• Better food on non-LD trains - is it doable?

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by photobug56
 
Pre COVID, my spouse and I took Acela from NYP to DC, and back a few days later. Not first class. I had some cafe food and well, I could do a lot better in a small supermarket's frozen section. Not a huge problem but still, even a McD Big Breakfast would have been a huge improvement on the morning ride down.

Also pre COVID, we considered going to Montreal from NYP. Ignoring the issue of making connections from LIRR, the biggest reason - a very long ride, what 10 to 12 hours or longer with little edible aboard the train. It seems to me that actual dining could do well aboard such a train. Regional items in the menu wouldn't hurt. Yes, dining cars are not cheap or plentiful, but this is the closest you get to LD trains without needing sleepers. It would make a train like this far more desirable, IMHO.
  by lordsigma12345
 
Adirondack is a state supported route so that would be up to the folks in New York.
  by Greg Moore
 
The Downeaster is proof that state run trains can in fact have decent food (based on many reports I've read).

I think NYS definitely should consider upgrading its food service. It has a lot of great food in state, from good wines, apples, seafood and more.
  by mcgrath618
 
I’ve ridden most of my Acelas during COVID times, and was only ever on it once pre-pandemic (and did not visit the cafe car). I will be taking it next on Thursday.

I’ve had pretty pleasant experiences on the cafe car so far. Maybe it’s been improved, but I had a DiGiorno Pizza and a Coke which is pretty much the exact same thing I bought on an Italian high speed train in 2012.

Considering that most of my rides have been ~1hr, I don’t really think they need to invest in much better food for business class until they have better facilities (the new trainsets) or better preparation methods (out of their control, up to the comestibles industry).

I’ve been considering upgrading to first class for my rides on Thursday, but I’m not sure it’s worth it as I’m heading to Philadelphia with the express intent on eating food. Won’t have much room left for lobster crab cakes.
  by Railjunkie
 
Hired out as an LSA in 98 out of Albany, I do remember a cheese cake offering from New Skeete??? I also remember never selling any. Long trail ale, we had it for the Rutland train but it was carried on all. Again don't remember selling much of it. There may have been a few other offerings that don't come to mind. The food back then was far worse than it is now IMHO. Except maybe that chicken parm sandwich that nobody ever bought, small and to expensive for the time.

Do we think that its the quality of the food or the way that its presented? A few things stuck with me from my Johnson & Wales Culinary education. One of them is you eat with your eyes, presentation counts. Lets compare two attendants same order. Hot dog chips and a drink.

Attendant one slits open the hotdog pack tosses into the microwave for a min or two tosses back into a brown carry out with your bag a chips and drink of choice.

Attendant two takes the time to remove the hot dog from the bun before microwaving, places the bun in the convection oven to give it a light toast. Places the hot dog back into the lightly toasted bun wraps in a napkin places it on a plate. Before everything goes into that brown box he takes the time to place a liner that looks like a picnic table cloth along with a couple of napkins your chips and drink.

Believe it or not Amtrak does have a culinary department and they are always trying to find better food offerings for the trains. It just has to something that can be held in a cooler we dont have freezer units behind the counter
  by rcthompson04
 
You guys get food (regular Keystone Service rider reaction)? Amtrak regional train food service should be on par with a highway service plaza food as it serves a very similar distance customer. What would a person traveling from DC to NYC or Philadelphia to Pittsburgh if they stopped at a service plaza? Amtrak should be aiming for that standard.
  by NaugyRR
 
I've never felt the cafe car food was bad, it's just basic snack bar fare which is all you really need. If I ever wanted something other than what's served I usually grab something from my local deli/Stewarts/Dunkin' on the way down to the City, and something from one of the several (well, used to be) options in and around NYP. I'm sure the same logic applies to other people traveling who don't feel like partaking in the cafe car.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
7-Eleven reminds of the items on board Amfleets The Downeaster has its own menu and offers local Maine
products. The Vermonter once did as well, but now has a standard corridor menu. Caltrans has its own food
service.
  by photobug56
 
The food service on these 2 trains - is it frozen then microwaved over the counter Cafe, or is there a viable form of sit-down service? And since you mentioned Caltrans, what food do they offer? I looked at their web site and found nothing.
  by Greg Moore
 
Railjunkie wrote: Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:52 am
Do we think that its the quality of the food or the way that its presented? A few things stuck with me from my Johnson & Wales Culinary education. One of them is you eat with your eyes, presentation counts. Lets compare two attendants same order. Hot dog chips and a drink.

Attendant one slits open the hotdog pack tosses into the microwave for a min or two tosses back into a brown carry out with your bag a chips and drink of choice.

Attendant two takes the time to remove the hot dog from the bun before microwaving, places the bun in the convection oven to give it a light toast. Places the hot dog back into the lightly toasted bun wraps in a napkin places it on a plate. Before everything goes into that brown box he takes the time to place a liner that looks like a picnic table cloth along with a couple of napkins your chips and drink.

Believe it or not Amtrak does have a culinary department and they are always trying to find better food offerings for the trains. It just has to something that can be held in a cooler we dont have freezer units behind the counter
Yes, this! I used to ride the NEC to DC on a regular basis and had a bit of everything for dinner. One of the best was the time the cafe attendant took the meatballs out, nuked them and toasted the bun. OMG. It went from "barely edible" to a pretty decent meal! You really can't microwave a bun!

And once when they had the large, really good cookies, one nuked it for about 30 seconds. OMG, it took what was already a great cookie and made it to die for.

There's so many little things that can be done NOW, that is really just a matter of training.
  by Railjunkie
 
Greg Moore wrote: Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:13 pm
Railjunkie wrote: Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:52 am
Do we think that its the quality of the food or the way that its presented? A few things stuck with me from my Johnson & Wales Culinary education. One of them is you eat with your eyes, presentation counts. Lets compare two attendants same order. Hot dog chips and a drink.

Attendant one slits open the hotdog pack tosses into the microwave for a min or two tosses back into a brown carry out with your bag a chips and drink of choice.

Attendant two takes the time to remove the hot dog from the bun before microwaving, places the bun in the convection oven to give it a light toast. Places the hot dog back into the lightly toasted bun wraps in a napkin places it on a plate. Before everything goes into that brown box he takes the time to place a liner that looks like a picnic table cloth along with a couple of napkins your chips and drink.

Believe it or not Amtrak does have a culinary department and they are always trying to find better food offerings for the trains. It just has to something that can be held in a cooler we dont have freezer units behind the counter
Yes, this! I used to ride the NEC to DC on a regular basis and had a bit of everything for dinner. One of the best was the time the cafe attendant took the meatballs out, nuked them and toasted the bun. OMG. It went from "barely edible" to a pretty decent meal! You really can't microwave a bun!

And once when they had the large, really good cookies, one nuked it for about 30 seconds. OMG, it took what was already a great cookie and made it to die for.

There's so many little things that can be done NOW, that is really just a matter of training.
Mr Moore
Chocolate Chip I will bet. :-D
Last edited by Railjunkie on Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:08 am, edited 2 times in total.
  by lordsigma12345
 
One improvement that could be made is to go back to at least pre Covid selections in the cafe. They offered some “fresh-er” options previously in the cafe cars such as pre/made cold sandwiches and salads that were cut when Covid came along. These have basically been removed everywhere except on the auto train coach cafe.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Railjunkie wrote: Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:52 am Hired out as an LSA in 98 out of Albany,
Mr. Junkie, allow me to note something NICE about Amtrak's personnel policies.

To move X-ing crafts, from an LSA (you must have been accountable for funds starting Day 1) to Passenger Engineer, has got to be a career path "simply not possible" on my road - the MILW. You came with Accounting credentials - degree and a bit later a CPA - that was what you stay.

The only way out was to "pull the pin", which I did after eleven years during Dec '81.
  by Railjunkie
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:14 am
Railjunkie wrote: Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:52 am Hired out as an LSA in 98 out of Albany,
Mr. Junkie, allow me to note something NICE about Amtrak's personnel policies.

To move X-ing crafts, from an LSA (you must have been accountable for funds starting Day 1) to Passenger Engineer, has got to be a career path "simply not possible" on my road - the MILW. You came with Accounting credentials - degree and a bit later a CPA - that was what you stay.

The only way out was to "pull the pin", which I did after eleven years during Dec '81.
Mr Norman

Cane to the railroad with a back ground in culinary and retail sales. I had actually talked to Amtrak while in school. Never followed up with it. Hired out after my girlfriend now wife saw an advert for LSA and ticket agent in Albany. Figured I was over qualified for one and would never get the other. Thank you sweetie

Once I got through my training and marked up I was given a "bank" of $100.00 cash for change ect. We were held accountable for that and had better have that with you at any given time. A hundred bucks isn't much when making change, so I always carried some of my own. Trying to get change on the road can be a real PIA. Once I hired out to the T&E side of things, Conductor for 4 and change engineer 18. I surrendered my $100.00 bank two Master locks and an ice scoop.

I am one of many in the Albany crew base who have followed the same career path from LSA to T&E, I know of one in Boston??? who went directly from behind the counter to the head end. A switch I dont think I would have been able to make.
  by David Benton
 
Kiwirail have chest freezers in the baggage car , you'll often see attendant carry a box of food back to the cafe car. i would think there is less storage in the narrow gauge cafe car vs an amcafe, but they never seem to run out of food.
The 3 crew members share duties , ( train manager (conductor) and 2 attendants) so there is someone avaliable to do this without shutting the cafe.
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