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Amtrak Coach Passengers Can Access Dining Car on Select Trains

James Larounis's image
James Larounis
James Larounis's image

James Larounis

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James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in...

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If you’re traveling in coach on some of Amtrak’s long-distance train services, you’ll now have the opportunity to use the dining car onboard.

Coach passengers will now be able to enjoy full-fledged meals for an additional cost in the dining car, which was a beloved service removed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s what you should know!

What To Expect on Amtrak’s Dining Car

To provide context, Amtrak utilizes 2 dining options for its long-distance journeys, or trains that are 1 or more nights in length. Most trains utilize a to-go style dining service with pre-packaged meals, and these are traditionally served on most trains of only 1 night in length.

Then, on longer trains, a full dining car is used with actual sit-down meals. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach passengers could use the dining car on all trains and purchase meals à la carte.

Now, Amtrak is bringing back this luxury concept on the following trains:

  • Empire Builder
  • California Zephyr
  • Southwest Chief
  • Coast Starlight
  • Sunset Limited

With the exception of the Coast Starlight, which goes from Los Angeles to Seattle, all trains on this list are 2 or more nights in length.

Amtrak Dining Car Attendant
Coach passengers will now be able to purchase meals in the dining car. Image Credit: Amtrak

Each train will have a limited number of coach passenger seatings for each meal period, no longer restricting you to just the café car.

Sleeping car passengers have their meals included, so these passengers will get first priority at meals and will always be able to be accommodated. However, leftover spaces will be released to coach passengers. Since sleeping car passengers usually reserve times for lunch and dinner, presumably, the coach times would be able to access remaining meal services.

Here’s the pricing for meals:

  • $20 for breakfast
  • $25 for 2-course lunch
  • $45 for a 3-course dinner
  • $20 for all kids meals, no matter the meal time

Amtrak Dining Car Salad
I enjoyed a salad onboard Amtrak’s dining car. Image Credit: James Larounis

The dinner meal includes 1 complimentary alcoholic drink, and all meals include unlimited complimentary non-alcoholic drinks.

These prices are undoubtedly expensive — but on a train where limited amounts of food available, the rates are adjusted accordingly. Meals in the dining car are similar to restaurant service, and you’re paying for better-quality food that would be available in the to-go cafe.

Hot Tip: If you’re planning to explore the U.S. on the rails, read through our ultimate guide to Amtrak’s regional and long-distance routes!

Final Thoughts

It’s great to see dining car meals once again available for coach passengers at a per-meal cost. The latest move by Amtrak brings back a major service element that was removed during the COVID-19 pandemic, making the coach experience much more enjoyable for passengers on select long-distance trains.

James Larounis's image

About James Larounis

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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