New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1, 2019

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20th Century Rider

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Hopefully someone can answer a quick alcohol related question related to Flexible Dining (especially as I will be experiencing it for the first time tomorrow when I leave Los Angeles on the Texas Eagle to Chicago)?

I'm assuming that when Amtrak says that the first one is on us they mean the first one per meal, and not simply the first one of the trip? Ever the optimist here...

Thanks!
Not only is it one per trip regardless of how long the trip... they've downsized the plastic wine bottles to 'wine minis.' If you want to maximize your 'only one' slim pickin's try the Corona Beer with a lime wedge... that is... if you still can.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Not only is it one per trip regardless of how long the trip... they've downsized the plastic wine bottles to 'wine minis.' If you want to maximize your 'only one' slim pickin's try the Corona Beer with a lime wedge... that is... if you still can.
What’s a wine mini? The serving size bottles were pretty small already.
 

20th Century Rider

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What’s a wine mini? The serving size bottles were pretty small already.
Tried to google some data on the updated wine amount in the new little plastic bottles without success... I had experienced several previous trips with the new 'contemporary service' and thought they had went from 6 to 5 oz but not totally sure. Anyway... for wine... it's not much. Fortunately, and as you may know, when traveling in a private room you can bring your own stock.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Tried to google some data on the updated wine amount in the new little plastic bottles without success... I had experienced several previous trips with the new 'contemporary service' and thought they had went from 6 to 5 oz but not totally sure. Anyway... for wine... it's not much. Fortunately, and as you may know, when traveling in a private room you can bring your own stock.
I didn’t realize the downgrade in the drink menu. You can’t order a half bottle of wine now.
 

Manny T

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My recollection is that when Amtrak initiated the first drink free with "contemporary" dining, initially if you ordered wine, you got a half bottle of Hahn cabernet or chardonnay (375ml) which Amtrak previously sold a la carte for around $18.50. It looked like this:
Note store retail price: $7.99.
I thought at the time that Amtrak was (a) being generous and (b) getting rid of their old stock.

Once these half-bottles ran out (I assume), they switched to giving mini-bottles (187ml) of cabernet or chardonnay which retail for about $1.50 in most supermarkets (they are usually sold in a 4 pack).
Amtrak sells these a la carte for $8.
As an "amenity" these mini-bottles are worthless imho.
 

jebr

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As an "amenity" these mini-bottles are worthless imho.
I wouldn't go so far as to say they're worthless. They're a small touch that, if executed better, could be a bit of an upgraded experience. I do think they should expand it to one alcoholic drink per meal included, and maybe include a few more "craft" sodas so that way people who don't drink alcohol can have something a bit more premium than a Coca-Cola if they prefer.

I also think it's a big miss to not have a cheese and cracker tray, along with a beverage of choice, provided on the LSL upon departure from Chicago. It'd be an easy way to get a bit more revenue pushed over to the F&B line item, and I think it'd step up the experience significantly without costing that much overall.
 

20th Century Rider

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I wouldn't go so far as to say they're worthless. They're a small touch that, if executed better, could be a bit of an upgraded experience. I do think they should expand it to one alcoholic drink per meal included, and maybe include a few more "craft" sodas so that way people who don't drink alcohol can have something a bit more premium than a Coca-Cola if they prefer.

I also think it's a big miss to not have a cheese and cracker tray, along with a beverage of choice, provided on the LSL upon departure from Chicago. It'd be an easy way to get a bit more revenue pushed over to the F&B line item, and I think it'd step up the experience significantly without costing that much overall.
When Amtrak started the contemporary meal program it was actually pretty nice… came in a balsa wood box which was handed to you in a reusable cloth shopping bag. The charcuterie plate plate was of impressive quality with a dessert of sea salt caramel; there was also a buffet style area which included extra rolls, desserts, condiments, and drinks. The complementary alcoholic drink included the larger 375 ml wine bottles. In addition to all this, each passenger received an overnight kit with toothbrush, soaps, etc. Soon thereafter the meal downgrades kicked in to where many of us have become offended. I enjoyed the initial meal offerings on two trips taken on the Lakeshore Limited.
amtrak charcuterie meal.png
 

Bob Dylan

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When I rode the Cap Ltd from WAS to CHI back in Oct. 2018, I received the Amenity Kit which was in my room upon boarding, but I thought the "Fresh and Contemporary" Dinner and Breakfast were the Worst 2 Meals by Far I've ever had on Amtrak!

There have been several improvements to the Offerings during the past 2 years, and now that Anderson has flown off into the Sunset, there are several improvements starting to happen on the LD Trains even as the Pandemic Measures are in effect.

Hopefully full Diner Service will return to the Western LD Trains once we get a handle on the Crisis and things start turning to the "New Normal."

Personally I favor returning to the traditional RR practice of Meals being a la carte, and being able to order your meals in advance while making your reservations!
 
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IndyLions

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When I rode the Cap Ltd from WAS to CHI back in Oct. 2018, I received the Amenity Kit which was in my room upon boarding, but I thought the "Fresh and Contemporary" Dinner and Breakfast were the Worst 2 Meals by Far I've ever had on Amtrak!

There have been several improvements to the Offerings during the past 2 years, and now that Anderson has flown off into the Sunset, there are improvements starting to happen on the LD Trains even during the Pandemic Measures being implemented.

Hopefully full Diner Serviceceill return to the Western LD Trains once we get a handle on the Crisis and things start turning to the "New Normal."
I agree, but there is a place on any menu for a good charcuterie plate...
 

20th Century Rider

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When I rode the Cap Ltd from WAS to CHI back in Oct. 2018, I received the Amenity Kit which was in my room upon boarding, but I thought the "Fresh and Contemporary" Dinner and Breakfast were the Worst 2 Meals by Far I've ever had on Amtrak!

There have been several improvements to the Offerings during the past 2 years, and now that Anderson has flown off into the Sunset, there are several improvements starting to happen on the LD Trains even as the Pandemic Measures are in effect.

Hopefully full Diner Service will return to the Western LD Trains once we get a handle on the Crisis and things start turning to the "New Normal."

Personally I favor returning to the traditional RR practice of Meals being a la carte, and being able to order your meals in advance while making your reservations!
I DO agree... nothing can replace the 'proper' way of dining on the train... a la carte is always best! That charcuterie plate was good quality and I was making the best of it. Now gone! And what Amtrak is serving now is awful! 😧
 

jiml

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I agree, but there is a place on any menu for a good charcuterie plate...
American Airlines introduced a decent brand-name charcuterie plate (pre-order only) last year for shorter flights in FC. Probably gone for good now.
 

MARC Rider

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I didn’t realize the downgrade in the drink menu. You can’t order a half bottle of wine now.
The size of the free bottle of wine served in flexible dining has always been 180 ml. A "half bottle" is 375 ml. (A whole bottler is 750 ml.) These are standard alcoholic beverage sizes regulated by the Federal government, and I don't think wine is sold in anything smaller. They do have little 50 ml bottles of spirits that are referred to as "miniatures, which are a single serving and is what you get in the cafe car when you order spirits or a mixed drink. (Which, in my experience, you have to mix yourself.)

Are they not offering the half bottles for cash sale anymore?
 

MARC Rider

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When Amtrak started the contemporary meal program it was actually pretty nice… came in a balsa wood box which was handed to you in a reusable cloth shopping bag. The charcuterie plate plate was of impressive quality with a dessert of sea salt caramel; there was also a buffet style area which included extra rolls, desserts, condiments, and drinks. The complementary alcoholic drink included the larger 375 ml wine bottles. In addition to all this, each passenger received an overnight kit with toothbrush, soaps, etc. Soon thereafter the meal downgrades kicked in to where many of us have become offended. I enjoyed the initial meal offerings on two trips taken on the Lakeshore Limited.
View attachment 17538
I remember hearing complains about the cold meals. So Amtrak tried to fix that with the microwaved hot entrees we have today.... Go figure. You can't please everybody.
 
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pennyk

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The size of the free bottle of wine served in flexible dining has always been 180 ml. A "half bottle" is 375 ml. (A whole bottler is 750 ml.) These are standard alcoholic beverage sizes regulated by the Federal government, and I don't think wine is sold in anything smaller. They do have little 50 ml bottles of spirits that are referred to as "miniatures, which are a single serving and is what you get in the cafe car when you order spirits or a mixed drink. (Which, in my experience, you have to mix yourself.)

Are they not offering the half bottles for cash sale anymore?
When contemporary dining was first introduced, sleeper passengers were given the option of ordering a half bottle of wine for their free drink (and I did several times). Although the smaller size is offered with flexible dining, half bottles are being sold. The LSA in the sleeper lounge on the Silver Meteor was not selling the half bottles, but they were being sold in the cafe car.
 

MARC Rider

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OK, here's an alternative I saw today in my local kosher supermarket.

20200522_145115.jpg

You can, using the magic of chemistry, prepare a hot entree right at your coach seat! There were a couple of other varieties on the shelf, as well. Who knows how they taste? The meatballs are (obviously) all beef, as these are kosher. I ate one of their products during Passover at work a few years ago, and I thought the steam puffing out of the corners of the box during heating was cool, the food quality left something to be desired, but maybe it was because it was the Passover addition, and certain ingredients couldn't be used. Also, the company may have reformulated stuff over the last couple of years.

I don't know whether similar products are available in non-kosher versions (presumably at a lower price).

I might try these on my next rip, but then I might just order the kosher flexible meals in advance, as the varieties on offer look better than the regular stuff.
 

crescent-zephyr

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The LSA in the sleeper lounge on the Silver Meteor was not selling the half bottles, but they were being sold in the cafe car.
That’s good to know! Of course it doesn’t really make sense why they wouldn’t sell them in the diner but that’s nothing new for Amtrak.
 

pennyk

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That’s good to know! Of course it doesn’t really make sense why they wouldn’t sell them in the diner but that’s nothing new for Amtrak.
I am guessing that the LSA in the sleeper lounge was not "selling" anything, thus did not have access to a credit card machine.... or it could have been that this LSA did not want to be bothered.... or he was sold out. This experience was on a fairly recent trip (December 2019), however I seem to recall that LSA were selling second drinks to sleeper passengers earlier in 2019 or in 2018. I usually purchase a half bottle from the cafe car since the small bottle is not "enough" for me. I only tried to purchase in the sleeper lounge once and it was not available, so I walked one car and bought the half bottle from the cafe car.
 

crescent-zephyr

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I am guessing that the LSA in the sleeper lounge was not "selling" anything, thus did not have access to a credit card machine....
Well if they weren’t selling anything they don’t need to be LSA’s correct?

The contemporary menu doesn’t list the half bottles.
 

20th Century Rider

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The food service has been on a downward spiral since last October 1... and now the pandemic, it will be interesting to see what happens on the LD trains as well as one night LD's when a cure and vaccine happen. And then there's the Presidential election which could also have an impact. There's hope for re emphasis on high speed rail now that the reduced auto traffic is slowing climate change. One thing's for sure... change on Amtrak has been constant. I know this sounds like a ramble; but we have a lot of things coming together. Let's stay tuned!
 

pennyk

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Well if they weren’t selling anything they don’t need to be LSA’s correct?

The contemporary menu doesn’t list the half bottles.
The LSA was heating up and distributing meals and distributing the free beverages.
 

pennyk

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Right. I was saying the only reason they need to be an LSA is if they handle money correct?
In that particular instance, I do not know. I do not know why that LSA could not sell me a half botttle. Maybe he did not have any more half bottles, but could have sold me a mini bottle, beer, scotch, etc.
 

crescent-zephyr

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In that particular instance, I do not know. I do not know why that LSA could not sell me a half botttle. Maybe he did not have any more half bottles, but could have sold me a mini bottle, beer, scotch, etc.
Sorry... I think I was on a different page or a different track if you want the pun!

The half bottle is not on the menu, I was saying it’s odd that the half bottle is not on the menu if it’s still being carried and stocked in the lounge car.

But either way, it’s good to know the half bottles are still available on the train if that’s what one wishes to buy.
 

20th Century Rider

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All this discussion about the cost of enjoying wine with dinner... not to forget that in a sleeper accommodation you can bring your own on board... and at a fraction of the cost. From all my travels the best indulgences have been those picnic meals I have brought with me to truly enjoy the journey!
Picnic on train.jpg
 
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