Sampling CVSR’s Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga Service

Passengers find their tables after boarding in Peninsula. Those are raspberry smoothies on the tables.

Since writing about it three years ago for this blog I’ve been intrigued by the Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga service that the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers.

I thought it would be a fun experience to have a leisurely breakfast on the train during the winter while watching the snow-covered scenery of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park slide past the window.

But having breakfast on the National Park Scenic is pricey and that, among other reasons, is why I hesitated about doing it.

Last summer Mary Ann and I decided to splurge and spend the $40 per passenger that Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga costs.

The service has changed since I initially wrote about it. It used to be that you boarded at Rockside Road Station and rode to Akron and back.

The CVSR had another meal service branded Brunch Along the Cuyahoga that began in Akron and went to Rockside and back.

Brunch was served in a different car with a menu more like dinner than breakfast.

CVSR has since dropped brunch and changed breakfast to a service that begins in Peninsula, goes to Akron and returns to Peninsula. That means you get just half a train ride.

As we stood outside the Peninsula depot awaiting the first southbound Scenic of the day, a Saturday, a van from Creekside restaurant in Brecksville pulled up and unloaded that day’s provisions.

The food is prepared off the train and served by Creekside personnel on board.

Because the Scenic wouldn’t be leaving Peninsula until 9:45 a.m. and I figured we wouldn’t be served until after 10, we had eaten something light before boarding.

The Scenic arrived on time and we were directed to board a car that had had its name and the CVSR name in the letter board painted over.

Inside were tables and chairs with white table clothes, silverware and linen napkins.

There was a respectable crowd on board, but the car was only about two-thirds full. We had a table to ourselves.

You can choose your seats when booking your reservation and I had purposely chosen seats so both of us could sit next to a window.

The first course, a raspberry smoothie, was waiting on the table as we boarded.

Breakfast along the Cuyahoga is billed as a three-course meal with the smoothie being the first course.

The servers came around to take drink orders and I opted for orange juice.

We both ordered a mimosa, which turned out to be the only alcoholic beverage available and was an extra you paid for at the end of the trip.

After we had placed our drink orders a CVSR trainman came through and checked our tickets.

The main course was peaches and cream French toast, two turkey sausage patties and home fries.

It was all very tasty and the French toast reminded me of bread pudding because of its rich flavor and texture.

Its square shape made it more like a casserole than what you get when you order French toast in a restaurant, which typically is four slices of bread dipped in egg batter and grilled.

The third course was vanilla bean custard that came in a small pie shell pastry and was topped with whipped cream. It, too, was rich.

I would rate the overall experience as falling a rung or two beneath fine dining.

Beverages were served in plastic cups and meals served on plastic plates. The orange juice came in one of those small plastic bottles you can buy at a convenience store.

The table service was attentive and consistent. The quality of the food was good to very good although I had expected the French toast to be topped with peaches. Instead, they were baked into the casserole.

As delicious as the meal was, it also was richer than I had expected.

The branding of the service is something of a misnomer. The only time we saw the Cuyahoga River was in Peninsula and for a short distance south of there.

Once you cross the Cuyahoga south of Peninsula the river veers eastward and you don’t see it again from the train.

I would have preferred to have boarded at Rockside Road because much of the best scenery in the park is north of Peninsula.

Actually, I would have liked to have ridden from Rockside to Akron and back and seen all of the park.

But the CVSR decided a couple years ago that that was too long of a ride for many people having breakfast so the boarding point was moved to Peninsula.

If there was anything about the experience that was disappointing it was that we were not invited to remain on board after arriving back in Peninsula and travel to Rockside and back.

Given that we were paying a premium we should have been given that option. Maybe it is allowed if you ask, but but I didn’t ask and they didn’t offer.

It’s tempting to compare CVSR meal service with that of Amtrak, but it’s probably not a fair comparison because they serve difference purposes.

Still I found that if you tried to create a three-course breakfast in an Amtrak full-service dining car, it could cost you up between $34.25 to $33.50 to have the experience that Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga offers.

That would involve ordering the most expensive breakfast entrée, which is the three-egg omelet with a side of salsa, roasted potatoes or grits, and a croissant. If you want sausage or bacon with that, add another $3.50.

Amtrak doesn’t serve smoothies or mimosas but a single serving of wine can be had for $7.50. If they will sell you a desert with your breakfast, it would range from $7.25 to $6.50 depending on what you order. Add orange juice and that is another $2.25.

There is something about eating on a train that is part of the charm of rail travel. It carries a certain mystique because it links to another era when the nation’s elite traveled by rail and were treated like royalty.

I was curious what the meal experience aboard the CVSR would be like and my curiosity has been satisfied. It was more like eating aboard Amtrak than having the legendary dining experience I’ve read about in railroad history books.

The CVSR also offers dinning aboard the train with seating available in the dome sections of the former California Zephyr cars.

That is more like fine dining experience and comes with china, glassware and a price of $100 to $120 per person for a four-course dinner and complimentary bar.

Those trains operate in the evening so you might not see much of the park except during the summer. Those prices are too rich for my blood as enjoyable as the experience might be.

Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga was a nice experience yet I’m not pining to do it again soon.

But maybe if I could do it in the winter and ride the full length of the route in a winter wonderland, well that sounds appealing.

I had already dug into my main course when I remembered to make a photograph of it.

The vanilla bean tart that was dessert.

We got to see a little bit of the Cuyahoga River during breakfast but none of it while we were eating our main course or dessert.

Disembarking in Peninsula at the end of the journey. The identity of this car is masked.

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One Response to “Sampling CVSR’s Breakfast Along the Cuyahoga Service”

  1. pwwoodring Says:

    Creekside does a very good job of catering. Another non-railroad group I belong to has used them a couple of times for both lunch and dinner events. Both times it was served buffet-style. The food was plentiful and a good value. I’m guessing the premium price was tacked on by the railroad to make it worth their while. It is unfortunate that they had to use disposable tableware to make the service work for a reasonable price. Given that Amtrak is sliding towards a “Third-World” model of food service – i.e. track side vendors and prepackaging – it now becomes a function of preservation and historical groups to try and represent traditional dining car experiences on excursions, hopefully in traditional dining cars, with the food prepared and served the way it was on the Class I’s of the past (or even like the best years of Amtrak service).

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