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Everything you need to know about Amtrak’s Cafe Car

There are a lot of reasons to love train travel – it’s more scenic than flying, it’s simpler than driving, and it’s better for the environment than either alternative. Yeah, it’s slow and Amtrak’s route network leaves a lot of people out, but when it’s an option, it’s a great one. 

One more thing that makes Amtrak an appealing choice for long distance travel is the cafe car. Riders can get food, drinks, and coffee by simply walking to another part of the train – no need to search for a rest area or wait for a flight attendant

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about cafe cars on Amtrak trains:

Amtrak Cafe Car: Overview

Amtrak train passing by a forest
  • Cafe car hours depend on the train, but are typically open in the range of 6 AM – 9 PM
  • Menus also change depending on the train, but Amtrak’s national cafe menu includes options for all three meals, snacks, and drinks
  • Prices for different snacks and food options are more expensive than what you’d see at the store, but cheaper than eating at an airport.

What is available on the cafe car?

You’ll see a different menu depending on the train you’re on. Some trains have a “regional” menu that offers local foods alongside the national menu items, and others just stick to the national menu.

National Menu

The “national” menu is Amtrak’s standard cafe car menu, featuring options like: 

  • Sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches
  • Bagels and muffins
  • Deli meat sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Candy
  • Coffee
  • Beer, wine, and cocktails

Regional Menus

Amtrak has several regional menus that offer unique items alongside the national menu items. Here’s a sampler of some of these options: 

Is amtrak cafe car food any good?

Kinda. It’s not fancy by any means, but it’ll get you through your trip. I’d say, in terms of overall quality, it’s a big step above gas station food and a bit below fast food. There are a few vegetarian and vegan-friendly options on the menu as well. 

Amtrak Cafe Car Prices

The amtrak cafe car has, overall, decent prices. Although it’s more expensive than a gas station or grocery store, the prices are way cheaper than what you’d pay at a grab-and-go store in an airport. 

For example, a turkey and havarti sandwich will cost you about $7.50, while I paid $11 for the same type of sandwich at the Charlotte airport a few months ago.

Here are some prices for different menu options: 

  • Sausage, Egg & Cheese breakfast sandwich $6.00
  • Greek salad $7.50
  • Angus Cheeseburger $7.25
  • White cheddar mac and cheese $7.25
  • Cup of noodles $2.50
  • Cheese & Cracker Tray $6.75
  • Fresh Vegetables with  hummus dip $5.75
  • M&M’s, Twix, Snickers or Skittles $3.00
  • Miss Vickie’s Chips, Pretzels or Doritos $2.00
  • Coffee $2.75
  • Coke, Diet Coke or Coke Zero $2.50
  • Sprite, Ginger Ale $2.50
  • Bottled Water $2.25
  • Blue Moon, Stella Artois, Michelob Ultra $7.50
  • ½ bottle of wine $14.75

Can I get anything for free?

If you’re riding in the sleeper car, such as the roomette, you get free coffee, tea, and soda from the cafe car, as well as a selection of snacks. That’s in addition to having all of your meals provided in the Dining Car, where you will be served a menu that is better than any other travel food I’ve had. 

What are my payment options?

You can pay via cash or card on the Cafe Car. Some cafe cars may accept Apple Pay and other mobile payments, but you should plan to use a physical card. Additionally, there is no option to charge anything to your ticket the way you might charge something to your room at a hotel

What’s the difference between the cafe car and the dining car?

Amtrak’s cafe car is a quick, inexpensive way to eat on your Amtrak journey. It’s open for long hours, and you can simply walk up, order your food, and take it back to your seat to eat it. On some trains, there may also be seating within the cafe car. The cafe car is also open to anyone on the train, regardless of their seat type.

The dining car, on the other hand, is reserved for Sleeper Car passengers. It’s more like a sit-down restaurant that opens for a couple of hours during each mealtime. Passengers are waited on by a professional staff, and can choose their meals from a menu that is separate from the cafe car menu. For dinner, you get a three-course meal with tablecloths and a bit of pizzazz – it’s a lot of fun. Non-alcoholic beverages are free, and your first alcoholic beverage is included for free as well. 
When I last rode Amtrak, the cafe and dining cars are located in the same “car” – one was upstairs and the other was downstairs. If you didn’t have Sleeper Car accommodations, you could not pass through the dining car or book yourself a table – it’s exclusive to the sleeper car. Fortunately, Amtrak has restored this ability on certain trains – you may be able to get a meal in the dining car for an added cost if you’re in coach!

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