Let’s Improve On-Board Dining.

Once again, VIA Rail’s Canadian has proven itself worthy of the title of Best Long Distance Train in North America. And, yes, the stainless steel equipment is nice and beautifully maintained, but to my mind, that rating is based almost entirely on the food service passengers receive over the four days this great train is en route between Toronto and Vancouver. More precisely, it’’s because of the manner in which the food is presented.

At any rate, here are a few suggestions for the  Amtrak executives responsible for the food service offered to passengers on long-distance trains operating in the Western U.S.

1. A few of the menu choices should vary each day.

Take it from someone who has just traveled by Amtrak from L.A. to Chicago to New York to Washington and back to Chicago. If you face the same few options several days in a row, you’ll risk life and limb for something different and it might not even matter how well the dishes are prepared. 

Of course I understand that it’s not cost effective to have each chef deciding the entire menu for his or her dining car. But please allow them some flexibility. They are, after all, professional chefs!  Here’s what I mean about giving them a little latitude: Buy the sausage and the pasta in bulk, but let each chef decide on the sauce. 

2. The food should be all—OK, mostly—prepared on board.

This is important, because it says loud and clear that what you’re being served isn’t something that had been frozen solid an hour ago. And, yes, most of the time us ordinary folks actually can tell the difference.

3. The presentation is serious business.

 Personally, I’d like to see little more professionalism in how the food is actually brought to the table and presented to the guests. 

 Was General George Washington fond of this dish? Would he have served it to his wealthy planter friends? 

Then—doggone it!—we can do better than, “OK, who had the steak rare with mashed?”