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"Dining with Pullman" Revives the Luxury Train Eating Experience For One Magical Weekend

By Anthony Todd in Food on Feb 7, 2012 4:00PM

Photo via Dining with Pullman
The age of classic train dining makes many of us sigh with nostalgia and envy. Every time we drive over the Chicago trainyards and look at the old Pullman club and dome cars, we imagine a time when men wore hats, trains were fast and you could get a good steak in the dining car. Those days are gone forever, but you can relive them (perhaps without the hat) thanks to Dining with Pullman.

On Feb. 17, 18 and 19, you can board a classic mid-century Pullman club or dome car for a three-hour trip from Union Station. The trip includes brunch, lunch or dinner, depending on the day, and costs $120 per person. If you only consider the food, it's a little steep. But this is a unique experience and, if you're a train geek, it's worth every penny. This isn't just one car, but a whole train - two dome cars (with upper levels), two lounge cars and a dining car.

The menus have been created by Chef Dan Traynor of Prasino, and have some little touches that show Chef Traynor has been reading old Pullman menus. Any mid-century food geek will recognize the first course: Mixed olives, pickled watermelon rind, crisp celery & radishes - a common plate of bites to begin a meal. The dinner also includes soup, a wedge salad (with "Illinois Central Dressing") and a choice of steak, lamb, chicken, trout or vegetarian pot pie. Finish your meal with cinnamon baked apples and vanilla ice cream.

This pilot project claims to be a first glimpse at a first-class rail service from Chicago to New York and New Orleans, scheduled to launch in late 2012. Amtrak allows private companies to hitch train cars to their cross-country routes — that's how most luxury train services operate — and the choice of destinations leads us to suspect that the service hopes to hook these cars up to the City of New Orleans and the Lake Shore Limited.

Buy tickets online. The dinner train departs at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the brunch train at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.