Disappointed with meals

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Hans627, Aug 29, 2019.

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  1. Aug 31, 2019 #26

    Skyline

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    1 person each lounge. The dining car chief pitched into help occasionally. The servers likewise. Personally, I think at least one of those lounges could have used a second person during meal service. But still, it worked well enough and from a customer POV much better than Amtrak.

    I realize this wouldn't work precisely on Amtrak the way it does for VIA because Amtrak doesn't have the lounges configured (or enough of them) to mirror the VIA setup. I think the larger point is that GOOD catered food, handled efficiently on board, is something Amtrak should be looking at.

    BTW, the diner had decent dishes, silverware, tablecloths.
     
  2. Aug 31, 2019 #27

    crescent-zephyr

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    So you’re saying there is a server in the lounge, a server in the diner, and a chef?
     
  3. Aug 31, 2019 #28

    Maverickstation

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    via4.jpg Here is a recent breakfast on The Ocean, the food is heated in steam trays.
     
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  4. Aug 31, 2019 #29

    Maverickstation

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    The Dinner menu for the evening before.............
     

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  5. Aug 31, 2019 #30

    pennyk

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    I have food allergies and I was disappointed with the meals I was offered on the Ocean in 2012. At that time, I preferred Amtrak meals since, in my opinion, there were more options.
     
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  6. Sep 1, 2019 #31

    jhillm

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    And by full service.....we mean microwaved meals served on plastic. Which is better than nothing...but long gone the great days of "Dining".
     
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  7. Sep 1, 2019 #32

    crescent-zephyr

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    Eggs, Steak, and Baked potatoes are fully cooked on board. Fish may or may not be. Dishes that are pre-cooked are warmed in convection oven, not a microwave.

    Several items are pre-cooked and warmed on the grill.... burgers, French toast, etc.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect, but it’s way better than the cafe car.

    I preferred the real plates and glassware as well but it’s still plated nicely.
     
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  8. Sep 1, 2019 #33

    Seaboard92

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    It is true that VIA Rail does offer less options for a meal than the Amtrak dining cars. But what they make up for it in is the quality of the meal and service. They have very strict service standards for how the table should be set up, and everything in between. They run a classy act and the crew is generally very friendly.

    In all of my VIA trips I’ve only bumped into one surly employee out of several hundred employees.
     
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  9. Sep 1, 2019 #34

    crescent-zephyr

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    I’ve only ridden the Canadian once and it was about 10 years ago, but I felt like their crew was about equal to average Amtrak. I wasn’t overly impressed. What did stand out was not having a table full of supplies in the diner, having the dining car steward recommend wine, etc. those little details certainly do create a more classy atmosphere.

    My first sleeper attendant on the Canadian was great, but the second one I literally never saw on the whole trip. Since on via you lower and raise your own bed anyway, it didn’t really matter but still.
     
  10. Sep 1, 2019 #35

    Skyline

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    On the Ocean, both #14 and #15, there is one employee working each lounge car. One lounge car, before the diner in the consist, is intended for coach pax. The other lounge car, behind the diner in the direction of sleepers, is intended for sleeper pax. Each person serves its respective lounge car patrons from one counter facing the lounge seating, and the dining car from a counter facing the vestibule into the diner. Wait staff picks up orders to be served from that counter.

    There is, of course, the Park Car lounge available to sleeper pax simultaneously. That lounge, on the rear of the train, did not seem to be involved in diner service in any way.

    I believe from observation that the "sleeper" lounge handles the majority of diner food, and the "coach" lounge serves a different class of food directly to coach pax. I only witnessed the coach lounge attendant serving in what seemed like a backup role for diner food. Perhaps someone on the forum with more/better knowledge than me can enlighten.

    Meals are catered airline-style, brought on board and stored, then "assembled" by said lounge car staffs. There is no chef, tho the catered food at each meal service was pretty good. Diner wait-staff and the dining car chief pitched into help when necessary. In my opinion, the "coach" lounge car attendant could use some help simply because she was often busy fulfilling orders from coach pax.

    However, all went relatively well and on-time. I never heard the kind of grumbling you often hear on Amtrak from staff or pax! Tho I could certainly tell the difference between meals on the Ocean vs. Canadian, I doubt most pax could unless they had previously travelled on the Canadian. The only thing that I heard anyone complain about was that certain items might get sold out by the final seating, and/or lack of customization available for certain meals.

    Breakfast was first-come, first serve, but a very decent Continental breakfast was also served in the Park Car. Lunch and dinner each had three reserved seatings. The last seating for each was not filled to capacity. The first two were.

    I would say this mirrors the better airline food service protocols. Real dishes, silverware, glassware too. Amtrak could do this, or something like this, with the right commitments from management and Congress. And minus a President who appoints Board members dedicated to the destruction of long distance trains.
     
  11. Sep 1, 2019 #36

    Skyline

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    I think there may have been, and may still be, some experimentation with sous vide. Anyone have first-hand knowledge of how that's going? I know it has some success stories involving restaurants.

    https://anovaculinary.com/what-is-sous-vide/

    I tried it at home and was underwhelmed. Way too much time and effort for a home meal. But 24 meals at a time? Might be something there -- somewhat better quality, a consistent workflow, and more!
     
  12. Sep 1, 2019 #37

    Skyline

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    On both the Canadian (2017) and Ocean (2019), the SCA made up the bed in the evening, and restored the room for seating in the AM. Both made a point to ask what time I wanted the bed made up at night. I had a hanger to put on the door for the AM preference.

    I believe pax CAN handle this task in the PM and AM if they want to. I know once on the Canadian, I did. But I'm pretty sure it's not required.

    On my EB Ocean trip this month, one SCA had responsibility for two cars. I don't know if this is standard procedure, just that he said sometimes he'd be in the car behind mine working. Going WB, it seemed as if each sleeper had its own SCA, including mine. This is apples and oranges, since you're referencing the Canadian and me the Ocean. Just thought I'd mention the first-hand experience.

    So if you never saw your SCA on the Canadian it's possible that he or she stayed mostly in an adjacent car. Or, was ill, not doing his or her job, etc. I think most on-board staff changes (Canadian) at Winnepeg, so it's surprising you would have two attendants you never saw.
     
  13. Sep 1, 2019 #38

    crescent-zephyr

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    Sorry I should have been more clear... I was in a roomette on the Canadian.. as far as I know it's standard procedure for passengers to handle the bed on there own.

    Regarding the "2 SCA's" - the first one I had was great. That was on the Toronto to Winnipeg portion. He regularly stopped by to take out my trash, leave VIA Rail mint candy, etc. When they changed in Winnipeg the new SCA is who was missing in action. In general the Winnipeg to Vancouver staff was pretty lackluster, and my fellow dining car companions agreed.

    I really want to get back up to Canada and ride more of the wonderful trains before the new equipment takes over.... I'm so glad I rode the Canadian with the traditional Park Cars.
     
  14. Sep 1, 2019 #39

    Seaboard92

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    It’s funny on my Canadian trip I had the opposite experience. He VCVR-WNPG was far superior to the WNPG-TRTO. Granted to second crew was good they just weren’t as good as the first crew. And the LSA in the diner was more like a drill sergeant.

    We were lucky we had an activities director from Vancouver who could only be described as the fun loving uncle of the train.
     
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  15. Sep 2, 2019 #40

    jiml

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    That's generally the opposite of the norm - especially in the dining car. The differences were even more pronounced in the days when the portion of the train from Toronto was joined to the "prestige" main train from Montreal at Winnipeg. Toronto - Winnipeg got the old beat-up CN equipment and surly staff; the actual "Canadian" was all stainless steel and professional crew.

    Edited to add: I see Seaboard92 had a similar experience.
     
  16. Sep 11, 2019 #41

    JRR

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    I had s similar experience on The Canadian. From Jasper to Winnipeg, we had a great crew and my car attendant was superb. With the change in Winnipeg, I rarely saw the attendant but the rest of the crew was great. Interestingly, the lounge attendant ran a tab for me for drinks and we settled up at the end. It’s a good thing I kept a record because by the end, they couldn’t remember. I guess I could have gotten a really good deal but I was able to give them an accurate account.

    By the way, when we left Jasper, they served appetizers and champagne in the Dome. Great friendly service!
     
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  17. Sep 12, 2019 #42

    Paul CHI

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    The best train meals I've ever had were on Via's Canadian, but it was substantially more expensive than any ride I've taken on Amtrak. SWC meals have generally been decent. Staff quality has been all over the map.
     
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  18. Sep 12, 2019 #43

    crescent-zephyr

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    Best meals I’ve had on any train were Amtrak’s chef inspired meals from about 8 years ago. Mahi Mahi and Lamb Shank both tied for first place!

    Dinner on the Iowa pacific Pullman service would probably come in next before via rail.
     
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  19. Sep 12, 2019 #44

    Bob Dylan

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    Best meals I've had on a Train were Pre-Amtrak, if I had to single out the top 2, I'd go with the Super Chief and the Southern Crescent since I didnt get to try the Famous King's Feast on the Panama Ltd.

    I've yet to have any meal on Amtrak that was close to those on the Canadian, except in the PPC on the Coadt Starlight. YMMV
     
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  20. Sep 12, 2019 #45

    crescent-zephyr

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    We are talking about the same dishes... the chef inspired dishes stuck around longer on the ppc... in fact I remember having the lamb maybe 3 or 4 years ago still? But those same quality dishes were available nation wide that year.
     
  21. Sep 12, 2019 #46

    Bob Dylan

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    Yep, the Chef inspired Meals were very good,especially the Lamb and Salmon, but the ambience of the PPC and the better Deserts gave the edge to that Route IMO.
     
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  22. Sep 12, 2019 #47

    Qapla

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    I guess it all depends on what you think a "good/great" meal is. Personally, I would prefer a really juicy burger or fried chicken to the Mahi Mahi or the Lamb Shank - since I do not care for either of those selections.

    I can understand the concept of reducing costs by changing the food service on the trains ... however, using the wrong concept will not make things better.

    Take the items available from the lounge car on the Silvers out of Florida ... there are far better quality frozen and prepackaged selections available than the overpriced stuff they offer on these trains. It would not take any more space to stock better quality food than what is presently used for the sub-standard offerings they currently use.
     
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  23. Sep 13, 2019 #48

    crescent-zephyr

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    I think a grilled to order burger / chicken menu would be all you need for lunch on an Amtrak diner. Have 1 salad option, and the veggie burger and you’re done!

    Take the ground beef and make a good meatloaf, throw some seasoning on the chicken and make an entree out of the same chicken breasts you were grilling for lunch, and add a seafood dish and there’s your dinner menu.

    Welp... now I’m hungry. Ha.
     
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  24. Sep 13, 2019 #49

    Willbridge

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    Best meal I've had on a train was dinner in 1966 on the GN Empire Builder. As we emerged from the east end of the Cascade Tunnel the waiter brought the pickled herring appetizer in a silverplate cocktail bowl. Of course I had salmon and Washington apple pie. And note that I was a coach passenger.

    In the early years of Amtrak, family and friends used to kid me about always ordering French Toast. It was because every chef made it according to the recipe of the railroad they came from and I never knew how it would turn out.
     
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  25. Sep 13, 2019 #50

    jiml

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    On the PPC was there a separate cook downstairs? I was always amazed at how good the meals were without an apparent kitchen and more than one attendant. Regardless, whomever is in charge of Amtrak's contemporary dining should take note of how it was done consistently with quality. It is possible.
     

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