Amtrak Rebrands ‘Fresh and Contemporary’ Dining as ‘Flexible Dining,’ on Eastern Long-distance Trains

What dining aboard the Lake Shore Limited used to look like in the days of the full-service heritage diner. The date is March 11, 2012.

There’s a new name for dining aboard Amtrak on eastern long-distance trains, but it’s largely the same service.

The carrier has dropped the “fresh and contemporary” label for “flexible dining.”

Although Amtrak has not said when this service will become effective, various reports have said the changeover date is Oct. 1.

The service will be offered on Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Crescent, Lake Shore Limited and Silver Meteor.

The Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited received the “fresh and contemporary” dining in June 2018.

The Crescent and Silver Meteor currently have full-service dining car service with meals freshly prepared onboard.

The Cardinal and City of New Orleans currently have something in between with a wider number of meal options compared with the Capitol and Lake Shore, but with all food prepared off the train and heated onboard.

On its website, Amtrak touted flexible dining as providing a menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner; a wide selection wine, beer and spirits with the first alcoholic beverage complimentary at each meal plus unlimited soft drinks throughout the journey; complimentary room service provided by the sleeping car attendant; exclusive onboard lounge space for sleeping car customers to dine and socialize 24/7; and flexible dining times without the need for reservations.

Virtually all of these features were components of the existing “fresh and contemporary” service.

Breakfast will be available between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., lunch will be available between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and dinner will be available between 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Some changes have been made in the menu offerings. There will still be just one hot entrée available at breakfast, a sausage, egg and cheese muffin.

Also available will be oatmeal (two varieties), cold cereal (four varieties), muffins (two varieties), a breakfast bar (Kind bar), yogurt (two varieties), fruit (bananas and seasonal fruit cup), and various beverages.

On the lunch and dinner menu are four options, one of which is billed as vegan and another as gluten free.

All entrees come with a side salad and dessert although the menu posted online does not indicate what the dessert is.

The entrees include red wine braised beef served with pearl onions, carrots, mushrooms, polenta and Haricot vert; Asian noodle bowl (vegan) served with Yaki Soba noodles, carrots, edamane, red peppers, baby corn, scallions and Shittake mushrooms in a garlic-chili sauce; chicken fettuccine served with roasted chicken, broccoli, carrots, red peppers, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses in a garlic cream sauce); and Creole shrimp and Andouille sausage (gluten free) served with yellow rice, peppers, onions, and green onions in a Creole sauce). All dinners come with side salad and dessert.

The children’s meal is pasta and meatballs served with penne pasta, tomato sauce, meatballs and mozzarella cheese.

Neither the sample menu or the “flexible dining” page on the Amtrak website indicates that these meals available for purchased by coach passengers.

The website also shows the meals being served on small trays, suggesting that the current serving in a box method, which was criticized by some for generating a lot of waste, is being dropped.

As for the one complimentary alcoholic beverage per meal, there are five types of beer, two types of wine, one type each of gin, rum, vodka and whiskey.

Additional servings of these can be purchased at prices ranging from $6.50 to $9.

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