Amtrak can get back to normal as soon this virus gets under control.
 

flitcraft

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
483
This seems like prison food to me--mushy enough to eat with plastic utensils, high in fat and salt; and low in nutritional quality, reasonable quantity, and overall edibility.
 
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