Good news for people who like eating while in motion: Amtrak may be bringing back the beloved dining car. That's right, eating your Whataburger honey butter biscuit behind the wheel is no longer the most glamorous way to eat-on-the-go.
Back in the fall of 2019, Amtrak announced that it was getting rid of the classic dining car —the ones with china and flatware on a white tablecloth—in favor of pre-packaged options. This was before the pandemic, so they couldn't use health and safety as an excuse to stave off the inevitable firestorm of criticism. While Amtrak executives may have been looking to cut costs, people really love the romantic notion of dining off of fine china while rolling through the night. Cutting the full dining car experience transformed train travel from something elegant and nostalgic to utilitarian.
Luckily, Amtrak has realized the error of its ways. The Washington Post reports that six long-distance routes, including the Texas Eagle, on the leg that connects Los Angeles to San Antonio, and the Sunset Limited, which runs between New Orleans and Los Angeles will once again offer dining options for sleeper car customers "that harken back to the golden age of rail travel." Sadly, folks traveling routes on the eastern side of the Mississippi will be stuck with decidedly unromantic ready-made meals served on plastic trays.
The menus that Amtrak has rolled out are definitely a step up from pre-made spaghetti and meatballs. There are lobster crab cakes with farro, a grilled Atlantic salmon in miso soy beurre blanc sauce, and the train's signature flat iron steak all served on proper dishes with real glassware.
Don't expect a return of the sumptuous dining car experience shown in Murder on the Orient Express or Strangers on the Train, though. As Eater points out, many of those movies and the golden age of rail travel-fueled nostalgia that comes with them were from before Amtrak even existed. (It wasn't founded until 1971.) Even though Amtrak isn't offering the full North by Northwest dining experience, we are still celebrating the return of the dining car—and saving the Whataburger for those routes that don't offer it.