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Flexible dining - Requesting a review from a recent rider

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Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
How are the new dishes on the West menu? https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/projects/dotcom/english/public/documents/menus/routes/Flexible-Dining-Menu-West-0720.pdf

Does anyone have nutrition facts on the ENCHILADAS, CHICKEN MARSALA, and SHRIMP IN LOBSTER SAUCE?

I'm of the opinion that Amtrak will use this opportunity to conveniently get rid of "Traditional Dining" for good. They might as well also remove the Diner and let folks get meals in the Sightseer (or use the Viewliner Diner on Eastern trains and remove the Cafe car). The Viewliner Diner could become the Sightseer for Eastern trains.
You can bet that they are super high in sodium, not to mention a lot of other heart killer ingredients
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
Aw c'mon... flex this and flex that... twirl it on your head or juggle it between your arms while going from car to car... it's all the same stuff... we all know it... it's desperately ridiculously inconsiderate to the traveler and we're all saying the same thing... 'not good!' OMG! This is my 250th post... sorry to have to waste this milestone of sorts on such unfortunate catastrophic cuisine clumsiness on the part of Amtrak's total disregard for it's patrons!

If you wanna go by train, get a good loaf of rich wheat grain and seed bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a jar of really good strawberry jam, add some bon bell cheese, fruit, wine... and enjoy the view out the window! And be happy!

Flex dining is sooooo...
No Taste
No Texture
Small portion
Unsatisfying

With all these "bring-your-own-meals" suggestions, I can help but think of boarding a train, going to my roomette and accidently sitting on or putting my arm or hand on the leftover remnants of the meal preparation endeavor of the last passenger to occupy the room (or to find the leftover remnants under my seat). Not to mention the enhanced opportunity to encounter vermin.
Great and now we have Covid-19
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
View attachment 17916

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.

View attachment 17917

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).

View attachment 17918

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!
how much did you tip for room service?
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,700
Is the diner crew bringing your meals? That’s supposed to be the job of the sca.

Also... unless it’s changed because of covid the sca is supposed to offer you coffee in the morning, at least that’s what my sca told me and did right after the flex dining change on the meteor.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
Is the diner crew bringing your meals? That’s supposed to be the job of the sca.

Also... unless it’s changed because of covid the sca is supposed to offer you coffee in the morning, at least that’s what my sca told me and did right after the flex dining change on the meteor.
No, many say they've eliminated the morning coffee in the sleeping cars. Be sure to bring your own bottled water and kettle and powdered coffee; all you need with that are those pop tarts you can get at the dollar store. Have the tiny flex meals been discontinued yet? Don't forget your own cheese and crackers. Basically remember to bring your own food and drink and plenty of money for tipping.😒

Are we there yet???
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
264
Location
Michigan
Is the diner crew bringing your meals? That’s supposed to be the job of the sca.
Yes, the diner crew is taking my order and bringing (everyone's) meals just as they used to come take my reservation.

From what I gather, because of COVID, the dining car staff's workload went down and the SCA's workload went up.

Here's the 5:30 dinner rush:

MVIMG_20200702_174521.jpg
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
264
Location
Michigan
IMG_20200702_174442.jpg

Today I decided to try having dinner in the dining car. The new menus are also fully in effect so I decided to try the chicken marsala. "Seared chicken with cavatappi pasta, broccoli and carrots in a Marsala wine sauce"

The sauce in this one was not that salty, it had a lot but flat flavor. The vegetable medley was on par or slightly better than any frozen vegetable equivalent.

The chicken was terrible. Tough, dry and flavorless.

Side salad was great. Only problem: No plate for my dessert. They were out of the blondies.

IMG_20200702_180644.jpg
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
View attachment 17933

Today I decided to try having dinner in the dining car. The new menus are also fully in effect so I decided to try the chicken marsala. "Seared chicken with cavatappi pasta, broccoli and carrots in a Marsala wine sauce"

The sauce in this one was not that salty, it had a lot but flat flavor. The vegetable medley was on par or slightly better than any frozen vegetable equivalent.

The chicken was terrible. Tough, dry and flavorless.

Side salad was great. Only problem: No plate for my dessert. They were out of the blondies.

View attachment 17934
Ugh. 🤬
 

noflyzone

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 22, 2019
Messages
15
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.
Never been in prison. What's it like, other than food?
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
View attachment 17925

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.

View attachment 17926

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.
We can only guess at how this mass produced institutional food is assembled... each component might be taken from a big vat as the #1 Polyethylene Terephthalate plates whiz by the on a conveyer belt towards the freezer. Although the actual chemically enhanced food product may only cost the contracted service a few cents per meal, then sold to Amtrak for contracted price, Amtrak employees have told me several times they must bring their own food or pay $25 for this.

When it comes to progress, flex dining allows the passenger to balance a light meal on the head when bringing it back to the sleeping car while the traditional meals were heavier and had many components. In my opinion, this whole flex flop is over the top!😡
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
View attachment 17933

Today I decided to try having dinner in the dining car. The new menus are also fully in effect so I decided to try the chicken marsala. "Seared chicken with cavatappi pasta, broccoli and carrots in a Marsala wine sauce"

The sauce in this one was not that salty, it had a lot but flat flavor. The vegetable medley was on par or slightly better than any frozen vegetable equivalent.

The chicken was terrible. Tough, dry and flavorless.

Side salad was great. Only problem: No plate for my dessert. They were out of the blondies.
Oops! More cost cutting??? All of the posts with flex meal photos show they have discontinued the little carrot slivers in the 3 oz salads. Has anyone seen the carrot slivers lately??? I see they're holding steady on the cherry tomato; wondering when that's gonna go. Wonder what'll happen when the discontinue the lettuce from the salad???
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
264
Location
Michigan
The Brownies are the only dessert option correct? No gluten free option?
They have the Sweet Street Brownie and Blondie (which some staff call a cookie.) I know Sweet Street does have gluten free options but I'm not sure either of these are that.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,700
Thanks.
When the western trains first went to flex dining passengers reported the gluten free vanilla pudding was still available. Probably just extra stock they were going through.

Same with those Newman’s salad dressings - the only option on the silver meteor was a ketchup size packet of ranch dressing.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
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.
While the 'Flex Dining' food product itself may be edible for occasional intake in a critical situation, there are three reasons why it is not recommended for human consumption. The first two involve health risk, the last is environmental. I hope Amtrak management is watching our forum and will rethink its responsibilities to both safety and the environment.

1] Carcinogenic and toxic properties of Polyethylene Terephthalate plate when heated.*
2] Sodium at unhealthy level.
3] Food and container waste is not recycled or reused.

* If you will be 'Flex Dining' your food will be heated in the plastic dish. Turn it over and you will see the designation as '1' in the triangular recycling stamp required by law. You owe it to yourself to check this out:

 

joelkfla

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
179
While the 'Flex Dining' food product itself may be edible for occasional intake in a critical situation, there are three reasons why it is not recommended for human consumption. The first two involve health risk, the last is environmental. I hope Amtrak management is watching our forum and will rethink its responsibilities to both safety and the environment.

1] Carcinogenic and toxic properties of Polyethylene Terephthalate plate when heated.*
2] Sodium at unhealthy level.
3] Food and container waste is not recycled or reused.

* If you will be 'Flex Dining' your food will be heated in the plastic dish. Turn it over and you will see the designation as '1' in the triangular recycling stamp required by law. You owe it to yourself to check this out:

A Congressional investigation of point #1 might change things pretty quick. Congresspeople, especially Democratic ones, love to appear to be watching out for the safety of their constituents.
 

fdaley

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
72
Ugh. Just looking at the food pictures here reminds me why I don't want to take Amtrak anymore. I have loved traveling by train and was an AGR Select Plus member for many years based mainly on long-distance travel in sleeper cars. Last year, after "contemporary" food came to the Lake Shore and Capitol, I cut back on traveling and was downgraded to Select status. This year I won't even achieve that. Before the pandemic hit, we had talked about finding another way to Chicago and then taking the western trains from there, but with all of those trains now serving the same horrible slop, I am glad to be staying home. If traditional dining doesn't return, I doubt I will ever take another overnight train trip, except perhaps on Via Rail -- if its long-haul routes return. I could write to Amtrak and tell them how much money I'm saving by staying home, but I have a funny feeling the current management team would regard that as success.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
706
Location
Oregon Coast
Ugh. Just looking at the food pictures here reminds me why I don't want to take Amtrak anymore. I have loved traveling by train and was an AGR Select Plus member for many years based mainly on long-distance travel in sleeper cars. Last year, after "contemporary" food came to the Lake Shore and Capitol, I cut back on traveling and was downgraded to Select status. This year I won't even achieve that. Before the pandemic hit, we had talked about finding another way to Chicago and then taking the western trains from there, but with all of those trains now serving the same horrible slop, I am glad to be staying home. If traditional dining doesn't return, I doubt I will ever take another overnight train trip, except perhaps on Via Rail -- if its long-haul routes return. I could write to Amtrak and tell them how much money I'm saving by staying home, but I have a funny feeling the current management team would regard that as success.
Na, the robotic management team... they just don't care. You know... it's the government bureaucracy.

And like you, part of the fun of the travel were those meals... railroad french toast drowning in butter and syrup for breakfast, delicious angus burgers at lunch, and a steak dinner... while watching the world fly by. What? the price hasn't gone down? Not in anyway desperate to take the train. Bring back quality, customer respect/appreciation, and delicious food or I'm gone. Maybe its time to focus on car trip vacations allowing freedom and control when traveling.

eps2017070919323185187201xtcna_thumb-.jpg
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
I see that the House of Representatives is looking at legislation to require Amtrak to have regular dining cars again.

Instead of micro-managing Amtrak, the Federal government should just give it its grant and let Amtrak do what it wants to maximize revenues and minimize losses. I'd guess that something in-between Flexible Dining and made-to-order meals would maximize profits. Amtrak has had some pretty capable CEOs lately. Just let them run their business!
 
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