steakGraham Rapier/ Business Insider

I recently set off on a four-day journey from coast to coast via Amtrak. The food, for the best part, was space better than I had ever expected. I stepped off the develop a few pounds heavier — and much happier — than I imagined possible. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more tales.

Surf and turf is a long way from what I expected to eat on my first cross-country Amtrak trip.

I had previously reported on a massive backlash to some dining-car alters on shorter itineraries, where custom-cooked food is going by the wayside, but the promise of gourmet devours on a moving train in the middle of North Dakota seemed far-fetched to say the least.

Determined to figure out for myself what was behind the hype, I set off on Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Chicago last week. Over three days — and five banquets — we crossed through wide ranges of the American heartland, through towns both large and small, and past beautiful snow-capped peaks.

Read more: It took me 96 hours to go an Amtrak train from coast to coast. I’d do it again in a heartbeat .

To be sure, the food on these sections of my travel was a stark difference from my introduction to dining on railings. On the first half of the trek from coast to coast, I tried Amtrak’s new “contemporary” meal service, which has rolled out on some routes east of the Mississippi River.

But after Chicago, things improved massively. Here’s what we ate 😛 TAGENDDinner requires reservations, which immediately signals “fancy” to me. Graham Rapier/ Business Insider

By the time the attendant came to take my choice, I was relegated to either 5:30( too early) or 8: 30. I travelled with the latter, seeing as I had 2 day to kill on this train.

Despite the reservation, you still have to wait to be called to the dining car. Graham Rapier/ Business Insider

Near each thirty-minute time slot, a dining car attendant came over the intercom inviting passengers to make their way to dinner. From there, I waited at the door as instructed to be sat at one of the approximately 12 four-top tables.

Next is where things get bizarre. Each passenger has to fill out this slip, which looks not unlike a Scantron answer sheet from academy. Graham Rapier/ Business Insider

The foams have items in general categories like “poultry entree” or “healthy menu option.” I presume these let the company track what’s being ordered, while allowing for some flexibility.

“They’ve said computers are coming for the entire 12 times I’ve ran here, ” the attendant said when I asked whether the forms were eventually scanned into a computer or somehow tallied.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

See Also 😛 TAGENDNearly one-third of all Amtrak trains are late — and it could be costing the railroad $42 million every yearI drove a $33,000 Fiat 500 X and the subcompact SUV was extremely disappointingIt took me 96 hours to journey an Amtrak train from coast to coast. I’d do it again in a heartbeat .

SEE ALSO: Amtrak is accusing millennials as it gashes back on dining-car snacks — and the internet’s not buying its logic

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