dining(eating) while riding the rails

Junior Burger
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2009/09/06 23:24:56 (permalink)

dining(eating) while riding the rails

This summer I spent a month riding the rails between D.C. and San Jose. I took the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver, the Coast Starlight from Seattle to San Jose, the Zephyr from Emeryville to Chicago and the Limited from Chicago to D.C. I noticed the menus on Amtrak never changed. The same 4 choices of entree, 3 of dessert, and 2 of apps. Basically microwaved and ill-prepared. The Canadian was another story. Basically gourmet meals served in a relaxing atmosphere. Night and day differences. Any thoughts?

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    Filet Mignon
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/06 23:55:34 (permalink)
    I can vouch for the unimpressive Amtrak meals. Boring selection, boring preparation, boring presentation.
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 05:35:32 (permalink)
      I have never had a good meal from AMTRAK, ever! I always brought my own food and spent most of my time in the club car. Used to be able to smoke in there. I don't think that I ever spent more than an hour in my assigned seat. Not any more though. Have to step out to the open air deck now. In Alaska the Cruise ship trains have gourmet meals prepared imaginatively and are wonderfully delicious!! I was offered a job once on the train but I turned it down due to the commute and the time away from my family. 

    David O.
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 08:45:31 (permalink)
    I recall having some excellent meals aboard the Southern Cresent in the early 80's (wood burning stove until that dining car crashed), but they soon switched to microwaved / frozen items.
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 09:52:43 (permalink)
    actually--there WAS a time when the food on amtrak was awesome--back in 76 my wife and I did amtrak from Oakland Ca to Boston--on our honeymoon--had a BALL---of course we got the royal treatment from the staff--theyb really were fabulous--chilled a bottle of champagne for us and sered it in the sky room over the bar car the next night while we crossed the rockies and refuseed to let us tip them!!! and the food was GOOD--i had Roast Duck ala'range for FIVE DOLLARS---and at the time--HOME made strwberry shortcake was 25cents extra on any meal. The breakfasts were also great-complete with white linen service and world class waitstaff. I was impressed and asked if i could seee the kitchen--i was a cook at the time--it was wonderful=a marvel of efficiency and everything served was cooked ON the train---they picked up fresh supplies daily and offered different menus that where packed with regional foods that changed as you traveled into a new area.  Then of course--the American taxpayers decided that planes and cars where the way to go and train travel became the unwanted stepchild of American trasportian modes and ---well-- you tasted it!!!!--and it sucks---and the delays!!! and weird sheduling and no repair to tracks and passenger cars--sad---but--we got what we paid for. But---i DID LOVE that trip and MAYBE one day we will wake up and build a better railroad in this country! remeber---the fuel that will carry 100 lbs 200 mile in a car will haul a TON 500 miles in a train!
    carolina bob
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 16:21:33 (permalink)
    Boy, this thread is bringing back some less-than-pleasant memories. In January, I retired from Amtrak after a 34-year career. The first fifteen years were spent working onboard enroute trains as a train attendant ( some sleeping car but mainly coach ), and the rest as a laborer in Amtrak's railroad yard just south of Chicago's Loop. Those years on the road were absolute misery; living out of a suitcase, missing events at home, dealing with obnoxious and abusive passengers ( along with incompetent and abusive conductors and on-board supervisors), and being on duty twenty hours or more in a row without sleep. On top of all that, there was mealtime for the on-board service crew in the dining car. Crew members eat for free but it's still no bargain! As much as I love to eat, I never looked forward to mealtime on the train; I would rather have paid out of my pocket for decent food in the dining car than live on Amtrak's barely edible microwave crud during a six-day round trip from Chicago to the West Coast. Sometimes the food was so bad that a Big Mac and fries started looking damn good to me. If Congress would fund Amtrak properly, this situation could improve, but I don't see that happening in my lifetime.  
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 17:21:16 (permalink)
    I have ridden Via Rail in Canada and can say I've never had a bad meal there. The food is fresh and well prepared, and the service is what railroading USED to be in the US.

    I would travel Via Rail anyday, and NEVER again on Amtrak.
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/07 21:54:59 (permalink)
    While it has been 5 years since my last trip, we took the train between Grand Junction and Denver. Now I don't think Amtrak needs to concern themsevles with winning any Michelin stars,  but the food and the service was decent. Considering the captive audience, I was pleasantly surprised. I've certainly had worse meals at brick and morter places.
    Double Cheeseburger
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/08 08:07:49 (permalink)
    I tried it once.... never again!
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/08 08:35:14 (permalink)
    While "dining" on Amtrak doesn't even come close to the offerings from railroad-owned dining cars in the pre-Amtrak era, our experience has been fairly good.
    In April of 2008 wife and I made a Chicago to Chicago round trip via the Grand Canyon, LA and Portland (OR). We traveled in sleeping cars so the meals were all included. The food, while never spectacular,  was always decent. There was some variation in dining car crews, but no more than one would encounter eating in land-bound restaurants under similar circumstances.
    And the real bonus of eating in dining cars are the always-interesting conversations with one's table-mates. That is something that you can only experience in a dining car on a train.
    Plattsburgh NY
    Junior Burger
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/08 14:51:03 (permalink)
    Last year, for my parent's 25th wedding anniversary, my Brother and I and went on a vacation to India. We had heard of this luxury train, called the Palace on Wheels, it journeys through the state of Rajasthan (western border of India). All the meals we had on the train were fit for a king. Gourmet Indian and European Food and a fully stocked bar. I just wish Amtrak could do somehing similar on a few select routes.
    carolina bob
    Filet Mignon
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/08 18:50:21 (permalink)
    I agree, alwayshungry475, but I'm afraid that it's just not going to happen. Between Congress' refusal to fund Amtrak properly, and the company's unfortunate habit of promoting the most inept, unqualified people into decision-making positions, things are simply not going to get any better. Amtrak is what it is, and frankly I don't see any likelihood of improvement in the foreseeable future. 
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/09 12:15:43 (permalink)
    I took Amtrack from Denver to Glenwood Springs Colorado, an all day, beautiful, round trip outing, my wife and I had Breakfast on the train, my eggs and sausage order came with bacon instead of sausage, I told the waiter, he looked around, picked up the guy at the next table's plate with sausage on it, scraped the sausage onto my plate and said "You want sausage, you got sausage" to say the least both tables were suprised as all get out, I still laugh about it!
    Junior Burger
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/21 00:17:14 (permalink)
    This was from eight years ago, but my wife had never ridden on a "real" train, so we flew to Memohis and boarded "The City of New Orleans".

    She says to this day that the best gumbo she had on that trip [which included a week in the Crescent City] was on board that train.  (The pullman berth was fun, too-- but I digress.)
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    Re:dining(eating) while riding the rails 2009/09/21 02:11:20 (permalink)
    From the Amtrak Annual Report - "Created by Congress in 1970, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) began operations in May 1971 and has been serving the traveling public for 37 years."

    This should read---"And has been wasting the Taxpayers Money for 37 years!" 

    Just another Screwed up Government Program & Proof Positive they'll do a Great Job with the Healthcare System!
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