WASHINGTON – Nearly all of the national network of Amtrak overnight trains offer a new and improved menu in the Dining Cars, effective this month. This includes the return of such items as prepared-to-order steaks, wine by the glass and premium ice cream, as well as improved variety and quality of menu options at each meal.
The new menu was developed by Amtrak Executive Chefs with input from passengers, employees and others. Amtrak rotates its menu options with three different cycles that vary depending on direction of travel and particular route.
“We are confident that these new menus will make the dining experience even more enjoyable on overnight Amtrak trains,” said Daniel Malzhan, Amtrak Program Manager, Food & Beverage Standards and Delivery. “We value our customers’ comments and suggestions. We believe our new menu provides the opportunity for them to enjoy increased variety, quality and selection.”
On the new menus, breakfast options include Old Fashioned Railroad French Toast, a variety of freshly prepared Omelets, a Chef’s Marketplace Special, such as Blueberry Pancakes or Belgian Waffles, and a Continental option featuring fresh fruit, all of which can be accompanied by a choice of Grits or Breakfast Potatoes, Bacon, Chicken Apple Sausage or Pork Sausage.
For lunch, passengers can choose from the “Build Your Own Burger” option, with a choice of Angus beef, Turkey or Gardenburger, specialty salads, freshly prepared sandwiches and a hot rotating Chef’s Special.
The new dinner menu features a selection of appetizers for the first time, including Chips and Salsa, Chicken Wings and Dip, and Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. For entrees, passengers can choose from a cooked to order Flat Iron Steak, a Seafood selection, Oven Roasted Half Game Hen, enhanced Vegetarian Selections, and a rotating Chef’s Marketplace Special such as Slow Cooked Braised Beef, Italian Meatballs, and Roast Pork Tenderloin.
A rotating variety of scrumptious Sweet Street desserts including cakes, pies and tarts will be available. Haagen Dazs ice cream will also be featured.
A number of the entrees offered on the new menus will be prepared using strict Amtrak specifications in a manner that seals in taste and maintains the nutritional value of the food. This method of preparation is used in fine dining restaurants such as the famed Citronelle Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Amtrak has been successfully using this method in the Dining Cars since 1995.
The cost of Dining Car meals and soft beverages is included in the surcharge paid by sleeping car passengers, while Coach passengers are welcome to purchase some or all of their meals in the Dining Car. Appetizers, wine, beer and cocktails are not included and can be purchased separately.
“We hope to increase onboard sales by offering higher quality and greater selection in our menu options to attract a higher percentage of Coach passengers to sample our Dining Car service. Together, these initiatives are aimed at improving the overall business results of our food service operation,” said Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak Vice President of Marketing and Product Management. “These changes will further enhance the experience that our customers have onboard our overnight trains.”
In all, 10 of the 14 overnight routes with Sleeping Car service will implement the new menu, including the Chicago–St. Paul–Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, which has had its own menu and will continue to offer regional food items. Serving 39 states, these Amtrak trains feature comfortable, reclining Coach seats, Sleeping Cars with Roomettes and Bedrooms, Lounge and/or Dining cars, providing transportation service while offering passengers a unique experience in traveling the vast American landscape.
The trains not receiving the new menu are those that already have a specialized food service or have introduced an expanded menu in the past year, including the Lorton, Va., – Sanford, Fla., Auto Train, which operates with separate Dining Cars for coach and Sleeping Car passengers; the Chicago–Cleveland–New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the Chicago–Indianapolis–Washington–New York Cardinal (Trains 50 & 51), which are already operating with a menu offering a wide range of appetizers; and the Chicago–Memphis–New Orleans City of New Orleans, which operates the Cross-Country Café Diner-Lounge Car with regional food items and other menu improvements introduced in October 2007.
Overall, Amtrak ridership across the national network of overnight trains increased during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2007. The total of 3,819,267 passengers in FY07 is an increase of 2.5 percent from the year prior and includes steady growth on many routes.
In more recent figures, every train in the Amtrak network posted increases in November 2007, with ridership up nationally by 8.7 percent from last year and bookings remaining strong into 2008.