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Mystic River Dragon

Cafe on the Star gets 5 stars

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After complaining loudly and bitterly when the Star lost its dining car, I need to make amends. I took the Star both directions recently and took a chance on eating in the cafe car and was very pleasantly surprised.

The food was surprisingly good, I was able to get a table each time (including when I met my friends on the way down and we spent time together in the cafe car), and the cafe attendants couldn't have been nicer or more professional.

The menu was the same as the old menu on the NEC, but the same things that tasted awful on the NEC were good on the Star. I had the veggie burger for a late lunch the first day and the breakfast sandwich and a cinnamon roll the second day, all of which used to be the consistency of hockey pucks on the NEC but were just right on the Star. When I told the cafe staff that, they said it was because their food came out of Miami and was cooked with love!:)

And there is more company than you might expect, in spite of not being formally seated with others--people end up talking to each other in the cafe car, and I ended up talking with a lot of the crew when they were on break in there.

So I won't avoid the Star anymore--I would be happy going on either that or the Meteor.

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Maybe they could at least give sleeper passengers a voucher for say $10 to use to purchase food.  That wouldn't break the bank and would be a nice amenity. 

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I have never had a problem with the Star as far as food goes, but I refrain from mentioning that for fear of being manhandled on AU for spreading such heresy. I have tended to use the Star more often than the Meteor, because it is easier to leave Florida late in the day, rather than mid-day for me. In the reverse direction it is the Meteor for the same reason.

They already give the Sleeper passengers on Star a virtual voucher much greater than $10, since the fare is lower than on the Meteor by way more than $10 usually.

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10 minutes ago, cocojacoby said:

Maybe they could at least give sleeper passengers a voucher for say $10 to use to purchase food.  That wouldn't break the bank and would be a nice amenity. 

 A low bucket Roomette on the Star is already $72 less (17% less) than one on the Meteor!!

What more do you want?  A Shetland pony and a golden yo-yo?

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18 minutes ago, greatcats said:

You did not mention having dinner.  Glad you were pleased.   

Thanks:). The veggie burger (with chips and a ginger ale) was lunch/slash dinner, because I started from Philly so had a huge breakfast at my hotel before I left, which kept me going til  midafternoon.:)

The veggie burger had some kind of hot sauce on it, which made it taste really good.

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16 minutes ago, niemi24s said:

 A low bucket Roomette on the Star is already $72 less (17% less) than one on the Meteor!!

What more do you want?  A Shetland pony and a golden yo-yo?

Using Amsnag to decide when and by which route to go to Florida a  couple of times, the 'spread' between the Star and the Meteor is quite variable.  I've seen it as low as $20 or so for this past January back in early December, and I've seen it over $200 at other times of the year.  When there's been more than $100 spread, I've opted for the Star.  But at  $20-ish incremental cost for steak dinners and eggs cooked to order in the morning...it's a no brainer.

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1 hour ago, greatcats said:

You did not mention having dinner.  Glad you were pleased.   

It is usually Burger for me. Saying one was "pleased" would be a bit over the top IMHO. Adequate would be more appropriate. Amtrak food in Diner or otherwise these days is adequate. Nothing worth writing home about anyway. But then I don't expect it to be anything but, so as long as the company is more or less good, all is good.

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When traveling on the Star, I usually get the cheese and cracker tray (with either beer, wine or ice tea - depending on the time of day).  I find that menu item more than adequate (and I do not have to worry about ingredients due to a food allergy).

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It's the experience that matters. If the cafe is clean and you're made welcome by friendly, motivated people, the food is going to taste good and you'll enjoy yourself. If staff is sullen and treats you as an interruption to whatever they're listening to on their headphones, you'll be miserable too.

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I agree with Penny. I’ve never had a problem in the cafe on the Star. That said, I prefer the diner on the Meteor even if occasionally there is a dining car crew which could give better service.

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22 hours ago, TiBike said:

It's the experience that matters. If the cafe is clean and you're made welcome by friendly, motivated people, the food is going to taste good and you'll enjoy yourself. If staff is sullen and treats you as an interruption to whatever they're listening to on their headphones, you'll be miserable too.

Come on. Have you actually experienced onboard staff wearing headphones, listening to music, while working in public view? If yes, management is to blame as much as the offending employee.

 

I've ridden every train in the system and never personally witnessed this. Off duty? Maybe but again, I've never seen it.

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I have never seen an Amtrak OBS employee wearing headphones in a public area while on duty during my extensive travels on Amtrak either. An SCA sitting in his roomette maybe, but not while interacting with customers.

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I often see it on the Starlight – not every trip, but often enough for me to assume it's accepted practice. Also on my last Surfliner trip. More common among business class (particularly) and coach attendants, but I've seen it in the cafe too. I don't think it's limited to the west coast – other AU posters have mentioned it too.

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The recent changes (during 2018) to the national cafe car menus have been a substantial improvement.

 

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The reason the no-diner Silver Star experiment is so successful is because it gives Silver Service customers a choice on how they want to pay for their meals, depending on what train they take. Those that want their meals included in the cost of a sleeper can take the Silver Meteor, while those that want a lower sleeper fare, but pay-as-they-go for their meals, can take the Silver Star.

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3 hours ago, TiBike said:

I often see it on the Starlight – not every trip, but often enough for me to assume it's accepted practice. Also on my last Surfliner trip. More common among business class (particularly) and coach attendants, but I've seen it in the cafe too. I don't think it's limited to the west coast – other AU posters have mentioned it too.

It may happen frequently, but is is a blatant violation of Amtrak rules......

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21 hours ago, Skyline said:

Come on. Have you actually experienced onboard staff wearing headphones, listening to music, while working in public view? If yes, management is to blame as much as the offending employee.

 

I've ridden every train in the system and never personally witnessed this. Off duty? Maybe but again, I've never seen it.

I too have ridden every train in the system, over 40 years, and I HAVE SEEN staff with earbuds in, while serving the public, rarely, but several times...

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1 hour ago, rrdude said:

I too have ridden every train in the system, over 40 years, and I HAVE SEEN staff with earbuds in, while serving the public, rarely, but several times...

I've seen a few with headphones, but since the Cell Phone exploded onto the scene, I see lots of OBS hanging out in the Diner and Cafe glued to their phones.( IINM this is against the rules?)

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I've seen a few with headphones, but since the Cell Phone exploded onto the scene, I see lots of OBS hanging out in the Diner and Cafe glued to their phones.( IINM this is against the rules?)


Yes, it’s against the rules, so I’ve been told by more than one conductor. Cells are to be used for train business only.

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1 hour ago, tim49424 said:

 


Yes, it’s against the rules, so I’ve been told by more than one conductor. Cells are to be used for train business only.

 

correct.....

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Back to the other end of the service quality, I sent a compliment on the official employee email compliment form to Amtrak about the wonderful café attendant on 92. I wish I had gotten the name of the man on 91, because I should have sent one in for him as well.

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