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Dec 19, 2010 10:57 AM

Minot, Havre, Whitefish

We are contemplating a trip on Amtrak's Empire Builder. We can probably get by with dining car food, but I do a little research and I find that there are restaurants very near the stations in Minot, ND, Havre, MT, and Whitefish, MT, where the train stops at times that are convenient for breakfast, lunch or dinner (depending on which way we're going). Is this do-able? Can I walk to, say, Tupelo Grille in Whitefish and get dinner to go and still make it back to the train? Can I call ahead and have them deliver to the station? Anybody have any experience with this? Thanks for any info anyone can provide.

Tupelo Grille
17 Central Ave, Whitefish, MT 59937

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  1. I think your best bet would be to ask the representatives with the train. I worked between Glasgow MT and Minot and was told the best place to eat was "at home". There are some lean towns you'll be going through. Glasgow had a 24 hour place close to the depot, but I think it has limited hours now. Its called the Johnnie Cafe. Havre has some great places but you'd need to get to them and back to the train. The Tupelo Grill maybe closed for renovations as well, I would call. Food in Whitefish is within walking distance and very good as well. My suggestion: get some good deli style food to supplement the train food and plenty of snacks (maybe some adult beverages as well). It's a long and beautiful trip.

    1. I know the original post is old, but in case it is of interest to anyone else:
      - You generally would not have time to get off the train, get food, and get back to the train between Shelby Montana and Portland. The only long stop is in Spokane, and it is in the early hours of the morning (both ways), when nothing would be open. All other stops are only a matter of a few minutes - maybe 10 minutes at best, if that. I have never tried phoning ahead and having them deliver - the issue would be whether the train is running on time.

      The train trip is lovely, and sometimes there is good food in the diner car, although the breakfast once the diner car is removed in Spokane (en route to Portland) is poor. Lots of quantity (usually a meat and cheese croissant, yogurt, coffee cake and juice), but poor quality.

      2 Replies
      1. re: abacus2

        Thanks for the follow up, abacus2. I have some info to add as well. The Johnnie Cafe in Glasgow has been closed for a couple of years which is sad. Portland has some awesome places to eat and the Stumptown coffee should not be missed. Grab a bag for the trip home. Voodoo Donuts has become a tourist destination, and its worth seeing at least once. I've been told that while Stumptown Coffee is delicious, there are some incredible coffee houses to try as well, I'm sure that other places either here or on the web will point you in the right direction for those. I recently read that Portland is ranked 3rd best city in the US for coffee so go crazy. Coffee, Microbrews and strip joints Portland has it all!

        1. re: Robbomatic

          The food on the Empire Builder is not bad, though it depends on the dish and the chef. I would recommend eggs or French toast at breakfast, the hot lunch specials with small salads, and steak or half chicken (not fried) at dinner. If you get a sleeper, the food (except for tips and booze) is included, and there is usually a wine tasting (free to sleeper passengers) in the afternoon you go through Montana; also, you usually get champagne splits and chocolates at turndown. If you travel coach, you can pay to eat in the diner, although it's harder to pick your dinner hours (sleeper passengers have first choice); I think you can also pay for the wine tasting (if there's room); dinners are pricey but breakfast and lunch aren't bad. Desserts are not gourmet but not bad. Eating in the diner is an important part of the long-distance train experience, and it is usually pleasant; you sit with fellow passengers and get to chat.

          You will not have time to grab a meal at any of the stops you mention. You might want to overnight in Whitefish, a cute small town, or spend a few days at Glacier Park (seasonally), although that would be costly if you are getting sleepers all the time. Rail fans usually stay at the Isaak Walton Inn, a seasonal stop on the edge of Glacier Park; don't know what the food is like there, though.

          The train splits in Spokane (in the middle of the night), with the dining car traveling with the Seattle branch and the sightseer lounge traveling with the Portland branch. The scenery westbound is gorgeous from about daybreak (around Pasco) to Portland, so be sure to make use the lounge--you can eat your box breakfast in there. You will be very full by then so you won't mind whatever you get, and you can have a fine meal once you arrive in Portland.