Amtrak’s new flagship lounge is stunning – but eat before you go
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Amtrak.
Unlike many people in the travel space, I didn’t grow up flying on airplanes. Many of my earliest memories were from taking the Amtrak between Washington, D.C., and my hometown, Newport News, Virginia.
I fly much more often now, but Amtrak has a soft spot in my heart. That’s why I was extremely excited when the new Moynihan Train Hall opened in early January and even more excited when the rail carrier recently announced that it would start serving food.
Unfortunately, the menu at Amtrak’s new lounge disappoints -- so much so that you might want to eat beforehand if you have a long journey ahead.
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I was pretty excited to try the food at the new Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge at New York’s brand new Moynihan Train Hall. In hindsight, I should have probably grabbed a muffin from the bodega before heading to the lounge in Midtown Manhattan.
Access is available to passengers traveling in first-class or sleeper cars.
Additionally, Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus and Select Executive elites get unlimited access, while Select members get two single-visit passes each year. I was able to access the lounge on this rainy midday because I was traveling Amtrak’s Acela Express in first class between New York and Washington, D.C. -- which you’ll learn more about in a separate review.
Related: The complete guide to Amtrak Guest Rewards
Before jumping into the food review, I have to note that the lounge is gorgeous. It doesn’t feel like an Amtrak product at all. If you remember the Amtrak lounge at Penn Station, it’s nothing like that (I once compared it to a funeral home) at all.
It’s airy, new, smells fresh and feels spacious. Friendly workers are on hand to take food orders and update you on when your train arrives. The coffee is from La Colombe and a nice touch. There’s even a balcony just outside of the lounge where you can gaze upon people in the train hall below you. It looks and feels much like an American Express Centurion Lounge.
But unlike the Centurion, you don’t get a hot meal at Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge. Even in a pandemic, this is a massive downside for Amtrak’s flagship lounge. Generally, when I review food options when traveling, I try to avoid eating. It gives me a better perspective if I go into the review a little hungry because I’ll be excited to eat.
Amtrak described its new food offerings in a press release in late March as a “premium product.”
“When we began developing the menu for the Metropolitan Lounge, we sought to offer premium products that were commensurate with the first-rate experience at the Moynihan Train Hall,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer Roger Harris. “Now, customers can enjoy local, fresh, sustainable and safely packed food and beverages that are exclusive to the Moynihan Train Hall.”
It’s definitely packaged -- but think more Starbucks packaged than fresh.
I started by ordering a mocha, served by a friendly attendant and brewed by La Colombe. It was delicious and had I not been on an empty stomach, I would have likely ordered another.
With about an hour before my train arrived to whisk me off to D.C., I figured I’d grab a bite to eat. Food is served buffet-style, but you don’t handle it yourself because of the pandemic, which I found to be great for safety purposes.
I had an 11 a.m. train to D.C. but ordered a chicken wrap because that was the closest option the lounge had to breakfast food. It was pretty disappointing -- it would have been nice to have some variety (or even something New York-themed) given the time of day, even if it was packaged.
There was a multitude of drink choices, from sparkling to seltzer water and juice.
There were pretty basic options like fruit cups, boiled eggs and yogurt parfaits.
The candy jars were a nice touch, and the infused water was refreshing and tasty.
And just before I left, I grabbed an iced lemon pound cake for the road, which I admit was pretty good.
Overall, I found the food options here to be underwhelming, making me wish that I’d stopped at a Pret a Manger or even a Wendy's before heading to the lounge.
Because of the pandemic, I’m inclined to cut Amtrak a bit of slack here -- again, the lounge is fantastic -- but other similar lounges still offer a hot meal even in these times. If Amtrak wants its Metropolitan Lounges to be its crown jewels, the agency may want to consider offering better food options. I’ll be back to this lounge, no doubt, but I’ll likely eat ahead of time.