Do Amtrak Coach Passengers Have Access to the Dining Car?

More and more people are recognizing the convenience of traveling long distances by riding an Amtrak train. You can take a regional train across the state, or a long distance train across the country! But, on long journeys, Amtrak coach passengers often wonder if they will be able to access the dining car.

Generally, Amtrak trains offer a dining car where all passengers on board can purchase prepackaged meals, snacks, and beverages from. However, if you want to access Amtrak’s flexible or traditional dining cars, you typically will need to pay extra, as it’s not included in the price of the ticket.

Below, we will highlight everything you need to know about eating on Amtrak trains as a coach passenger. Keep reading to learn more!

Amtrak Coach Passengers and Dining Car Access

While Amtrak coach passengers will not have access to the same dining options that sleeper car passengers do, all passengers, including those riding in coach, can purchase a selection of entrees, snacks, or beverages from the cafe car.

Cafe car service is offered on most regional and national routes, including but not limited to:

  • Acela
  • Cascades
  • Auto Train
  • Texas Eagle
  • Coast Starlight
  • Northeast Regional
  • Winter Park Express

When you purchase your Amtrak ticket online or through the app, you will be able to see whether or not the train you’ll be riding in offers cafe car service. Cafe car hours vary by train, but most are open from the early hours in the morning to the late hours of the night.

In addition to traditional beverages like water, coffee, tea, and soft drinks, most cafe cars also serve alcoholic beverages. While you are allowed to bring and eat your own food onto Amtrak trains, the staff cannot heat, store, or refrigerate it for you. Additionally, most will not allow you to drink any alcohol you did not purchase from the cafe car.

pacific parlour
Jonathan Lee

Different Options for Eating on Amtrak Trains

While Amtrak coach passengers typically only have access to onboard dining through the cafe car, there are other dining options available for passengers in private rooms. Private room passengers on both regional and long-distance Amtrak trains may be able to dine in the following ways:

  • Cafe cars
  • Flexible dining
  • Traditional dining

Below, we will discuss all the different ways you can enjoy a snack, meal, or beverage while you make your long-distance journey.

Amtrak Cafe Cars

As we discussed above, Amtrak cafe cars are available to all passengers on board. While their operating hours are expansive, most cafe cars will close overnight on long-distance journeys. They may also close at various times throughout the day when the attendants take their scheduled breaks.

Most Amtrak cars have a cafe car. However, certain regional or short-journey trains may not. Check whether or not your train has a cafe when you book your ticket online or through the Amtrak app.

Throughout your trip, the cafe car will make announcements to passengers letting them know where the car is located and whether or not it is currently open. Sometimes the cafe is located in the middle of the train, and other times it’s situated at either end of the train. If you can’t find the cafe car, you can always ask a conductor to point you in the right direction.

Cafe cars serve prepackaged meals, snacks, and beverages. The exact menu will vary by route, but some of the options you may find include:

  • Bagels
  • Cookies
  • Soft drinks
  • Coffee and tea
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Sandwiches and wraps

Cafe attendants will often place your food in a cardboard tray so you can easily take it to your table or seat.

amtrak dining car
Charles Fulton

Flexible Dining

Flexible dining is currently only available for sleeper car passengers, although Amtrak is considering expanding it to all passengers. If you purchase a sleeper car ticket, either flexible or traditional dining will be included in the price, depending on which your train offers.

Like the cafe car, flexible dining features prepackaged meals, heated in convection ovens if necessary. You can eat your choice of entree during scheduled breakfast, lunch, and dinner times in the onboard lounge, or have it delivered to your room by an attendant at no extra cost.

Alcoholic beverages are available through flexible dining, including beer, wine, and liquor. Your first drink is free during dinner. In addition to this, your ticket price includes unlimited soft drinks.

This is called “flexible dining” because you can order or eat your food at any time during the meal window, no need to make a reservation in the dining car. Breakfast is served from 6:30-10:00 AM, lunch is offered from 11:30-3:00 PM, and dinner is available from 5:00-9:30 PM.

Traditional Dining

Instead of flexible dining, some Amtrak trains offer traditional dining where onboard chefs prepare meals fresh for sleeper car passengers. Like flexible dining, Amtrak is currently exploring options to make this available for all passengers, including those riding in coach.

When you purchase a sleeper car ticket for a train that offers traditional dining, the price will be included in the overall cost. Unlike flexible dining, you’ll need to make a reservation in the dining car to eat your meals, which will be personally served by an attendant, just like in a restaurant.

Traditional dining includes an entree, beverage, and dessert. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are available, but alcohol is only served at dinner. Your first drink is free. Four seasonal menus are available in the dining car, along with a selection of children’s meals.

If you don’t want to eat in the dining car, your sleeper ticket price also includes complimentary room service. You can place your meal orders, then an attendant will bring the food directly to your private room.

Final Thoughts

Most Amtrak trains have a cafe car where all passengers, including those riding in coach, can purchase a variety of meals, snacks, and beverages. If you want more options, including chef-prepared entrees and complimentary room service, you will need to purchase a ticket for one of Amtrak’s sleeper cars.





Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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