Can You Bring Food or Alcohol on the Amtrak?

Amtrak offers food and beverage options, but consider their food policy if bringing your own.
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Written by Jennifer Calonia
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Although flying is a popular transportation option, millions of travelers choose the scenic and leisurely route that trains, like Amtrak, offer. In 2023, Amtrak carried nearly 28.6 million passengers to their destinations.

As you're gobbling up the gorgeous scenery, you might still wonder: Can you eat on Amtrak? The short answer is yes. Plus, Amtrak's food options are many.

In addition to enjoying the passing scenery and catching up on R&R, you can drink on the Amtrak trains or enjoy a meal en route. Here’s what to know about the Amtrak food and drink.

Amtrak food policy

Amtrak’s onboard food and beverage policy is fairly reasonable, though there are a couple of restrictions.

Passengers are allowed to bring their nonalcoholic beverages and food on Amtrak trains. This policy applies to all Amtrak seat classes. When you bring your own food and drinks, however, they can be consumed only in your ticketed seat or private sleeper car.

Also, consider bringing food and beverages stored in your carry-on cooler bag that don’t require reheating to enjoy. Amtrak attendants are prohibited from handling, heating or refrigerating personal food and beverages due to federal health regulations.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Does Amtrak have microwaves? Yes, but they are for food preparers only. Don't expect to be able to reheat the food you bring onboard in a microwave.

Let’s say you planned on sitting in the Amtrak cafe car for the entire ride (which is allowed). In this scenario, you wouldn’t be able to eat or drink your personal items in the cafe; only food, snacks and drinks purchased from the cafe can be enjoyed there.

In terms of prohibited items on Amtrak, perishable food and drinks are not allowed in checked baggage. Only small amounts of food and drink are permitted in your carry-on bag to have during your ride.

Can you bring alcohol on Amtrak?

The Amtrak food policy is explicit when it comes to bringing alcohol aboard. Only passengers who have a valid ticket for sleeper car accommodations can bring personal alcohol on their trip. Additionally, you’re restricted to consuming the alcohol in your sleeper car only — it can’t be consumed in public areas, including the cafe and dining cars.

Passengers in non-sleeper car accommodations, like those with a coach seat ticket, are not permitted to bring their alcoholic beverages for consumption on the train.

Although former Amtrak passengers have reported some leniency with discreetly consuming private stock alcohol in other seat cars, it’s against Amtrak’s policy. If you choose to risk it, train attendants and conductors can remove you from the train.

Buying food on Amtrak trains

If you prefer to purchase food during your travel, instead of bringing it, most Amtrak trains have at least one food service option.

Cafe service

All passengers can buy food, snacks and beverages at the cafe car, which is typically located on the upper level. The Amtrak menu offers hot and cold meal selections, from light breakfast fare to a heartier lunch and dinner menu. You can also visit the cafe for alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, hard seltzer and cocktails.

Depending on your destination, a regional menu might also be available.

Traditional dining

Amtrak’s traditional dining car option offers table service on certain Amtrak trains. You’ll find traditional dining on Amtrak’s:

  • Auto Train.

  • California Zephyr.

  • Coast Starlight.

  • Empire Builder.

  • Silver Meteor.

  • Silver Star.

  • Southwest Chief.

  • Sunset Limited.

  • Texas Eagle (limited route).

This dining option — which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and alcohol — is an additional cost for seated ticket passengers. You can reserve a table for lunch or dinner in advance, and your first alcoholic drink during dinner is complimentary. Passengers who purchase a private room receive complimentary meals and room service from the dining car.

Flexible dining

Flexible dining offers ready-to-serve hot food and beverages. The name reflects the “flexible dining times” that are offered, instead of having to make reservations for table service. This dining option is available to passengers with a private room on:

  • Capitol Limited.

  • Cardinal.

  • City of New Orleans.

  • Crescent.

  • Lake Shore Limited.

  • Texas Eagle (limited route).

Food options vary by train. For example, on the City of New Orleans train, passengers can order a deluxe stromboli, but Crescent passengers don’t have this meal option. Passengers can receive unlimited soft drinks, and like traditional dining, they can get their first alcoholic beverage on the house.

Amtrak Acela dining

Amtrak’s Acela train, which travels along the East Coast, offers first-class passengers complimentary in-seat culinary meals and beverages (including alcohol).

The menu rotates regularly and has included premium dishes like chilled sesame noodle salad and black pepper beef. Business-class passengers can receive cart service while staying in their seats, and the cafe car is available to all Acela passengers.

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The bottom line

Whether you purchase Amtrak’s food on board or bring your own, there are options to keep you satiated on the way to your destination.

If you’re thinking of bringing your own food and drinks, keep the Amtrak food policy and restrictions in mind to avoid any issues.

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