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Reviews for carry-on food at your station

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MARC Rider

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With the new flex dining being apparently inedible for a large part of the AU community, I think it would be a good idea to post reviews of carry-out (also known as "take away") food locations at various Amtrak stations.

I'm going to start with Washington, not my home station of Baltimore. Baltimore has limited choices in the station, and, to be quite honest, I haven't spent much time in the surrounding Station-North area sampling carry-out food. There is Dunking Donuts outlet in BAL, which I use sometimes to get a bagel and coffee before my departure. It's similar to, but a bit cheaper than the cafe car. There's another cafe that has a wider selection, but I've never bought anything there, so I can't review it. Certainly nothing to replace dining car food if I ride out on the Meteor, Crescent, or Star, or Cardinal.

Thus, I'll focus on Washington Union Station. I have to change here if I'm riding out on the Capitol, anyway. There are numerous carry out choices in this station. I have been sampling them for almost 20 years as part of my extreme commuter experience. Unfortunately, if you wish a full meal, it may not be available, it may not be packed to go in a suitable manner, you may have to build a full meal from multiple sources, and it may cost a good deal for a full meal.

The most important thing for carry-out is that it's packed to go in a manner that east to and doesn't leak or otherwise make a mess. I once picked up a great bibimpap combo at a food court in Koreatown, New York for a ride home on the Northeast Regional. Great food, but what a mess trying to unpack it and eat it on my dinky little tray table. You really need to pick food that's easy to eat and is packed properly. The clamshell containers that a lot of carry outs use are lousy for this, in my opinion. You look at them crosswise, and they pop open, spilling their contents.

The other thing to consider to how long the food is going to keep. If you're taking the Meteor or the Crescent out, you will be leaving at dinner time, so you can buy right before departure, and your food will still be hot if you eat right upon departure. If you're taking the Star or Capitol, you will be leaving in the late afternoon, and whatever you buy will need to keep for 2-4 hours. If you're taking the Cardinal, you'll leave at lunch time, you your lunch will be fresh, but whatever you buy for dinner will be sitting for half the day. Some people are culturally conditioned to accept only a "hot meal" as proper sustenance, especially for dinner. They may have to revise their thinking if they take the afternoon long-distance trains and buy cold sandwiches or entree salads for dinner, packing them in a cooler if they're worried about them going bad.

With that, here's my opinion about the eateries at Washington Union Station (for which I have experience). Note that nearly all of these are chain establishments.

Pret A Manger - Grab and go sandwiches, wraps, soups, some hot sandwiches, etc. The food is supposedly made fresh every day on site and the left overs are donated to homeless shelters every evening. Sandwiches are reasonable priced, but I think the other stuff, chips, drinks, desserts, etc are a bit over priced. (But then so is everything in WUS). The breakfast stuff is good, but overpriced. Better to go across the corridor to Au Bon Pain. The carryout packaging is pretty secure, and they give you a bag with handles.

Au Bon Pain - Similar food to Pret, but you can get the sandwiches and salads made to order. They have a wider selection of breakfast sandwiches and you can get plain oatmeal, doctoring it up to your specifications. I spent half my career getting breakfast at Au Bon Pain.

Chopt -- You get a full meal in a bowl, salad greens (mostly), some meat or other protein, and a bunch of other stuff to add calories and make you feel more full. It's pretty good, but the salad will wilt by the time you get to the train if they put dressing in. I suppose you could ask for them to give you the dressing on the side in a separate container, but their default is to dress the salad when it's made. The salad is served in a clear plastic bowl with a snap-on lid, so it is pretty secure being carried to the train.

Chipotle -- Nice burritos, but eating them in the train can be a mess, and you can end up having bits of rice and stuff littering the floor of your seating area or compartment.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop -- I don't usually eat there, but they have an assortment of sub-type sandwiches, pretty well wrapped up.

Cava - "Mediterranean" salads or grain bowls, with choice of meat, veggies, middle eastern/Greek salads (hummus, tzatziki, etc.). Served in a plastic bowl with snap top lid that would travel well to the train.

Shake Shack -- Burgers, fries and, of course, shakes. Pretty good for a fast food burger, I always eat on site, so I'm not sure how they pack 'em to go. I'm also not sure how they would be after sitting for an hour or two.

Pizzeria Uno -- Chicago style deep dish pizza and other Italian stuff. I had a pretty good deep-dish pizza here. I'm not sure how they pack everyhting to go, excpet that the pizza would be in a typical pizza box.

East Street Cafe -- Asian food from all of the major east Asian cuisines. I usually get the Singapore noodles or the Malaysian grilled garlic shrimp with noodles. Noodles (not with soup) or fried rice would probably be the best stuff to get as carry out. I'm not sure how they pack the carry-out orders.

Legal Seafod -- A full seafood menu. I once ate there and thought it to be overpriced. Also, I'm not sure that I'd want to take seafood as a carryout dinner. Again, I'm not sure how they pack carry-out.

Thunder Grill -- I'm not sure it's still open, as the Union Station website doesn't show it anymore, but I think it was still going when I passed through in September. It is mostly sit-down, but I suppose they do carry out, but I don't know how it's packed if they do it. Southwestern themed stuff, I like the fish tacos and the BBQ brisket sandwich.

Le Pain Quoditien - French style "boulangerie" menu. Never have eaten there, and I don't know how they pack carry-out orders.

Sbarro -- Pizza, calzones, salads and a few pasta dishes as well as a buffet (pay by the weight.). I think the buffet plates have a snap type lid, but keeping everyhting from leaking could be a problem. The pizza is a typical "New York slice," in a cardboard pizza slice shaped box for carry out.

McDonald's - typical McDonald's food and service. Sometimes they're a little disorganized.

Downstairs, there's a full food court, where you can get a range of different fast food choices. I usually use the Lotus Express (decent food court Chinese and the rice/noodle bowls have a secure carry container), Bojangles (nice box of fried chicken and dirty rice), Charley's Philly steaks (I get the $5.99 steak and fries special), Chick Fil A, subway, a Japanese hibachi place (cash only) and a few other places that I've never tried. They used to have a sushi place that wasn't bad, but that's been gone for a while.

On the main concourse by Gates B and C, the Hudson News has a selection of grab and go stuff that includes sandwiches, deli packs, fruit and cheese packs, etc.

In general, while there's a lot of food choices at WUS, some of which are even tasty, I'm not sure that you can get anything equivalent of a dining car meal to take on the train. The most practical things are going to be sandwiches, salads, and maybe a pizza, all of which you're probably going to have to eat at room temperature.

Tomorrow I head out on the Capitol for the Gathering. I'll be able to better report whether the flex dining is as horrible as many say and compare it to what's available. I'd be interested in getting a review of what's available at your station. In particular, I'm interested in Chicago, as I will be returning home through there, and if flex dining is really that bad, I may want to have some emergency rations on hand.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Delaware
I’ll be on the Cap with you tomorrow. I may grab a snack in WUS, but do plan to eat a flex meal.
 

pennyk

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The Orlando station has a hot dog stand right outside the station. I have seen crew members leave the Star or Meteor during the fresh air stop to pick up a dog. I do not eat hot dogs, so I have never tried their food, but they get good reviews.
I plan to eat an early lunch prior to boarding the Meteor (which is scheduled to depart at 1:35pm). I do not particularly like eating in my room. (On the way home, I likely will eat an early dinner in WAS before boarding 97).
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
Thanks for the Update on WAS, see you in Big D!!

Chicago: Except for Gold Coast Dogs( the Brats are especially good!), I can't really recommend any of the Food Court places inside Union Station.

There are plenty of places around Union Station of all types.(unfortunately Al's Roast Beef has Closed:()

But if you're riding the Western Trains they still have Full Menu Diners except for the CONO!For Now!!!????
 
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McLeansvilleAppFan

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Jul 29, 2019
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Greensboro (McLeansville0, NC
Greensboro NC does have a small convenience type store in the Amtrak Station. Not open for the early morning Crescent. During the daytime Piedmont and Carolinian stops the store tends to be open and has candy and snacks. They also sell a bit more such water, drinks, and hot dogs. Nothing to make a meal out of really but in a pinch there is food there. It seems like they may also have Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

On the same site is the Greensboro Transit bus depot and there tends to be a food stand there as well. Again mostly available during daylight hours. Not as much selection as a food truck would have but I think it serves hot dogs, and maybe a few other items.

My suggestion would be to take care of food needs before getting to the train station, though in a pinch there are some options.

There is an ATM directly beside the small store and some vending machines as well.
 

Bex

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NEC
Baltimore has limited choices in the station, and, to be quite honest, I haven't spent much time in the surrounding Station-North area sampling carry-out food. There is Dunking Donuts outlet in BAL, which I use sometimes to get a bagel and coffee before my departure. It's similar to, but a bit cheaper than the cafe car. There's another cafe that has a wider selection, but I've never bought anything there, so I can't review it.
My two stations are BAL and NYP. I'll leave NYP for someone with more inclination, plus there are a dozen threads about it. I get my lunch there once a week at either Wasabi (for fast-concept sushi) or Shake Shack (essentially because they have an app and it can be in my hands without a monetary transaction 30 seconds after I walk in). Occasionally I'll get a falafel plate at Chickpea. If I've already eaten and just want a snack, a donut at Krispy Kreme.

But at BAL, as you say, choices are limited. I've eaten at the cafe but it is very utilitarian and often just a reheated dish. However, if you have a few minutes and can walk up a block, there are a couple of great options. Sofi's Crepes On N. Charles has both savory and sweet crepes which are easily transportable. And Milk and Honey market just moved to the Nelson Kohl building on E. Lanvale, across from the Amtrak parking lot and has great coffee and sandwiches.

If you go south from the station on N. Charles you'll reach Subway, Chipotle, Starbucks, and some local shops (pizza, subs, deli, etc.). My favorite is XS which has a varied menu of sushi, burgers, baked goods, and more.
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
My Home Station in Austin has Vending Machines with Station Prices !

Austin is the Last Call for Breakfast for Sleeper Pax in the Diner on #22/#422 and Last Call for Dinner on #21/#421 when the Trains are on time.Most days they Welcomr Coach Pax on #21/#421 but NOT #22/#422.

The first stop North of Austin is Taylor where some of the Crews order BBQ to be delivered to the Train upon arrival around 1030AM.

Nothing going South ( San Marcos is a "Quickie Stop") until a 1030pm or so arrival into San Antonio.
.

Just across the Tracks past the New High Rise Condos ( Many!!)are Whole Foods, Trader Joes,several Food Trucks and 24 Diner and Counter Cafe.
 

F900ElCapitan

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I’m in the DFW area, so I’ll cover both Dallas and Fort Worth. The good thing about both areas is there are a plethora of establishments one could stop at if driving into the station. But if you are only talking walking distance or actually located in the station things change.

Dallas,
The station is in quite poor shape and often attracts homeless as a place to get out of the heat or cold. There are no food service establishments located in the station itself. But across the street there is a place called Cindi’s NY Deli, I have never been but they do get great reviews and have quite a large menu. They are open for breakfast and serve lunch until 3 everyday. Then a short distance further is a Subway. Pretty much everything else requires at least a 5 block walk.

Fort Worth,
Although the station also attracts some homeless population it is in pretty good shape all-in-all. The most viable food option is the Subway in the station and from what I’ve observed it gets a good business from both passengers and crew aboard the Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer. Being FTW is a fuel stop for the TE, it allows plenty of time for passengers to go order and get back to the train. The next closest option is about a 4 block walk, and plenty more options aren’t much further, but it would be too far if you’re already on board the TE. For the amount of passengers now using this station with Amtrak, the TRE (Dallas-Fort Worth), and TEXRail (DFW Airport-Grapevine-Fort Worth), the food options could really be expanded in the immediate area.
 

Sauve850

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Jan 9, 2014
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West Palm Beach, Florida
Flex dining food is not inedible. I ride the Cap eastbound and dinner is ok. For breakfast I had hot oatmeal, warmed blueberry muffin and two bowls of fruit with hot coffee. That's a good breakfast for me anyway given the fact I wont eat that well on my next leg down to Florida.

Chicago has poor takeout food in my opinion. I have tried but over the years but have given up. Washington however has many decent choices be it healthy or unhealthy. I usually have an overnight stay in DC so ride the Star back to Florida most of the time. I have lunch in the station. I find a decent sandwich, etc. i can pack in my cooler for dinner ( nothing messy for me) and go bad for breakfast. I carry tupperware and get a donut or two for breakfast.

This last trip I decided to try the Orlando hot dog cart rather than cafe stuff for lunch. I eat very few hot dogs during the year but this was really good.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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Dallas,
The station is in quite poor shape and often attracts homeless as a place to get out of the heat or cold. There are no food service establishments located in the station itself. But across the street there is a place called Cindi’s NY Deli, I have never been but they do get great reviews and have quite a large menu. They are open for breakfast and serve lunch until 3 everyday. Then a short distance further is a Subway. Pretty much everything else requires at least a 5 block walk.

Cindi's is EXCELLENT (I'm overdue for a day trip on the Heartland Flyer/TRE for a late Cindi's lunch) and most of their offerings are suitable for take away.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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Norman, OK
The Orlando station has a hot dog stand right outside the station. I have seen crew members leave the Star or Meteor during the fresh air stop to pick up a dog. I do not eat hot dogs, so I have never tried their food, but they get good reviews.
I plan to eat an early lunch prior to boarding the Meteor (which is scheduled to depart at 1:35pm). I do not particularly like eating in my room. (On the way home, I likely will eat an early dinner in WAS before boarding 97).
I may have a Winter escape trip to south Florida coming up; do they only have regular dogs or can you dress them out with chili, cheese and other yummies that belong on a good hot dog?
 

Anderson

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Nov 16, 2010
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So, with the two stations in Richmond:
-Richmond Main Street is only served by a few Regionals, but if hopping on there I would strongly recommend seeing if Havana 59 will let you do a to-go order. It is an excellent Cuban restaurant. There's also Bottoms Up Pizza and a few other places.
-As far as Richmond Staples Mill, that's a bit of a desert. There's a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant/grocery a block or so away in one of the shopping centers, a nearby Dunkin Donuts, and a McDonalds next door...but it really is lacking and the in-station cafe both leaves much to be desired and seems to close at some point in the afternoon. The state could probably do some wonders by renegotiating that concession in the long run.
 

Anderson

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Also, on WAS: If sushi or poke are your thing, there's a good poke place downstairs. I got a big poke bowl for a ride home on the Regional last week and it did just fine for the trip to RVR (and would have held me until NPN/NFK if need be).
 

MARC Rider

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Also, on WAS: If sushi or poke are your thing, there's a good poke place downstairs. I got a big poke bowl for a ride home on the Regional last week and it did just fine for the trip to RVR (and would have held me until NPN/NFK if need be).
Oh, yeas, I forgot about Aloha Poke down in the food court. Also down in the food court is &Pizza, a local chain that does made-to-order personal pizzas. I have particularly fond memories, because last winter during the government shutdown they offered free pizzas to anyone with a government employee ID badge.
 

tonys96

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Texas
I’m in the DFW area, so I’ll cover both Dallas and Fort Worth. The good thing about both areas is there are a plethora of establishments one could stop at if driving into the station. But if you are only talking walking distance or actually located in the station things change.

Dallas,
The station is in quite poor shape and often attracts homeless as a place to get out of the heat or cold. There are no food service establishments located in the station itself. But across the street there is a place called Cindi’s NY Deli, I have never been but they do get great reviews and have quite a large menu. They are open for breakfast and serve lunch until 3 everyday. Then a short distance further is a Subway. Pretty much everything else requires at least a 5 block walk.

Fort Worth,
Although the station also attracts some homeless population it is in pretty good shape all-in-all. The most viable food option is the Subway in the station and from what I’ve observed it gets a good business from both passengers and crew aboard the Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer. Being FTW is a fuel stop for the TE, it allows plenty of time for passengers to go order and get back to the train. The next closest option is about a 4 block walk, and plenty more options aren’t much further, but it would be too far if you’re already on board the TE. For the amount of passengers now using this station with Amtrak, the TRE (Dallas-Fort Worth), and TEXRail (DFW Airport-Grapevine-Fort Worth), the food options could really be expanded in the immediate area.
Cindy's is pretty good, and portable.
 

Devil's Advocate

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May 24, 2010
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San Antonio, Texas

Restaurants that are within walking distance (one mile) and serving food immediately prior to departure:

1. Denny's

The trains that serve San Antonio do not yet employ "Flexible Contemporary Dining" but if and when they do this is your option.
 
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neroden

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Ithaca, NY
Syracuse, NY has a rather decent diner within walking distance just a little way down Park Street, if you're willing to walk in the street and through parking lots (disgracefully, there's no sidewalk). Within driving distance are all the eateries at Destiny USA (formerly Carousel Mall).

In Chicago, the French Market under Ogilvie Station is a good bet, as is Yolk if you're there early enough.

I haven't found good options for me at New York Penn yet. If you can eat pizza, the pizza place kitty-corner to the 8th avenue entrance is excellent, but right now I generally can't.
 
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The two I'm most familiar with:

Trenton, NJ: Not much--the one fairly decent place that was not a chain restaurant closed. Just Dunkin Donuts, Auntie Annies, and McDonalds. Probably best to bring something with you if you need to leave from there.

Philadelphia 30th Street: Food court with Pret a Manger, Jersey Mikes, Saxbys Coffee, several Dunkin Donuts, and other similar chain places. Also a line of buffet-style places--Salad Works, an oriental place, and a place with decent sandwiches at the end of the row (closest to the Saxbys end). Nathans Hot Dogs (although not always open). One sit-down bar/restaurant, although I have not been there so don't know how good it is--maybe others here will know. The newstand store at the end near the statue has food to go as well. Definitely should be able to find something at 30th St.--it seems to be a point of pride in Philly to make sure there is somewhere to eat every foot or so.

Also, if the weather is nice, they have put a lovely urban park across the street (if you go through the food court to where the food court tables are, it is outside on that side of the building) with many chairs and tables, so you can take your food outside and eat it there.

As an aside, the Albany, NY, station has a wonderful coffee/sandwich shop (covered in the separate thread "Food at ALB").

Finally, thanks to MARC Rider for starting this extremely useful thread--I will check it--and maybe even print it out and take it--on my next trips!
 
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New York Penn has multiple options for grab and go.

Dunkin’ Donuts is located near the main Amtrak concourse. A good choice for bagels, donuts, muffins, coffee or soda.

Hudson News is located next to Dunkin’ Donuts and is you’re typical newsstand with more amenities like bags of chips.

I cannot really review the multiple pizza shops as I don’t eat pizza for very good reasons ( smell makes me hurl ). But those proliferate the station.

Auntie Anne’s pretzels is located by the stairwell for the Amtrak concourse last I checked. I think they are still there.

McDonalds I think is being evicted account of renovations. As is the bar next to it. I don’t know if they’ve closed already.

It’s essentially a mall masquerading as a train station. Sadly not a great one either. I believe the planned locations at the post office building holds more promise.
 

Pere Flyer

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Dec 25, 2016
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PVD / GRR
I’ve called three stations my “home station” in recent years.

GRR
Not much to report from this warehouse area segregated by highway from downtown. There’s a coffee shop about a quarter mile north, and the Downtown Market is on the other side of US-131. Neither are open during the Pere Marquette’s calling times. A food truck sometimes sets up shop on the curb near Vernon J. Ehlers Station serving coffee and small breakfast items.

NOR
The Santa Fe Depot is a short walk from Main Street, where there’s a diner and lots of burger and beer joints in both directions. A traveler could have coffee at Gray Owl, a block further north on Gray Street, or breakfast at The Diner, on Main Street, before catching Heartland Flyer No. 821 later that morning. A late dinner could be enjoyed after disembarking No. 822, but don’t count on the scheduled 8:47 p.m. arrival.

PVD
Providence Station offers one nondescript café to its 750k boardings per year. The café is one of a few places in Rhode Island where an MBTA Commuter Rail ticket can be purchased with cash. Providence Place, a shopping mall that’s a short walk from the station, houses P.F. Chang’s, TGI Friday’s, Cheesecake Factory, and other corporate dining establishments. The Downcity neighborhood is about a half mile from the station and has lots of variety—McCormick & Schmick’s, Dunkin, and everything in between, and also a 7-11. Lots of train service inside the station, and lots of food options outside the station.
 
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Maglev

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Sep 4, 2016
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Orcas Island, Washington
I am going to be able to provide minimal information here, but at least it's something.

From Mount Vernon, Washington, I would probably go with Fortune Mandarin restaurant (1.5 miles from Skagit Station) for the night train to Seattle or Vancouver, and the Mount Vernon Cafe (two blocks from the station) for breakfast on a morning train to Portland or Vancouver.

The other station I use is Bellingham, and there are numerous restaurants a couple blocks from the station in the historic Fairhaven district. Alas, I am not able to provide reviews of take-out food.
 

Seaboard92

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South Carolina
Columbia, SC. The only food options nearby are the Thirsty Fellow Bar. You can see it from the train when arriving on the right. It’s about two blocks and across the track from the station. Open late and decent pub food. And a Publix Supermarket about three blocks walk away on Gervais. Open 7AM to 10 or 11 PM.

Camden, SC. The only nearby food is a huddle house and I’ve never heard great things.

Clemson, SC
There is a McDonalds, Chick Fil A, and a Cookout within walking distance of the station. However there is a delivery service that will pick up from downtown restaurants and bars as well.
 
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