Eating On Amtrak: What You Need To Know (2023)

Planning your first trip can be fun, and setting your expectations is essential so you know what to expect and how to prepare. Eating on Amtrak trains can be a fun but necessary travel experience.

This article helps you determine your choices for eating on Amtrak’s long-distance and regional trains.

Since this is an overview, there are links for more in-depth articles on the topic if you need more information.

While reading this article, you may need a snack because you could get hungry by the end.

Setting Your Eating On Amtrak Expectations

The first thing I want to cover about eating on Amtrak trains is to check your expectations.

You may feel disappointed if you think eating in Amtrak dining cars is like what you see in the old movies. First, there is much less singing on the train than in the old film, as in very little to no singing.

Seconds, times have changed, and even flying isn’t what you see in the movies either. Some trains, like the Hiawatha or the Keystone, do not offer food service.

What train you ride will determine what food you get; more on that in the next section.

Eating On Amtrak, What Their Different Trains Offer For Food

Not all trains offer the same food service; below is an overview of what Amtrak provides.

Regional Trains

Regional trains travel under 750 miles and are often state-funded. Seating for these trains is mostly coach-class, although many offer business-class accommodations.

If you plan to take a regional train, your food choices come from the cafe car. There are a few trains that do have vending machines instead of cafe cars.

Long-Distance Trains

All long-distance trains have a cafe car that is open to all passengers. On many trains, the cafe car is towards the middle of the train.

If you have sleeping accommodations, your meals are complimentary, along with many beverages, and come from the dining or cafe car, depending on the train; more on this later.


Like regional and long-distance trains, Acela has a cafe car for all passengers.

(Video) Amtrak Food Options And Tipping Information

First Class passengers get at-seat service, including drinks and meals.

Eating On Amtrak: Cafe Cars

As you learned, most trains have café cars offering various hot and cold entrees, snacks, and beverages. Beverages include Coke products, coffee, tea, and adult beverages.

The attendants put your selections in a cardboard tray to make taking your food to your seat or table easier.

Depending on your order, an average meal can start around $10 and go up based on what you want.

Amtrak cafe cars are open most of your journey but may close for the attendant breaks. The cafe car is closed at night if you are on a long-distance train.

Remember that not all regional trains have food service, like the Hiawatha. Trains without any food service are often short-run trains. So check before stepping on the train expecting food.

The Amtrak website and app indicate that your train route has a cafe car.

When Can You Use The Cafe Car?

After your ticket gets scanned, you can get up and walk to the cafe. But if you are at the beginning of the route, listen to ensure it is open before taking the hike. On some trains, the cafe may close for the attendant to prep sleeping car meals.

The cafe car will make announcements throughout the journey reminding you where the cafe car is and when it is open to get your snacks and more.

Where Is The Cafe Car?

Some routes have cafe cars in the middle of the train while others are on the ends. There is not one set location for these cars across the system.

You can always ask a conductor if you cannot find the cafe car.

The cafe car service is a buffer between the coach and the dining car for long-distance cars. The Western train is on the lower level of the Sightseer cars.

More information On Amtrak Cafe Cars

Menus can vary based on the region and who sponsors the train.

An Example of a Midwest Cafe Menu

(Video) AMTRAK ROOMETTE Everything You Need to Know 2021 // Detailed Room Tour, Shower, Food and More

More on Cafe Cars

Coffee On Amtrak

I often get asked about coffee on Amtrak, so here is what you need to know.

For whatever reason, coffee on the rails, for me, taste better than that same coffee off the train. I know it is psychological.

The roast can vary from time to time and route to route.

You can find coffee In the cafe and dining car; in these cars, coffee is drip-brewed.

In the sleeping cars, Amtrak offers percolated coffee.

Amtrak does not offer espresso drinks such as lattes, nor do they offer iced or cold brew coffee. Amtrak does offer bottled coffee drinks.

Eating On Amtrak: Long-Distance Trains

Coach And Business Class

Coach and business class passengers may purchase food from the cafe car or bring food and beverages onboard. While coach and business class passengers can pack alcohol, they cannot consume their stash aboard, but the cafe car sells alcohol.

On select routes, traditional dining is returning for coach passengers for trains that depart on March 1, 2023, or later. Those routes include the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, and Sunset Limited.

All meals have a set price, and a limited number of reservations could be allowed due to demand.

Estimated prices based on what Amtrak did with the Coast Starlight Business Class passengers,

  • Breakfast $20
  • Lunch is $25 and $15 for kids
  • Dinner is $45 and $25 for kids

Dinner includes a three-course meal and an adult beverage.

For Sleeping Car Passenger

  • All the scheduled meals in thedining car or Sleeper Loungecome with your room price.
    • Includes entrees, non-adult beverages, and desserts
    • Your first alcoholic beverage comes with dinner
    • Tips are appreciated
    • A selection of non-alcohol drinks is available throughout your trip.
  • Your car attendance can bring the food to your room.
  • Sleeper passengers can purchase additional food or drink in the cafe car or consume adult beverages onboard, but only in their accommodations.

Flex Dining

(Video) Amtrak Dining Car | All Meals Reviewed

Traditional Dining

Traditional dining is when chefs on board prepare your food; flex dining is prepackaged meals heated in convection ovens.

Bringing Food On Amtrak Trains

You can bring food on the train, but Amtrak staff cannot heat, store, or refrigerate it for you. Do not bring or use a coffee maker, hotplates, or other small appliances on the train because it is unsafe for you and others. Plus, other passengers would appreciate it if you refrain from eating smelly foods.

Like in restaurants, do not bring food into the dining car or cafe car you did not buy on the train; the exception is food for young travelers.

Other Tidbits On Eating On Amtrak

The Empire Builder andLake Shore Limited are unique within the Amtrak system.

Not all parts of these trains are together for the whole route.

Only one section of the train will have a dining or sleeper car lounge during the trip, and the other half will have a cafe car.

Your first or last meal may not be in the dining car and could come from the cafe or a box meal like in the photo.

Eating On Amtrak Wrap-up

To be safe, always bring something as a backup. I usually have a few bars or snack packs, just in case!

I budget money for the cafe car for my train trips, especially if I am in coach class. It works better for me if I buy meals onboard than bringing all my food on board with me.

I’m not particularly eager to carry coolers because I like to pack light. However, I may pack snacks in a reusable bag before getting off the train.

Remember, all the food in the cafe car is prepackaged. Cafe car attendants can warm up the food you bought but not the food you brought.

Riding in sleepers has changed since I started, such as an adult beverage complimentary with dinner.

I walked to the cafe car to get a cheese tray and wine to be fancy while relaxing in my room. Additionally, I have met some fantastic people in the dining car, including friends I still talk to today!

Other helpful links

Info on Riding Amtrak

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(Video) Eating on the Rails: Food on Amtrak 🚅

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(Video) Beginners Guide To Amtrak | What You Need To Know


Eating On Amtrak: What You Need To Know? ›

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars. Personal food and beverages are allowed in the upper level of Superliner Sightseer Lounges.

What do they serve to eat on Amtrak? ›

The Café Car offers a variety of premium sandwiches, salads, healthy snacks, tasty breakfast options and beverages, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. Enjoy a drink while onboard and select from our local, domestic and imported beers, wines and spirits.

Can you eat snacks on Amtrak? ›

Most Amtrak routes offer Café service, with a variety of meals, snacks and beverages for sale. Customers in all classes of service are invited to the Café and service is available from early morning until late at night.

Can coach passengers eat in the dining car on Amtrak? ›

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.

Can I bring food on Amtrak? ›

Bringing Your Food Aboard

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars.

How early should you come before your Amtrak train? ›

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

Does Amtrak check your bags? ›

Checked Baggage

Each traveler can check up to 4 bags (2 free and 2 at $20 per bag). Size/weight limitations apply.

Is there WiFi on Amtrak? ›

To ensure you stay connected while traveling, we offer free basic WiFi service in select trains and stations throughout the country. Stay productive, or simply sit back and have some fun while en route to your destination.

How many bags can you bring on Amtrak? ›

You + Two Bags = No Extra Charge

Unlike many transportation options, traveling with Amtrak is twice as nice with our generous baggage policy. When you travel with us, you can carry-on two free pieces of luggage. Each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and needs to be 28 x 22 x 14 inches in size.

Do you go through security for Amtrak? ›

With due respect to passengers' privacy, the random and unannounced screening and inspection of passengers and their personal items is completed as quickly as possible - usually in less than a minute.

Can you walk around on Amtrak? ›

You're allowed to walk about the train as often as you'd like. Just make sure to watch where you're walking onboard the train between cars. The safety plates often shift and pinch when the train is in motion.

How much do you tip on the Amtrak train? ›

Tipping. General Guidelines: Tipping is NOT required, but is considered correct for the service crew personnel on the train. Recommendations: Snack bar attendant: roughly 10%. Dining car: 15% of menu prices (sleeping car passengers may want to note this when ordering their meals).

What do you wear in an Amtrak dining car? ›

If you choose to have dinner in our dining car, the dress code is casual. Sleeping accommodations on board Amtrak are considered "Sleeper Service," which means passengers are entitled to a range of hotel-like amenities.

What is an Amtrak comfort kit? ›

Supplied by RMT Global Partners, this Amtrak Comfort Kit is reuseable and compact with a convenient carry strap for on-the-go travellers needing a little extra warmth, a travel pillow, earplugs, and an eye mask for a restful nap until reaching their destination.

Do Amtrak coach seats have tray tables? ›

Coach class is offered on every Amtrak train and features wide, reclining seats with ample legroom, no middle seat option and at-seat trays, reading lights and electric outlets. Restrooms are located in each car.

Do you go through security at Amtrak? ›

With due respect to passengers' privacy, the random and unannounced screening and inspection of passengers and their personal items is completed as quickly as possible - usually in less than a minute.

What do you need to bring to Amtrak? ›

Valid Photo ID Required

Purchasing documents with a stored eVoucher or Transportation Credit. Traveling as a Pass Rider (active or retired) Storing baggage at stations.

Do you just sit anywhere on Amtrak? ›

Can I choose a specific seat? Not while you're making a reservation. Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat at any time after your booking is complete using interactive seat maps on the Amtrak app or on


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