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me_little_me

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What was that movie where the restaurant was out of everything the star wanted to order? I think Jack Nicholson was the star.

No wonder they were out of so many things on our return trip from El Paso! They were clearing out the remaining stock. "Hey, we have one gelato left!". "No, I was saving that for myself. Tell them all we have is the cheesecake!"
 

rickycourtney

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I personally think this is a *good* change. With the more vague menus Amtrak can now be more nimble when it comes to offering different dishes.

For example it sounds like the Kung Pau chicken on the current menu has been very unpopular. But it's remained on the menu for 6 months because Amtrak hasn't reprinted the menu. Now if an item is unpopular, it can be easily replaced by something better.
 
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T

Train person

Guest
After being overcharged for your sleeper room for two
Overcharged relative to what? Sleeper travel is discretionary. It's like buying a Mercedes Benz instead of a Kia. If you see value in it at the price that's offered, fine. If not or if it's priced out of range, then don't buy it.

Amtrak should optimize revenue from sleepers just like airlines optimize revenue from first and business class.
Overcharged if you book via the website as opposed to calling Amtrak. It's a well known glitch/bug/scam well known around these parts.
 

D.P. Roberts

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Guilder & Florin Scenic Railroad
I'm not completely against the vagueness of the menu, as Amtrak frequently can't come through with the menus they actually presented. Better to have no information than the wrong information.

Amtrak could put a positive spin on this (at least on the vagueness of the menu) by actually announcing the menu on the PA when they start taking reservations before each meal. It wouldn't cost them anything, would speed up dinner service, and might drum up some business.

ButI agree that it is a fail for those with special dietary needs.
 

neroden

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Ithaca, NY
One of the problems I have with the new (minimal) menu is that both I and my fiancee have some very specific dietary restrictions.

With the new menu, there are two fixed items for lunch, and two items where you don't know what you're going to get until you get on the train. The same is the case with dinner.

If you go to Amtrakfoodfacts.com, you will find the list of possibilities (here for the Lake Shore Limited):

http://www.amtrakfoodfacts.com/lp.do?sk=27E969C90BF7345700B119B2BEB3A2236974A441D56C9C6D&EV=2

The "marketplace special" is either kung pao chicken or panko crusted chicken breast. The "specialty sandwich" is either crab cake or bratwurst.

Now, maybe I can eat one of these but not the other. (This is true. I can't eat the Kung Pao Chicken, and I'm not sure about the ingredients in the bratwurst.) If so, I have to assume that the one I can't eat is the one which will be on the train. This restricts the amount of menu I can rely on *massively*. I also can't eat the black bean burger.

So, for lunch, Angus burger, period? I can't eat that every day, it's unbalanced (I have a fairly sensitive digestion and need to get balanced meals with fiber and veggies in them). I used to rely on the entree salad if nothing else was OK.

Also, now if they run out of the Angus burger, there is NOTHING. Which means I simply have to bring my own food.

The dinner's worse for my fiancee. My fiancee can't eat either "Healthy Option" or either "Vegetarian Option" or the sauce on the steak due to allergies.... and one of the two fish options is probably no good (so we have to assume that that's the one on the menu). Half chicken every day? At least it comes with vegetables on the side.

I've already mentioned that there are no desserts which I would consider eating any more. My fiancee can eat the sorbet, that's it.

My fiancee has suggested that the goal of these idiotic cuts is to eliminate the dining cars entirely. Which would, of course, massively sabotage ridership on routes which run across mealtimes.

I will probably be forced to bring a cooler on all future trips. Which is *ridiculous*. It also makes the sleeper prices seem genuinely unreasonable.
 
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SarahZ

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KAL
I know this is simply a Band-aid on the wound, and I really did take the rest of your post to heart, neroden, but your fiancee might be able to eat the steak after all. Every time I order it, they've put the sauce in a little cup on the side instead of pouring it all over the steak. I don't ask for it that way; it just comes that way. It might be crew-specific.

Anyway, could she eat the steak if she asked them to hold the sauce?
 

neroden

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Yeah, she could. She doesn't really like steak without sauce, so pretty miserable choices.

I really do think I'm going to have to get a cooler and start bringing my meals on board for future trips. What a pain.

At least the breakfast menu is still OK.

That means I don't have a problem from Syracuse to Chicago (where breakfast is all we get anyway).

I can buy dinners in Chicago and bring it on board for Chicago-Minneapolis pretty easily, and it also shouldn't be too hard to carry lunch on for Minneapolis-Chicago. (Assuming the Empire Builder ever starts running near schedule again.)

However, I was also planning trips to Florida, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle (again, assuming the Empire Builder every starts running near schedule again), and I really can't work out how to handle it. For Florida, perhaps I could put lunch and dinner in the cooler, and this already sounds impractical; for the West Coast, the situation sounds completely impossible.
 
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pennyk

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Nathanael, I am in a similar position as you and your fiance. Pretty much the only lunch option available to me is the burger, even though I try to avoid eating meat. I am allergic to garlic, am lactose intolerant and have a difficult time digesting fried food, so my choices are limited. At dinner, sometimes I eat veggies and baked potato. Sometimes the veggies are cooked with garlic so I am really limited. I also have a difficult time in restaurants, so I am not blaming Amtrak. I try to go with the flow and I have tried to stop being bothered by the fact that I am paying for meals that I am not eating.
 

neroden

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On past trips, we were really leaning on that lunch entree salad, which was quite innocuous.

I'm not so bothered about the money, it's just that it's pretty impractical to pack all my lunches and dinners for two people for a trip from Chicago to LA or NY to Florida.
 
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SarahZ

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KAL
For situations like this, I think it would be nice if the dining car (or Amtrak) could give you some kind of meal voucher to use in the cafe car. That way, "meals" are still included, even if it's a sandwich, pizza, yogurt, etc. downstairs. I know the food quality is quite different, but it would save you from having to purchase and pack food.
 

neroden

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For situations like this, I think it would be nice if the dining car (or Amtrak) could give you some kind of meal voucher to use in the cafe car. That way, "meals" are still included, even if it's a sandwich, pizza, yogurt, etc. downstairs. I know the food quality is quite different, but it would save you from having to purchase and pack food.
I believe my fiancee can eat the hot dog in the cafe car, and that is literally *all*. Yeah, gonna have to bring our own food. (Unless things improve before our next trip.)

One of the problems is simply the low quality of the cafe car food. Heck, if packets of carrot sticks were available in the cafe car it would probably help. ;)

There was a law a while back requiring the Congressional cafeteria to make meals available which were compliant with the USDA's dietary recommendations. It would be nice if Amtrak would do the same thing. I know the fatty fried stuff sells better, but that's no reason to remove the more-balanced stuff from the menu entirely; they're appealing to different markets.

...looking on the upside, at least breakfast still has a decent selection.
 
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Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
Gazing into the crystal ball I see:

Amtrak Diners will have a choice of beef, chicken or veggie pasta (like Airlines used to offer Coach pac) and Am salads without tomatoes since the price is going up! Once the contract with Newman's own is up the salad dressing will be some generic gruel like Kraft and the prices will go up for.everything!

Pre-orderimg of regular meals in the diner when reservations ate made is an idea that should have been done years ago!

Perhaps the time has come for Amtrak to consider contracting out the food service like in the Fred Harvey/Santa Fe days! Everything old isn't always bad especially when it worked great!
 
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SarahZ

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One of the problems is simply the low quality of the cafe car food. Heck, if packets of carrot sticks were available in the cafe car it would probably help. ;)
I know it will never happen, but I would do the happiest of Happy Dances if Amtrak could ever figure out a way to install a salad bar.
 

neroden

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Honestly, if Subway were running the cafe cars, I'd be happier -- easy enough to get a balanced meal at a Subway if you pick the right ingredients, and my fiancee would have several choices. Not to drag up old fights or anything.
 
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Devil's Advocate

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I'm not picky about the ingredients so much as the quality and taste.* For a long time I was really negative about AmChow until years of public relations spin eventually resulted in actual improvements from their chef inspiration council. Finally I could look forward to a meal in the diner as if I was going to a restaurant I actually enjoyed. We got a year or two of decent meals with updated ticketing and better service. I began to wonder if the day would come when I might be running out of things to complain about. Then a few months ago someone posted about Amtrak's service standards taking another trip through the cost cutting department. The initial cuts themselves weren't completely unreasonable but the big picture trend lines were what got my attention. Sure enough the first meal on my last trip was so incredibly bad that I only took two bites. It was supposed to be pancakes with sausage but it was absolutely terrible. The pancakes were unbelivably rubbery and tasted like freezer burn. The pork sausage had a horrible sponge-like texture with weird colors and no flavor at all. I asked the server to confirm what I had ordered since it bore no resemblence to anything I'd eaten before. The syrup coffee and frozen orange juice wasn’t strong enough to wash down a meal like that. It was a true culinary disaster. If you think I’m just too picky for my own good you might be surprised to learn that I'm simple enough to have no problem eating McDonald’s generic breakfast platters when I'm pinched for time or money. In fact I’ve probably eaten them a hundred times or more without any serious issues. If McDonald’s can figure out how to make a decent tasting (if unhealthy) breakfast why can’t Aramark? It seriously confuses me how bad these meals can get after the bean counters start messing with them.

*If I had kids I would also want the option to avoid largely unregulated gene level modifications but I doubt Amtrak or Aramark have any clue or concern about such things.
 

Texan Eagle

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Aug 25, 2011
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I think this idea has come from a bean counter who considers himself super smart- let's make the menus so vague that we can get away with stocking just the bare minimum food and serve it under different names at different meals.

They could go ahead and just make the menu even simpler-

Lunch Choices

1) Food

2) Other Food

Dinner Choices

1) Some Food

2) Another Food
 

SarahZ

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May 8, 2011
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KAL
I think this idea has come from a bean counter who considers himself super smart- let's make the menus so vague that we can get away with stocking just the bare minimum food and serve it under different names at different meals.

They could go ahead and just make the menu even simpler-

Lunch Choices

1) Food

2) Other Food

Dinner Choices

1) Some Food

2) Another Food
I know you're being serious, but that made me laugh. :D
 

Bob Dylan

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Hopefully Anderson's standby chow (MREs) won't be stocked in the Diners!

(Thinking of that moron congress critter who said the troops couldn't get hot meals cause Amtrak was wasting so Much Money!!!!!!
 
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neroden

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If you go to www.amtrakfoodfacts.com you will discover that each of the vague menu items is actually *one of two things*. The trouble with this is that apparently which of the two it is, is random and you can't find out before boarding!

I remember when Amtrak simply published "eastbound" and "westbound" menus, which eliminated this problem.
 
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D.P. Roberts

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If you go to www.amtrakfoodfacts.com you will discover that each of the vague menu items is actually *one of two things*. The trouble with this is that apparently which of the two it is, is random and you can't find out before boarding!I remember when Amtrak simply published "eastbound" and "westbound" menus, which eliminated this problem.
It looks like the information on that site is over a year old (it says currenr as of 5/8/13). I'm not sure whether you can trust any of it or not.
 

rickycourtney

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Fresno, CA
God I hope amtrakfoodfacts.com is out of date. You would think they would have kicked the Kung Pao chicken to the curb with this new menu.
 

Bob Dylan

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Slogan for Amtrak Financial Excellence Bean Counter Meeting:

"Let them eat Kung Pao Chicken! What could possibly go wrong??!!!
 
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