- Traditional dining is back on Amtrak as of June 23 on six long-distance routes.
- Sleeper car customers traveling west of Chicago will have white tablecloth service with a new selection of elegant meals.
- It’s part of Amtrak’s $28 million plan to upgrade its Superliner and Viewliner fleet of train cars.
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Starting June 23, six long-distance routes including the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle will offer dining options for sleeper car customers that harken back to the golden age of rail travel.
Amtrak’s catering has been lacking in recent years following cuts to the dining service, as Insider’s Graham Rapier found when riding between New York and Chicago in 2019. But new options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be available that will make riders look forward to mealtimes.
Amtrak showed off the new offering as part of a $28 million refresh of its long-distance trains. Take a look at the new Amtrak dining experience.
It starts with the tables. Amtrak is updating all of the seats and rooms on its Superliner and Viewliner trains, including dining room tables and seats.
New tabletops hadn’t been installed by the time of the tour but they are coming. Meanwhile, the old blue cushions and coverings with which loyal Amtrak riders are familiar will be replaced with a cleaner looking design.
White tablecloth service is resuming and being upgraded to beyond what was offered even before the pandemic. For the interim, a full spread of Amtrak-branded plates will be used but they’ll soon be replaced with full china in around three to four months.
Customers will once again have multiple choices for each meal, featuring both new items and old favorites.
For breakfast, “Amtrak signature railroad French toast” is back by popular demand but with a twist as fresh cream and mixed berries will be added on top.
Also on offer for the optimistic morning meal is a made-to-order three-egg omelet, scrambled eggs, and a continental breakfast. Sides include hardwood smoked bacon, pork sausage links, and chicken sausage links.
For lunch, comfort food is the name of the game. The “artisan grilled cheese” and “natural Angus burger” are two classic handheld choices.
But there are some healthier options on the table. Caesar salad with grilled chicken and “savory chili” are also menu options.
Dinner then caps off the meal service and another treat for customers is that appetizers are back on Amtrak. The lobster crab cake is the signature appetizer but other options include a green chile cheese tamale that’s served in the husk, as well as a mixed green salad with baby brie.
Then it’s time for the entree, where the flagship dish is the “signature flat iron steak.” The eight-ounce black Angus steak is accompanied by a cabernet reduction sauce and served with baby green beans, carrots, and either cheddar polenta or a baked potato.
Other options include pan-roasted chicken breast, grilled Atlantic salmon, and tortellini with pesto cream.
Both lunch and dinner are topped off with dessert. Three options are available including a flourless chocolate torte, Philadelphia cheesecake, and carrot cake.
One complimentary alcoholic beverage is offered with dinner but there is a bar selection that includes new wine options from Kendall-Jackson, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and Dark Harvest.
For younger travelers, a children’s menu is also available with kid classics like grilled cheese, roasted chicken breast, white cheddar macaroni and cheese, and a hot dog.
And to top it all off, a fresh flower will also be on display at each table.
While a three-course meal with drinks might seem like a multi-hour affair, Amtrak has a train full of patrons to serve and have limited time to do it. Riders won’t be rushed out but won’t be spending hours in the dining car.
Customers traveling in sleeper cars, whether they be full rooms or the smaller roomettes, have the dining service included in the price of their ticket. Reservation times for the dining car are given to passengers by the cabin attendant.
Communal dining will be available with the new service and the premise is simple: a table full of different passengers sit at one table and share a meal, as Insider’s Áine Cain experienced on an Amtrak train from Orlando, Florida to New York in 2019.
The rear section of the car, however, will be available for individual seating should riders not want to dine with others. Some prefer the individual setting and now with the pandemic, Amtrak wants to ensure that riders can feel comfortable by offering the service.
Sleeper car customers can also take their meals in their rooms if they don’t want to venture to the dining car.
Coach customers won’t have access to the dining car and instead will get their meals from the onboard cafe, located in the Sightseer Car.
But Amtrak is working on ways of getting coach customers into the dining car, including selling dining plans that allow them to buy a certain number of meals.
Pickup or seat delivery options are also on the table for coach customers, Robert Jordan, Amtrak’s vice president of operations customer services, told Insider.
Amtrak will look to expand more dining options to coach customers after a period of three or four months, once the traditional dining offering has been fully implemented.
But at least in the dining car, rail travelers will get to enjoy the best Amtrak dining experience in years when traveling long-distance through the American West.