Dining on the Amtrak Coast Starlight

Dining on the Amtrak Coast Starlight

One of the nice things about booking a Room or Roomette on Amtrak is that all your meals are included.  For the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle, that works out to five meals (lunch and dinner on Day 1, breakfast, lunch and dinner on Day 2).  Meals are served in the Dining Car or in your room as arranged by your steward.  All courses are included; you only pay for gratuity and alcohol.  For reference, I have included the price for the meal if it had not been included.

UPDATE: You can read about the more up to date dining on Amtrak in this post about dining on the California Zephyr from February 2020.

Pretty soon after departing the station in Los Angeles, the Dining Car manager stopped by each room to take meal reservations. She did this before every lunch and dinner. She was quite sassy; reminded more people than just me of the traditional grade school lunch lady. She kept passengers in line in her dining car. Slots for lunch ran from Noon until 2:00pm on the half hour. Dinner reservations ran from 6:00-8:30pm on the first night and 5:00-6:00pm on the second night (due to arrival around 7:30pm in Seattle).

I picked a 12:30 lunch time which gave me enough time to get settled a bit before eating.

The Dining Car manager seats you when you arrive for your meal. Tables are filled as passengers arrive, and unless you are a party of four, you will be seated with other guests. My first lunch I was seated with a couple from Las Vegas heading up to Seattle. Everyone understands that you will be seated with strangers and most people seem to enjoy getting to know one another. Some of my meals were with people that were more social while other times people kept to themselves.

Upon being seated, you are given a form that you add your name, room number and car number to the bottom. The server then uses this to take and track your order. If you are not in a sleeper, you then pay at the end of the meal. Those in sleepers just pay for alcohol and tip (optional but highly encouraged).

Coast Starlight Menu

The Coast Starlight Menu is the same both days.  Update: New menu as of January 2020.

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Continental Breakfast
  • Amtrak Signature Buttermilk Pancake Trio
  • Three Egg Omelet
  • Cheese Quesadillas, Eggs & Tomatillo Sauce

Lunch

  • Romaine & Goat Cheese Salad
  • Black Bean & Corn Veggie Burger
  • Natural Angus Burger
  • Baked Chilaquiles
  • Steamed Mussels
  • Garden Salad

Dinner

  • Land & Sea (steak and seafood cake)
  • The Amtrak Signature Steak
  • Griddle Seared Norwegian Salmon
  • Gnocchi with Kale
  • Thyme Roasted Chicken Breast
  • Butternut Squash Risotto
  • Vegetarian Pasta
  • Garden Salad

For my first lunch, I had a garden salad, black bean & corn veggie burger with cheese and guacamole, and the flourless chocolate cake for dessert and a Pepsi. Soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water are all included for sleeper guests. ($26.25)

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the food. It is definitely a few steps up from airplane food. They definitely cook some of the items on the train (I am guessing a lot of the items like salad and desserts are pre-made and then prepped on board).

For dinner I was seated with a party of three women traveling for work. They were a lot of fun and the liveliest table of all my meals.

I wanted to order the special sweet potato gnocchi, but I was told it had been discontinued.  Instead I had the grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, garden salad, and salted caramel parfait for dessert and a Pepsi.  ($30.75) I was too distracted by the conversation to get a photo.

The next morning I woke up to watch the sunrise over Mt Shasta.  I arrived at the Dining Car shortly after it opened (6:30am) and was seated at a table.  Quick two other single riders were seated with me.  One was on his way up to see a dying family member; I think he was happy to have someone to talk to.

I had the three egg omelet (add guacamole and chicken sausage) with an orange juice. ($21)

For lunch I made a noon reservation.  I was seated with another single rider going home to central Washington and two friends traveling together, one from Austria and one from Spain.  They were getting off at Portland and then driving to the Washington coast.

For lunch I ordered the romaine and goat cheese salad with chicken added with a Pepsi and the chocolate cake for dessert. ($24.75)  It was probably my favorite meal of the trip.

Dinner reservations were only available between 5-6pm due to our arrival in Seattle.  I decided to try out room service for this meal and had the butternut squash risotto with chicken added, a garden salad and the salted caramel parfait with a Pepsi.  ($33.25)  Another very good meal.

The communal dining is fun even for someone that tends to be an introvert.  It is just part of the slowed down experience of riding a train.  The food is quite good, especially since it is included in the price of the room reservation.  Had it not been, my food would have cost $136 plus tip.

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Dining on the Amtrak Coast Starlight

6 thoughts on “Dining on the Amtrak Coast Starlight”

  1. Does the Coast Starlight have an eating booth for 2 in the dining car? If not, are we allowed to eat in our bedrooms?

    Reply
    • All of the dining is four passengers per table. If you are traveling as a pair, they will seat you with two other guests. It isn’t so bad though; and I am definitely an introvert.

      You can order room service for any/all meals and they will deliver it to your room. I did this once (dinner right before arrival into Seattle).

      Reply
  2. My LA to Seattle ride and back were quite the experiences. The next time I go about it, I’ll be sure to get a sleeper for sure, one of the major reasons (other than having an actual bed) being that I could get meals served in the room instead of having to dine with strangers. It’s definitely not a fun experience for an introvert.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your experience. What “class” of seat did you book? A roomette?

      I’m also an introvert and also found the dining not ideal; but had fun with it and it was good for me to get outside my comfort zone.

      Reply
  3. Is there still this traditional dining on the Coast Starlight – at least with more social distancing – maybe only two at a table, etc.?? Some other routes don’t use traditional dining – I signed the Petition to try and stop that denigration! The stopping of traditional white-table-cloth dining occurred BEFORE the pandemic, so the pandemic is not to blame. Moolah – esp.not enough support from the Feds – is part of the reason for this dining decline…

    In the 1990’s and early 2000’s I took this Coast Starlight trip from L.A. to Oregon several times – wonderful experiences. Many more perks then. For those with a Roomette or Bedroom, there was free, festive afternoon Wine Tasting in a separate “Lounge Car” – the wines usually were refreshing – special Oregon or Washington wines – plus delicious appetizers, all while enjoying new people traveling with you and seeing varied kaleidoscopes of lands. Also, with Roomette/Bedroom reservations: 24-hour access to the “Lounge Car” – really nice at night when going through the city-lights and waterways of the San Francisco Bay Area… soft drinks / waters and pretzels free, but if you want bar drinks, you need to purchase them. Yes, all meals at no cost. And you of course have access with all other passengers to the high-up viewing deck. In the morning, an actual newspaper (“The Oregonian”) was put outside your bedroom. Rise and shine for coffee and breakfast. The bathrooms including showers were only for the car you were in. (That was a challenge, taking a hot shower on a jiggling train!) PLUS, each of the several trips I took had one of these: A magician bringing smiles or a musician – usually guitarist – soothing you along the way.

    Such memorable experiences. On another train, I also took a very adventurous trip to Utah and Idaho, then on to Oregon. This adventure was complete with snow and below-zero weather. Yes, we got stuck and delayed, but that was part of the ADVENTURE! 🙂 We played “Santa” with the kids, sang Carols, and generally had a wonderful time. The layover in Salt Lake allowed me to walk around Salt Lake City and attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas Concert!! Stayed at a Travel Lodge with a morning wake-up call saying that the train would be leaving in a couple of hours. OK. Never planned any of this! That’s part of the fun! Amtrak gave credits for future travel due to these delays, but I wasn’t too-much of a complainer about the natural/Nature ordeal! Yes, we had traditional white-table-cloth meals on this train, as well.

    Maybe if trumpisms (which actually started decades before the worst/trump admin itself), weren’t such a detrimental influence in this country, we’d have a better and better railway system – to feature the beautiful lands and riveting history of this country – to make us proud at this point. But no, we’re verging on a Third-World country now. Vote against such this November!! And let’s bring AMTRAK back the way it used to be – and even better and elegantly so!

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with Amtrak! I just missed the Lounge Car — my first long trip was just after they removed it from service. I love hearing the stories of the past.

      Reply

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