"Flex Dining" - which is covered in this review, is currently on the following Amtrak Trains -
Lake Shore Limited (New York City - Chicago)
Capitol Limited (Washington DC - Chicago)
Cardinal (New York City - Chicago)
Crescent (New York City - New Orleans)
Silver Meteor (New York City - Miami)
City of New Orleans (Chicago - New Orleans)
Texas Eagle (Chicago - San Antonio)
Amtrak Dining Car service has had a variety of ups and downs since Amtrak began in 1971. On October 1, 2019, Amtrak introduced "Flexible Dining" on most routes east of the Mississippi including the Crescent, Silver Meteor, Lake Shore Limited, Capitol Limited and, the City of New Orleans trains. This was a pretty drastic Amtrak Dining Car Change as it eliminated the on-board chef, waiters and, waitresses and replaced them with pre-made dinners that were simply re-heated and delivered take-out style.
Amtrak's Flexible Dining Menu is only offered for Sleeping Car Passengers, which means that Coach Class Amtrak passengers only have the Cafe Car Menu to choose from for food and beverage service. (Previously, Coach Passengers could also eat in the dining car).
Click Here to see Amtrak's National Cafe Car Menu
Sleeping Car Passenger "Flexible Dining" meals are included in the sleeping car ticket. This also includes 1 alcoholic drink per trip and complimentary soft drinks, coffee, tea and bottled water throughout the journey.
Amtrak sleeping car passengers may choose to eat their meal in the dining car or have it delivered to their room. All sleeping car accommodations have a small table within the room. The dining car essentially becomes a separate lounge / table car for sleeping car passengers with this operation.
For Breakfast, passengers are asked to go to the dining car to pick up their breakfast items. A choice of Cereal, Kind Bars, Muffins, and fresh fruit will be set out for self-service, while milk, yogurt, and a breakfast sandwich may be ordered, along with beverages, from the attendant.
Lunch and Dinner are both the same menu. Either your sleeping car attendant or the dining car attendant will come by your room before each meal and take your order and also ask what time you would like to eat and offer you a choice to dine in either the dining car or your sleeping car room. I will describe my experience with each type of service.
For Lunch, I ordered the "Creole Shrimp & Andouille" and requested to eat in the dining car. My sleeping car attendant took my order and at the appropriate time, I went to the diner. It was slightly confusing what I should do upon arrival since the dining car attendant was busy preparing several orders so I had a seat and asked one of the sleeper attendants who passed through. The attendant asked my name and said he would check for me, and he brought my food right to my table. After you finish your meal, you are expected to clear your own table and throw away your trash, this makes the experience similar to a fast-food restaurant.
The entrees on the flexible dining menu are comparable in both appearance and taste to a microwavable dinner bowl. A small salad is served with each meal as well as a brownie. for dessert.
Amtrak Dining Car Menu - Flexible Dining.
The Braised Beef was tender but the Red Wine sauce was extremely salty in taste. Polenta and vegetables were served with the beef in the same plastic bowl, again, microwave dinner style.
Menus for Amtrak Dining Cars during Flex Dining are available at -
Long Distance Trains in the West including the California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Coast Starlight as well as the Auto Train offer "Traditional Diner" menus with an on-board chef for sleeping car passengers only.
For more photos and information on Long-Distance passenger trains by Amtrak and others, please visit Long Distance Trains