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Feb 12, 2013 12:40 PM

Dining on Amtrak

Anyone have a view on dining on Amtrak's long-distance trains? Rail dining has always been a special province, but the days when the staff was totally deferential seem to be gone.

That's fine, but recently for dinner on the Southwest Chief it bothered me in that not only was there an extremely limited and expensive menu, the fairly-priced special, meant in writing to be carried over from the lunch menu, was not available.

That didn't bother me as much as the fact that the waitress (or whatever the proper term is) offered not one word of explanation, let alone regret, and espoused an "our way or the highway" attitude. And she seemed to be put upon to refill the miniscule coffee and water containers.

I tipped accordingly.

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  1. We had dinner and breakfast on the NY to FL Silver Meteor last year, and had no complaints about the meals. While not 4-star cuisine, it was at least as good as your average family restaurant. I expect prices to be a little higher where there is no choice (like sports arenas or railroads). Our servers were businesslike but polite, so you might just have gotten one with a bad shoe day.

    Menu at

    1. The best value (if your trip is long enough to justify it) is to pay for a sleeping compartment. The meals are included in the price.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PotatoHouse

        Sleeping compartments are way too expensive, and even if meals had been included for me, that wouldn't have solved the basic problem I experienced--poor selection and server attitude.

      2. I had a sleeper on the Coast Starlight last year; I did take most of my meals in the Pacific Parlor Car, but the times I dined in the main Dining Car were fine. I had good to exceptional service, especially in the PPC. I'm sorry you had a bad experience. You can always go on Amtrak's site and post a complaint; they are read, and most always answered (and not in corporate-speak).

        1 Reply
        1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

          Many years ago, I sent a detailed list of complaints of one leg of a cross country trip, mainly concerning one particular porter, and they responded with a free trip; don't remember the details but we went from NYC to Washington DC at cherry blossom time just for fun, so no hard feelings. I remember the served food being OK, and the scenery magnificent of course, always fresh flowers on the table. We've taken many Amtrak trips all over, the only bad thing I remember is the snack bar.

        2. I have made the Chicago-Washington run several times and since meals come with a sleeper I didn't notice prices but thought the food was awful. I believe the breakfast omelets were frozen. A dinner entree of chicken had pinfeathers in it. My cheesecake dessert was STILL frozen---I had to chip at it. As for service, I once saw a waiter toss used silverware the width of the car into a dishpan, practicing his basketball skills, and when he bumped into me he said, "Oops, sorry, Mama". Except that going to the dining car breaks the tedium of a journey, I would advise packing sandwiches.