Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Eating on the road: Three trains, three lunches with VIA Rail

I took the train down to Scarborough a few weeks back in business, which is really the best way to travel by train. But pro-tip: the bar car usually opens around 11AM so schedule your trip accordingly. After all, you don’t want to pay a premium for just an omelette – and they hardly ever have ketchup.

So I planned my trip accordingly to be able to enjoy a few enroute rum and diets and, as it worked out, I ended up having to change trains in Kingston with an hour layover. Naturally, my question going in was: would I get lunch on each train. The answer? Oh, yes indeed.

On boarding, the attendant asked me if I wanted lunch early. Oh do I, good sir? With first choice of the menu options I went for the baked hake, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, a Greek salad, a bonus extra bread roll, and apple cake. And, of course, a rum and diet.

I always say you can’t go wrong with the fish on VIA Rail. And this fish didn’t disappoint. It was cooked perfectly with a nice cream sauce. But even the asparagus was cooked correctly. The Greek salad was fresh. And the apple cake had actual apple (you should try it with your apple fritters, Tim Hortons). I can honestly say this is the best train lunch I have had in my memory. I demolished everything but the olives.

After a layover and a diet coke in the Kingston VIA lounge, it was on to my next train to continue my journey to Guildwood. This train was coming from Montreal and offered a different menu, but there were few choices left for the late boarders.

The couple behind me got the last two cold salmon plates, which would have been my choice. Instead I was left with the beef bourguignon with mashed potatoes, another Greek salad, bread roll, and a cookie. I usually avoid the beef on planes and trains as it’s very easy to overcook. While it wasn’t my first choice it wasn’t bad – warm and hearty for a fall day. The cookie was stale, but the salad was fresh.

And talk about a healthy pour on my rum and diet…

For my train back to Ottawa at the end of the trip I had no connections, so just one lunch. It was the same menu as my first train and while I briefly considered getting the fish again, I opted instead for the cold chicken plate on spinach and a quinoa salad. The Greek salad was back again, as was the apple cake. Red wine chaser.

The chicken was good, the taziki could have used more pop, the quinoa salad was enjoyable. Apple pie was just as good as the first time, very cinnamony. I like Greek salad but they cold mix it up a bit.

All in all, some enjoyable train lunches. The apple cake is a keeper, way better than the usual cookies.

But please, VIA, bring back the meal pre-order option.

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