With the new flex dining being apparently inedible for a large part of the AU community, I think it would be a good idea to post reviews of carry-out (also known as "take away") food locations at various Amtrak stations. I'm going to start with Washington, not my home station of Baltimore. Baltimore has limited choices in the station, and, to be quite honest, I haven't spent much time in the surrounding Station-North area sampling carry-out food. There is Dunking Donuts outlet in BAL, which I use sometimes to get a bagel and coffee before my departure. It's similar to, but a bit cheaper than the cafe car. There's another cafe that has a wider selection, but I've never bought anything there, so I can't review it. Certainly nothing to replace dining car food if I ride out on the Meteor, Crescent, or Star, or Cardinal. Thus, I'll focus on Washington Union Station. I have to change here if I'm riding out on the Capitol, anyway. There are numerous carry out choices in this station. I have been sampling them for almost 20 years as part of my extreme commuter experience. Unfortunately, if you wish a full meal, it may not be available, it may not be packed to go in a suitable manner, you may have to build a full meal from multiple sources, and it may cost a good deal for a full meal. The most important thing for carry-out is that it's packed to go in a manner that east to and doesn't leak or otherwise make a mess. I once picked up a great bibimpap combo at a food court in Koreatown, New York for a ride home on the Northeast Regional. Great food, but what a mess trying to unpack it and eat it on my dinky little tray table. You really need to pick food that's easy to eat and is packed properly. The clamshell containers that a lot of carry outs use are lousy for this, in my opinion. You look at them crosswise, and they pop open, spilling their contents. The other thing to consider to how long the food is going to keep. If you're taking the Meteor or the Crescent out, you will be leaving at dinner time, so you can buy right before departure, and your food will still be hot if you eat right upon departure. If you're taking the Star or Capitol, you will be leaving in the late afternoon, and whatever you buy will need to keep for 2-4 hours. If you're taking the Cardinal, you'll leave at lunch time, you your lunch will be fresh, but whatever you buy for dinner will be sitting for half the day. Some people are culturally conditioned to accept only a "hot meal" as proper sustenance, especially for dinner. They may have to revise their thinking if they take the afternoon long-distance trains and buy cold sandwiches or entree salads for dinner, packing them in a cooler if they're worried about them going bad. With that, here's my opinion about the eateries at Washington Union Station (for which I have experience). Note that nearly all of these are chain establishments. Pret A Manger - Grab and go sandwiches, wraps, soups, some hot sandwiches, etc. The food is supposedly made fresh every day on site and the left overs are donated to homeless shelters every evening. Sandwiches are reasonable priced, but I think the other stuff, chips, drinks, desserts, etc are a bit over priced. (But then so is everything in WUS). The breakfast stuff is good, but overpriced. Better to go across the corridor to Au Bon Pain. The carryout packaging is pretty secure, and they give you a bag with handles. Au Bon Pain - Similar food to Pret, but you can get the sandwiches and salads made to order. They have a wider selection of breakfast sandwiches and you can get plain oatmeal, doctoring it up to your specifications. I spent half my career getting breakfast at Au Bon Pain. Chopt -- You get a full meal in a bowl, salad greens (mostly), some meat or other protein, and a bunch of other stuff to add calories and make you feel more full. It's pretty good, but the salad will wilt by the time you get to the train if they put dressing in. I suppose you could ask for them to give you the dressing on the side in a separate container, but their default is to dress the salad when it's made. The salad is served in a clear plastic bowl with a snap-on lid, so it is pretty secure being carried to the train. Chipotle -- Nice burritos, but eating them in the train can be a mess, and you can end up having bits of rice and stuff littering the floor of your seating area or compartment. Potbelly Sandwich Shop -- I don't usually eat there, but they have an assortment of sub-type sandwiches, pretty well wrapped up. Cava - "Mediterranean" salads or grain bowls, with choice of meat, veggies, middle eastern/Greek salads (hummus, tzatziki, etc.). Served in a plastic bowl with snap top lid that would travel well to the train. Shake Shack -- Burgers, fries and, of course, shakes. Pretty good for a fast food burger, I always eat on site, so I'm not sure how they pack 'em to go. I'm also not sure how they would be after sitting for an hour or two. Pizzeria Uno -- Chicago style deep dish pizza and other Italian stuff. I had a pretty good deep-dish pizza here. I'm not sure how they pack everyhting to go, excpet that the pizza would be in a typical pizza box. East Street Cafe -- Asian food from all of the major east Asian cuisines. I usually get the Singapore noodles or the Malaysian grilled garlic shrimp with noodles. Noodles (not with soup) or fried rice would probably be the best stuff to get as carry out. I'm not sure how they pack the carry-out orders. Legal Seafod -- A full seafood menu. I once ate there and thought it to be overpriced. Also, I'm not sure that I'd want to take seafood as a carryout dinner. Again, I'm not sure how they pack carry-out. Thunder Grill -- I'm not sure it's still open, as the Union Station website doesn't show it anymore, but I think it was still going when I passed through in September. It is mostly sit-down, but I suppose they do carry out, but I don't know how it's packed if they do it. Southwestern themed stuff, I like the fish tacos and the BBQ brisket sandwich. Le Pain Quoditien - French style "boulangerie" menu. Never have eaten there, and I don't know how they pack carry-out orders. Sbarro -- Pizza, calzones, salads and a few pasta dishes as well as a buffet (pay by the weight.). I think the buffet plates have a snap type lid, but keeping everyhting from leaking could be a problem. The pizza is a typical "New York slice," in a cardboard pizza slice shaped box for carry out. McDonald's - typical McDonald's food and service. Sometimes they're a little disorganized. Downstairs, there's a full food court, where you can get a range of different fast food choices. I usually use the Lotus Express (decent food court Chinese and the rice/noodle bowls have a secure carry container), Bojangles (nice box of fried chicken and dirty rice), Charley's Philly steaks (I get the $5.99 steak and fries special), Chick Fil A, subway, a Japanese hibachi place (cash only) and a few other places that I've never tried. They used to have a sushi place that wasn't bad, but that's been gone for a while. On the main concourse by Gates B and C, the Hudson News has a selection of grab and go stuff that includes sandwiches, deli packs, fruit and cheese packs, etc. In general, while there's a lot of food choices at WUS, some of which are even tasty, I'm not sure that you can get anything equivalent of a dining car meal to take on the train. The most practical things are going to be sandwiches, salads, and maybe a pizza, all of which you're probably going to have to eat at room temperature. Tomorrow I head out on the Capitol for the Gathering. I'll be able to better report whether the flex dining is as horrible as many say and compare it to what's available. I'd be interested in getting a review of what's available at your station. In particular, I'm interested in Chicago, as I will be returning home through there, and if flex dining is really that bad, I may want to have some emergency rations on hand.