Passengers traveling on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor will now have better food and beverage options to choose from when they get hungry.
Amtrak’s new Corridor Café Menu is more comprehensive and has healthier items. Amtrak has partnered with the Boar’s Head Brand to provide fresher meats and cheeses for its sandwiches. The snacks are of higher-quality. The menu designates gluten-free items. Even the alcoholic beverages have gotten an upgrade with more premium brands available such as Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky.
“There’s a lot more interest in getting from point A to point B on time and safely,” says Harris Cohen, senior manager of the Northeast Corridor Service Line. “But there is also more interest in higher-end food and beverage, a culinary experience.”
The travel industry in general has been stepping up its efforts to provide more sophisticated dining experiences. Airlines have enlisted celebrity chefs and sommeliers to curate menus for them. Hotels have turned their restaurants into destinations.
Amtrak executives have noticed that trend and now believe they too have to step it up.
“There’s a lot of competition within in the industry,” says Cohen. “Everyone is clamoring to improve quality and freshness in offerings.”
There’s another type of competition that Amtrak is facing. Many of the stations its trains pull into and out of have sit-down restaurants or places with grab and go items. Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, for instance, has a Shake Shack, the popular burger chain. New York’s Penn Station has two floors of restaurants and even a liquor store that caters to travelers with to-go items such as canned wine.
“There’s a recognition that we want our items to be as good or better,” Cohen says.
Snacks such as Sabra hummus with pretzel chips and the cheese and cracker tray will remain. Favorite hot items such as DiGiorno cheese pizza, Hebrew National all-beef hot dog and the Angus burger also made the cut for those seeking comfort food.
But now the snack menu includes fresh-cut vegetables—carrots, celery, broccoli, and sweet peppers--with chipotle ranch dressing as well as Sahale honey almonds glazed mix.
As for sandwiches and salads, the old menu had various sandwiches but there was no partnership with a known brand of ingredients. There was a roasted turkey and swiss sandwich, a Philly cheesesteak panini, a buffalo chicken wrap, a chicken banh mi, an Italian hero, a Thai chicken wrap, a chicken Caesar salad, and a layered quinoa veggie salad. Those items rotated monthly.
The new menu reads more like one you would find at a café in the West Village of New York.
The new Boar’s Head menu has a turkey and French brie Parisian sandwich on a sesame baguette, buffalo chicken and bleu cheese in a roasted red pepper wrap, and ham and imported Swiss cheese on Tuscan marble rye.
Aside from sandwiches, there’s a grilled chicken Caesar salad with kale, quinoa, tomatoes and parmesan chips. There is a cracked pepper mill smoked turkey protein plate with gouda cheese, pita rounds, celery, and cranberry mustard. Bowls are now the rage, and Amtrak is capitalizing on that with an Asian scallion and peanut noodle version with sesame ginger vinaigrette.
Amtrak is now also offering bundles.
A small bottle of Woodbridge wine with a cheese and cracker tray is going for $13.25. Travelers can add a soda or bottled water and a bag of chips, pretzels or popcorn to an entrée for $4.
The breakfast offerings are leaner and healthier.
The old menu had simple offerings such as a bagel with cream cheese, Greek yogurt, a Danish pasty, and a blueberry muffin. The two sandwiches available were a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese sandwich and a bacon, egg and cheese wrap.
On the new Acela breakfast menu is a Brooklyn bialy with sharp cheddar, cage-free egg, and Boar’s Head uncured smoked ham. A New York bagel with cream cheese is still on the menu. But for those who want to cut back on carbs, there are Abbotsford farm cage-free eggs hard-boiled and peeled as well as a low-fat vanilla yogurt and blueberry parfait with cinnamon pumpkin seeds, chia, and whole grain-oat granola.
Amtrak has made efforts recently to improve the experience on its routes, particularly on the Northeast Corridor, which attracts the majority of passengers.
Passengers traveling first class on the Acela can now choose their seats on certain routes for free. Cohen says Amtrak hopes to expand that program to all first-class cabins on the Acela. On the regular Northeast Regional, Amtrak has improved seats and carpeting and plans to do that with its Acela trains as well.