New Amtrak cafe car menus (Aug 2022)

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jebr

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rs9

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Turkey and havarti - a sure sign that the powers that be are aiming to end long distance service!!!! They couldn't even get cheddar!!!???!!!??? Sorry, couldn't help myself. ;)

Like many things with Amtrak, the cafe car has felt like a huge lost revenue opportunity. I'm sure there would be logistical challenges, but the dearth of fresh food options is striking. Fruit options like apples that won't spoil quickly, or bananas that will hopefully last at least a long distance journey, seems like a very easy win.
 

adamj023

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Question: Does Amtrak do contactless credit card payments on trains for food? Or just regular credit card payments?

Also, does Amtrak use wireless signals from wireless carriers or do they have a separate network to process credit cards? Just wondering if there are deadspots so credit card payments won’t be accepted during that time or how it works. The new food menus seem better but its generally better to buy food in advance and bring it with you to consume on board if you can.
 

zephyr17

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Question: Does Amtrak do contactless credit card payments on trains for food? Or just regular credit card payments?

Also, does Amtrak use wireless signals from wireless carriers or do they have a separate network to process credit cards? Just wondering if there are deadspots so credit card payments won’t be accepted during that time or how it works. The new food menus seem better but its generally better to buy food in advance and bring it with you to consume on board if you can.
Uses wireless. It stores transactions offline when out of service, then runs them when they reconnect. Think you have to insert chip or swipe, but they fairly recently changed over to a new system, and I don't recall whether ir not you can tap.
 
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Uses wireless. It stores transactions offline when out of service, then runs them when they reconnect. Think you have to insert chip or swipe, but they fairly recently changed over to a new system, and I don't recall whether ir not you can tap.
I was recently on the Sunset Limited and Crescent. The Cafe Car accepted the "tap" type credit card as well as swipe and chip.
Had no problems with any of my transactions. The only "problem" I recall was the the reader and cash register weren't communicating but that was quickly resolved. The issue was not due to being in a cellular dead spot. As mentioned above, if in a deadspot the device will hold the transaction until service is restored. That will not delay you getting your food.
All of my (beer) transactions went through just fine including 3X points and the 20% statement credit with my AGR credit card.
 

Amtrak25

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Uses wireless. It stores transactions offline when out of service, then runs them when they reconnect. Think you have to insert chip or swipe, but they fairly recently changed over to a new system, and I don't recall whether ir not you can tap.

On a southbound Adirondack trip in 2019, train lost WiFi service somewhere south of the border until Rensselaer. Therefore cafe attendant says sales must be cash only.

So much for the storing of transactions, or he didn't know how to do it, or he didn't know there was such a thing. But in any case - cash only.
 

trimetbusfan

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On a southbound Adirondack trip in 2019, train lost WiFi service somewhere south of the border until Rensselaer. Therefore cafe attendant says sales must be cash only.

So much for the storing of transactions, or he didn't know how to do it, or he didn't know there was such a thing. But in any case - cash only.
They also just recently replaced the POS (Point of Sale) systems that the LSAs use.
 
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This Washington Post story may be of interest. The reporter took Acela from Washington to Philadelphia and bought 15 items from the menu and rated them. Hardly enough time to fairly rate that many items, but she thinks she did a fair job. Ironically, she made reference to gas station food. LOL She gave my fave, the burger, an 8.5/10. I feel vindicated! It is my guilty pleasure on many of my trips.
 

MccfamschoolMom

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"Gas station food?" I suppose that means the food sold in convenience stores where they also sell gasoline as a loss leader to get you to come in and buy the highly profitable coffee. (Someone in the business once told me that the revenue on the first cup of coffee pays for the entire cost of the whole urn.) In my neck of the woods, convenience store food is actually not too bad. I'm thinking the fried chicken at Royal Farms, the hoagies at Wawa, etc. They also have a pretty good selection of grab and go items to add variety. It's not gourmet food, but it does the job. I deliberately stop at some of these places for lunch, particularly to get the fried chicken or the hoagie. However, that really can't be replicated in a train cafe car. The number of customers in limited, if captive, and preparing stuff to order requires more staff than can be supported by the revenues generated. Last week I was at a Wawa to get a hoagie, they had three people working the kitchen area (plus 2 cashiers), and they couldn't keep up with the lunch rush, which didn't seem much longer than lines I've seen the cafe car. I waited a good bit longer than I usually do for a Wawa hoagie.

Forget about getting "fresh" "cooked to order" food on a train. It will all be prepackaged, but, of course, there are different levels of quality in prepackaged food, and let's hope Amtrak is finally willing to pay for a higher level of quality.
I buy pizza and doughnuts for the family from the local Casey's quite often, and have no issues about the quality. I have also bought their pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs for both breakfast and lunch, and would be happy to see those as either individual items or part of a "continental breakfast" in an Amtrak cafe car.
 

adamj023

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Amtrak could in theory have top quality or even custom offerings available if they wanted to. There are so many suppliers of food offerings including prepackaged and local options that could be utilized and lots of points throughout the journey that food can be brought onboard. I presume Amtrak Acela First class has the best food options in the entire Amtrak system.

As for the payment systems for food onboard, I presume it would be all contactless modern payment systems. Not sure if all trains have it or if its still a work in progress. They could implement a digital ordering system via their Amtrak mobile app or make other improvements to the system. The menu changes while seeming like an improvement aren’t significant as to what they could do.
 

pennyk

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MODERATOR NOTE: please return the discussion to the new Amtrak Cafe Menu.

Thank you for your cooperation.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I buy pizza and doughnuts for the family from the local Casey's quite often, and have no issues about the quality. I have also bought their pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs for both breakfast and lunch, and would be happy to see those as either individual items or part of a "continental breakfast" in an Amtrak cafe car.
They did have hard boiled eggs in the beginning of flex meals, but then dropped them. That made me very unhappy. Since then, I've taken my own prepackaged eggs (did someone say Wawa earlier) on my train trips.
 

Rambling Robert

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This Washington Post story may be of interest. The reporter took Acela from Washington to Philadelphia and bought 15 items from the menu and rated them. Hardly enough time to fairly rate that many items, but she thinks she did a fair job. Ironically, she made reference to gas station food. LOL She gave my fave, the burger, an 8.5/10. I feel vindicated! It is my guilty pleasure on many of my trips.
The WP reporter Natalie Compton did some good work rating (she says ranking) Amtraks new Cafe Menu - but her opening was a bit untrue and showy:
“Eating on America’s trains can leave a traveler wanting. On trains in Japan, you can dine on gourmet bento boxes and sake that cost less than a meal at a U.S. airport. Here you’re stuck with food you’d find at a gas station.”

Perhaps she got the gas station thing from this AU thread. She kinda left the quality of Amtrak's traditional dining at .. well ... the gas pumps. Fortunately some of her 62 plus reader who commented on her piece made the correction that fine dining is available on Amtrak (at a cost). There were some unfavorable rants about Amtrak too.

But it was nice to read her description of the 15 items that she scored from one to ten. I’ll try anything so the scoring doesn’t change me but the Tuscon Tamales you can bet I’ll have at my next trip to Tucson. A mom and pop Tucson Tamales make it to Amtrak - that’s great!

The strawberry/feta was worth trying to make at home. Beautifully glazed. The salad held up. Amtrak should check out the 50¢ package of sliced apples offered at all McDonalds. McDs salads are returning at some (very few) stores - if you read a piece by WP reporter Natalie Compton about McDonalds salads retuning - she prolly reading the AU!
 

Rambling Robert

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I was happy to read about the LD traditional menu making its way to the website.

I’ll wait to research the DownEaster menu until later next month because I’m treating a friend a ride to Brunswick to see the Arctic Museum and the Inuit exhibits there at Bowdoin College. We both have walking limitations and I think with a Lyft or two we’ll do fine. I think BC would be best with the cafe nearby.

Bowdoin College is considered the prettiest campus of all during foliage. I’m on their mailings. Planning breakfast and prolly dinner on the train and a good place for lunch.
 

NorthShore

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Amtrak could in theory have top quality or even custom offerings available if they wanted to. There are so many suppliers of food offerings including prepackaged and local options that could be utilized and lots of points throughout the journey that food can be brought onboard. I presume Amtrak Acela First class has the best food options in the entire Amtrak system.

All the more so, considering what a food centric city Chicago is, with the commissary being there for so many train routes.

Maybe they should just hire Rick Bayless to run Amtrak's food service?


If anyone could come up with a winning concept, surely, it would be him. He might even enjoy the challenge of making the unique situation work, like exists at an airport.
 

zephyr17

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All the more so, considering what a food centric city Chicago is, with the commissary being there for so many train routes.

Maybe they should just hire Rick Bayless to run Amtrak's food service?


If anyone could come up with a winning concept, surely, it would be him. He might even enjoy the challenge of making the unique situation work, like exists at an airport.
The state supported trains often have their own custom menus serving some local specialties. These are specified by the state transportation departments funding the services. The Cascades certainly do, I understand the Downeaster does as well. Not sure about California, Illinois or Michigan. I know the NYS supported trains just use the NEC cafe menu.

Aramark provides all Amtrak commissary services. They're a huge food services company and are entirely capable of providing most anything of any quality (as long as it's safe to eat) as long they're asked and paid.

While the Acela First Class meals are pretty good, and superior to flex (despite being in the same category of being reheated), my recollection of Acela Business Class is they serve the standard NEC cafe menu.
 
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