Most visitors who explore Alaska’s South-central and Interior travel at least a portion of their vacation by Alaska railroad. The railroad provides a quality means of transportation from Seward to the south, to Fairbanks in the north with Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali being the primary destinations in between. While the railroad is likely the most memorable means of transport in Alaska, it isn’t known as being “bullet train” fast so due to the distances involved you will likely be eating at least one meal on board each of the rail segments that you travel on. It’s good then that dining on board is such a fantastic way of passing time while enjoying the Alaska scenery.
What can you expect on board the Alaska Railroad for meals? It really depends on what train service and time of day that you travel. There are essentially three train routes:
Coastal Classic: Anchorage – Seward
Glacier Discovery: Anchorage – Whittier
Denali Star: Anchorage – Talkeetna – Denali – Fairbanks
On the Alaska Railroad, full-service dining is available for all travelers in the lower level of the GoldStar dome cars while on board the Coastal Classic and the Denali Star. Serving mostly “comfort” foods, the GoldStar’s menu has items such as quiche, pot roast, and barbecue ribs. An added value for GoldStar passengers is that while in the upper dome your coffee, tea, and soda are complimentary (not so when in the lower level restaurant).
If you are on a budget all three Alaska Railroad routes also have the Wilderness Café which offers hot and cold meal selections to eat on the go in the Café or at your seats. The Café offerings vary but usually include a mixture of breakfast items such muffins, yogurt and granola, and for lunch – premade items such as wraps, chips, cookies, etc. Both hot and cold beverages can also be purchased in the Wilderness Café.
On the Denali Star route, an alternative to the Alaska Railroad cars is to travel in a private dome car, such as the McKinley Explorer. The private cars are connected at the back of the train where traditionally a caboose is. Regardless of breakfast, lunch, or dinner – The McKinley Explorer menu provides bistro style meals and offers Signature Alaska Cuisine highlighting the best of Alaska’s seafood and wild game such as Alaska king crab, Alaska salmon, or reindeer sausage. The McKinley Explorer has a separate breakfast menu which they offer for morning departures out of Anchorage and Fairbanks as well as a McKinley Explorer lunch menu that is offered when traveling between Talkeetna and Denali.
Worth noting, both the Alaska Railroad Gold and Adventure car service and the the McKinley Explorer are “cashless” operations so all on board purchases are paid for by credit card. The Alaska Railroad does accommodate customers who do not currently have a debit or credit card by providing a means to purchase a prepaid meal if needed.
The Alaska Railroad also operates a chartered “Cruise Train” for some cruise lines as an alternative to motorcoach transportation to and from the Port of Seward. Travel by Cruise-train can only be purchased directly through the cruise lines. The Cruise-train dining service is unique in that meals are ordered and served in your rail car at your seat. An Express Menu is customized to a degree depending on the cruise line’s wishes but generally speaking the focus is on items that can be offered with little preparation such as breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads, and deserts. The most popular items that are highlighted are an Alaskan Continental that includes a toasted bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese, and for lunch the Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Chowder. The Cruise Train normally also has a Bistro Car which operates in a similar fashion to the Wilderness Café seen on the other rail services.
While on board the Alaska Railroad, you might want to try out one of Alaska’s locally brewed beers. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate then to “toast” your Alaska adventure while viewing Mt. McKinley or Spencer Glacier on board the Alaska Railroad. Bon appetite!