News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak launches Silver Star traditional dining ‘pilot’

Amtrak launches Silver Star traditional dining ‘pilot’

By Bob Johnston | March 15, 2023

| Last updated on February 5, 2024

Return of full meals available only for sleeping car passengers

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Passenger cars on bridge
Viewliner II dining car Montgomery leads two sleepers as the southbound Silver Star crosses CSX’s St. Lucie Canal drawbridge south of Okeechobee, Fla., on Feb. 9, 2023. Amtrak is again offering “traditional dining” to the train’s sleeping car passengers. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Beginning with the northbound Silver Star of today (Wednesday, March 15), and the southbound train on Friday, March 17, Amtrak is returning full dining car meals to the Star’s Viewliner II diner. It will be the train’s first such food service since “traditional dining” was replaced by “flexible” meals in a bowl on two New York-Miami trains and the New York-New Orleans Crescent in October 2019.

“The Silver Star pilot will be offered for approximately a three-month period and positioned onboard as a ‘surprise and delight’ to First Class customers,” the company says in a statement to Trains News Wire, adding, “The Amtrak team will be offering the success of this new dining offering and may modify the service before a more formal announcement of a permanent rollout or potential expansion to the Silver Meteor.”

Interior of dining car with all tables filled
Coach and sleeping car passengers alike fill the full-service dining car on the New York-New Orleans Crescent out of Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2019. Months later, the car was dropped, much of the staff furloughed, and coach passengers limited to cafe cars on all eastern single-level trains. Bob Johnston

The menu described in Amtrak’s statement appears to be similar to those on Superliner diner-equipped western long-distance trains except the Texas Eagle and City of New Orleans: Signature Railroad French Toast, three-egg omelet, and Continental Breakfast options in the morning; a grilled sandwich, Angus burger, and chili at lunch; and steak, salmon, and pasta in the evening. As on western counterparts, one alcoholic beverage at dinner is offered for sleeping car passengers, whose meals are included in the ticket price.

A limited number of coach travelers have recently been allowed into Superliner dining cars after a similar trial period occurred on the Coast Starlight  [see “Amtrak coach passengers now can buy meals …,” News Wire, March 6, 2023]. That option hasn’t been extended for the Silver Star pilot.

The Silver Star was likely chosen over the Silver Meteor because its mealtime patronage is lighter than the Meteor, which operates with three Viewliner sleeping cars compared with two for the Star. Another difference: the Meteor, on a more direct route via Charleston, S.C., serves two breakfasts northbound, while the Star, on a more circuitous route via Columbia, S.C., and Tampa, Fla., offers two lunches southbound (assuming trains aren’t significantly late).

Before staffing and food preparation cutbacks began in 2018, all overnight trains offered all travelers the opportunity to eat in dining cars. However, menu prices for coach passengers had become increasingly expensive, especially at dinner. That continues to be the case today where customers are allowed to purchase dining car meals.

It isn’t clear how staffing levels will change with the re-introduction of “traditional dining” on one train, but the ability to effectively serve customers with limited staff is a factor being monitored.

15 thoughts on “Amtrak launches Silver Star traditional dining ‘pilot’

  1. Wait a minute, I thought that Amtrak said they were committed to restoring traditional dining on both Silver Service trains. Now the Silver Meteor is only under consideration?

  2. I’m looking forward to trying this. Sleeper service is so expensive that not getting traditional dining service makes the experience feel cheap.

  3. I ride the northeast regionals quite a bit, and food availability is a bigger issue than quality. Some of the recent changes have brought some options that are good for me, but they are popular and sell out quickly such that it’s common to find only chips and soda available at mealtime (or those heartburn inducing burgers and hotdogs).

  4. Sorry about the double post and my need to explain; FB Messenger keeps popping up every few seconds (thanks to a very inebriated old friend) and I thought the first one didn’t get picked up.

  5. Great news – apparently they had to switch out the diners because the old one was deadheading behind the locomotives today. But realistically – with all of Amtrak’s problems – poor management, canceling trains at the drop of a hat, poor on-time performance, equipment shortages, etc. – this is the equivalent of putting icing on (being polite) a sour pickle.

  6. Nice; I’m happy about this, but with all the other problems Amtrak has this is the equivalent of putting icing on (being polite) a sour pickle.

  7. Excellent! Just in time for my planned trip to Fla. to ride Brightline to Orlando. Now add the Meteor asap.

    1. Meteor, Crescent, Capitol, Lake Shore, Cardinal, City of New Orleans and Texas Eagle

  8. A step in the right direction! And one that may mitigate some bad PR that comes with late trains.

  9. Great to see continued investment, expansion and growth with Amtrak! Now just expand frequencies and please build dedicated rail for our passenger trains…we’re tired of all the delays due to freight rail traffic and some of the tracks are rough riding!!!

  10. Traditional dining will never return until all coach passengers desiring a meal are served in the diner on a first come first serve basis.

  11. Good start, anxious to see the test results and hope they try this in coaches real soon. Good reporting as usual from Bob Johnston.

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