Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to get our grub on, we listen up.
I don’t have the statistics handy, but my guess is that on average, 99.9 percent of the people running around airport concourses are not there for the food.
That’s not to say dining options haven’t gotten exponentially better. We can all remember the days when the only organic products at airports would get you in trouble with the DEA. Now you can find entire kiosks filled with products to delight your cardiologist right next to gate C16. So let’s start with the good news.
Tortas Frontera - O’Hare, Chicago
No kidding, Frontera makes you cross your fingers for delays at O’Hare. Rick Bayless, the Chicago-based champion of Mexican cooking, now has two airport branches, both with awesome griddled tortas (sandwiches).
Bar Brace - Laguardia, New York City
Finally, retaliation for all those nasty airport sandwiches. Jason Denton, owner of the world’s sweetest wine bar, ‘ino in NYC’s West Village, offers his exemplary panini.
Great Lakes Brewing Company - Hopkins, Cleveland
You know you're going to drink whatever you can get your hands on at the airport before your flight. So you might as well drink a really good local microbrew.
The Much Less Good
Just because airport food has generally gotten better doesn’t mean you can’t find dishes that would earn you a spot on my unrealized TV show, I Ate This and Survived. It’s no fun to name chain names (well it is and you should guess them). We’ll go by category.
Spinach and broccoli are normally healthy. Except, apparently, at chain airport pizza places where they’re stuffed into a slice for a total of 790 calories and 34 grams of fat. That’s modest compared to the almost-1000-calorie stuffed sausage & pepperoni pizza, which boasts 47 fat grams.
Airport Cinnamon Rolls
I’m waiting for a celebrity to release a fragrance that captures that sickeningly good, sweet scent of airport cinnamon rolls. Until then, you just have to eat one of these frosting-covered rolls and watch the 880 calories and 36 grams of fat stack up.
I’ve previously expressed wonder at “volcano nachos”, which come topped with both warm nacho sauce and cheesy molten hot lava sauce. Interestingly, they’re served with low-fat sour cream. What? Please order extra, full-fat sour cream on the side to take the dish right over the 980 calorie/60 grams-of-fat mark.
Airport Chinese Food
Because you can customize your order at these places, it’s possible to get the following 3-entrée plate: Cream cheese rangoons (crisp wonton skins filled with cream cheese – crisp being code for deep fried), honey-doused walnut shrimp (more fried, this time with a very sweet coating); and orange chicken (more fried, with a different very sweet coating). If you’re sick of counting up fat grams – and you’re in higher math territory with that entrée – consider the BBQ pork, which has 1310 mg sodium.
More from Food & Wine:
Best Pizza in the U.S.
America’s Best Tailgating Cities
America’s Best Airport Restaurants
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Previously - ABQ > LAX > SEA: a guide to layover eating and "Private" dining in the Denver airport
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Wolfgang Puck Express' Roasted Butternut Squash soup at the Delta terminal in Denver. That soup with some buttered bread has dictated many flight bookings for me. Make sure they put the red sauce on top.
US airport food is cheap but expensive.
I'd rather eat in a hospital cafeteria.
ATL is actually better than average. Several large airports have only one or two overpriced options that are substandard. For Example, I am not impressed by Legal Seafood in Boston and LA has one decent supplier of food on the Delta Concourse.
42nd Street Oyster Bar at Raliegh Durham is great.
Yes it is! I've eaten there :) Love oysters.
This is an "ARTICLE" about airport food?!–naming a random handful of spots in a few US airports with decent food and then making generalized statements about four categories of food that any nitwit knows are not likely to be good?! There are long lists that people have compiled, and even apps such as GateGuru. I feel tricked into clicking the link to this alleged "article." Did this take the author all of ten minutes to write?
I could not agree more strongly with you Lorenzo. This was a feeble attempt at an article by an author who took an easy way out by doing as little research as possible.
I'm always surprised at how bad the food at ATL is. One of the biggest and busiest airports in the world should have some better options.
Have you tried One Flew South in the E terminal? It's a pretty nice restaurant–one of the few places in US airports that could legitimately be called "fine dining." But I have to agree with you that, on average, ATL is terrible.
Fly into Austin, Texas and eat a sample of some of the cities best restaurants. Airport food can't compare to the real thing but close enough for you to want to try it out when you can.
I pass through O'Hare about once every couple months. Does Tortas Frontera operate in the American Airlines concourse, or just in the United/Star Alliance concourses.
I was surprised how poor the food options were at the LAX airport (Virgin Airlines terminal). A McDonald's and a seafood restaurant. That's it. The seafood restaurant wanted 20$ for a tuna melt, and the food wait was close to an hour. San Francisco, on the other hand, had more food options, better price ranges, and the food was served quickly.
I am all in on the Tortas Fontera. I saw that a few months ago as I was leaving O'Hare. Last time, I made time to stop in and have a Torta. Pretty good. Also "Five Guys" at IAD. Their breakfast burgers are the bomb. No doubt a full days worth of calories, fat, salt and everything else. But so good....
The North Terminal (United Airlines) in San Francisco has a food court with several very decent places–Boudin's sourdough, dim sum, Mexican and a Just Desserts that I sometimes pick up on my way home. Lots of carry-aboard sandwich & salad options as well.
The best food I've found at US airports is at Denver International's Pour La France. Great soups and hearty meals are always tasty and well-prepared. The restaurant has nice ambience too.
Best Restaurant is Outback Steakhouse in the Delta Terminal at Orlando International Airport. It is the only Outback Restaurant that is open for lunch anywhere I have travelled. Great food and they can get you in and out in a hurry.
Outback has good food? Orlando airport Outback must be the real exception if this true, or you don't know good food
Troll alert. Move along, nothing to see here.
I've had good luck with Wolfgang Puck Express. You can order a salad they prepare in front of you that is flavorful and reasonably healthy by asking for reduced dressing or dressing on the side. Or you can get something decadent. But it's all good, IMO.
Oddly enough the one and only time I really enjoyed airport food was in Salt Lake City, at the American Bandstand restaurant. What can I say? Nothing special and I'm sure it wasn't that healthy (the food tends toward stuff like chicken tenders and fries), but it was really tasty stuff, it seemed freshly made, and they sure didn't skimp on the portions. I'm actually looking forward to the next time I'm there. Maybe it really was that good, or maybe, at the end of this long work trip, I was just so ready for another Ruby's-style disaster that it seemed all the better for being good at all.
(P.S. If you're unfamiliar with Ruby's, it's a diner chain that apparently operates exclusively in airports. It looks like it will be okay from the outside. It is not. BEWARE.)
First off, Ruby's is not just in airports. It's a SoCal-based chain that's throughout the region. You can find them at malls, performance venues, and stand-alone places.
As for the AMERICAN BANDSTAND restaurant in SLC's airport, how can you say it's the best? It's just okay. They could be better, but they won't be. Why?? During a meal there last month, the waitress told me they're closing in March '12 and will be remodeled and opened as Market St. Grill.
Add to the good list "Itza Wrap" in Terminal B in Denver! Love flying through there to grab their cold shrimp wraps with peanut sauce. They have a lot of healthy options.
Urban Taco at DFW Terminal C has the best airport food I have ever eaten and I am a very frequent flyer. Their food is outstanding. It is so much more than what I think of as a taco. They even have a Bon Appetit rating
Ku-va at Miami airport. Outstanding Cuban food and service. Located in the American terminal.
I can't wait to to go to Miami so I can enjoy the food again. Carry out also located next door.
I forgot to mention, regarding Legal Seafood in Boston, on several occasions when flying from Dallas to London I have re-routed my trip to include a layover at Logan rather than take the direct flight just so I could eat there, it's that good. They're expensive but you definitely get what you pay for, I didn't know you could fit so much lobster into a bun.
I remember in New Orleans there was a stand selling cajun potroast that made me want to miss my plane. also Tigin Irish Pub in DFW is pretty good. According to the barman it's the only outlet in DFW that cooks it's food right there on the premises.
I only fly first, but it's nice to get an insight into what the little people eat. It must be one heck of a gas mine back there in steerage. Glad you guys can't use my bathroom.
And a warm and happy holiday season to you, too.
@ xab- You're a dick. You must have grown up dirt poor to be so arrogant. Good job loser.
Yeah, you get a bigger seat and a little booze for double or triple the price. The main payoff is for insecure people who want to feel important, or for people who have plenty of $ who want to be just a little more comfortable. Certainly nothing to get a big head about.
Last Tuesday I flew from Phoenix to Louisville. I placed an empty water bottle on top of my purse and TSA did not take it. Filled it at a water fountain while waiting to board. Read online that an empty water bottle was ok and it was.
Recently had a good experience at Harry Caray's at Chicago Midway.
Salt Lick BBQ at Austin Bergstrom Airport
I knew Salt Lick at Austin Bergstrom would be good when seemingly everyone in line was uniformed flight crew (both cockpit and cabin) and airport employees. I was not disappointed. I once routed myself DAL to ELP via AUS just to have lunch at Salt Lick and it was even better the 2nd time around.
This one is really easy. Legal Seafoods at Logan Airport. Best airport food in the world. Sadly, that's the one and only thing Logan has going for it, as it is about as far the opposite of Singapore Changi or Hong Kong Airport as a place can be.
ooops, I forgot to mention that Logan airport is in Boston.
I always look for a McDonald's and you will see I am not the only one, always the busiest place in the airport, which means the food is fresh because it sells all the time, reasonable price and you wont be hungry later and have to eat the disgusting stuff the serve on the plane.
Thanks, McDonald's CEO
McDonald's – I'll just arrive at my destination hungry.
So you're the one taking the 10-minute long dump on all of my flights.
i thought you only fly first they mr. big shot...i call your bluff
Yeah, pretty sad xab! Troll, or worse, pathetic loser who actually does take 1st class just to feel important and sends his kids to 2nd class schools, borrows over his head, and cheats his relatives just to maintain a fancy car/house image. Even after that, his horrible, over the top taste radiates his nouveau riche status and leave all, rich and poor, chuckling.
One Flew South in the E terminal in ATL is not only a great airport food stop, but it is one of the restaurants I have been to. If you are at Hartsfield, check out the place. Order a nice glass of Pinot Noir and try the Pork Belly Sliders. They are to die for. So much so, that when I fly through, my wife asks me to pick up an order to go!
I just ate some pukey hot dogs and ice cream that made me run and poop at JFK.
was that you who just ran by me in the black jacket holding his stomach and running to the men's room by United airlines?
Wow, Richie, you're a real contribution. I bet your contribution to society in general is just as large.
Baltimore airport has the best crabcakes. I cannot remember the place I had them, but they were delicious.
I got crabs in the men's room at the baltimore airport!!
You should stay out of other men's pants. You're a pretty sad and disgusting figure.
The name of the sports bar is in terminal D – The Greene Turtle. My must stop every time I go through BWI.
Maryland Crab cakes the best at Obryckis in Baltimore's SWA terminal, awesome plus decent bartender for airport terminal place.
Dickeys BBQ Pit at DFW.
Thank you. I have a nearly three hour layover at DFW coming up in a couple of weeks, will give Dickies a try.
The "Chinese" eateries mentioned in the article (which have little to do with real Chinese cuisine) should be banned from arirports. The smell of that slop makes me heave. I can't count the number of times people have sat next to me in the waiting area to eat that stuff or - far worse - brought in on the plane with them.
SFO international terminal has a great Japanese place...Ebisu?
I find that the "Chinese" restaurants, whether or not they serve authentic Chinese food (and yes, I've been to China and I know what authentic Chinese food is), tend to be the best of the airport food groups. Authentic or not, count me in for a "Chinese" meal that's probably better and more reasonably priced than anything else around.
People that bring that swill onto a plane should be ejected right there. I cannoth fathom how someone can have such little insight and empathy to subject everyone else to what amounts to assault and battery on the senses.
There's a really tasty delicatessen in the Oakland airport. Their chicken matzo soup is delicious.
It is owned by some arabs from saudi arabia
Anthony's in the Seattle Tacoma airport is very good!
Papadeaux at IAH is the best.
She is barking at the wrong tree. Calories and fat by themselves are not the trouble. Just don't stuff yourself and have a green salad for supper if you had fatty food for lunch. It is the poor quality ingredients and full arsenal of preservatives, hydrogenated oils, flavor enhancers, residual hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that will likely make you sick. The fact that the oil for deep frying gets more mileage at a restaurant than motor oil in your car does not help either.
Vino Volo wine bars are fantastic. My favorite is at the Philly airport where I always seem to be delayed.
BWI and Detroit are also great.
I totally agree! I love getting delayed at BWI!
It's barking up the wrong tree. Calories and fat by themselves are a problem. Preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides have nothing to do with it, any effect they have is trivial and only on long term exposure. Overuse of oil certainly can cause off flavors that are disgusting.
Portland airport has a city mandate that all airport businesses are local and that they are not allowed to charge more at the airport location that at other locations. The only bad thing about living in Portland is that I never have a layover at the airport. We will, therefore, arrive early enough to have a meal and get one to go. Every food plcae there will pack you a "lunchbox" to take with you. I love opening my care package from Portland while sitting in Dallas, everyone stares and asks where we got such wonderful looking food.
There used to be a nice brew pub there...not sure if it still is. Great airport to shop in...esp Mother Goose.
Yet another reason I don't fly anywhere....
Chicago has a good sushi bar too... I forget the name.
Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, between the United and American terminals (1 & 2). Decent prices for an airport too.
There used to be a greasy spoon/short order grill type place in the Ohare American terminal with decent prices, but a few years ago they went expensive – I think it was around 6 bucks for a grilled cheese sandwich! At least it wasn't those half frozen, week old, cellophane wrapped things.
This article really need a bit more research. There are tons of other good places popping up in airports across the country. For example, there's a wine bar, a Jersey Diner (with great shakes) and an Oyster Bar in Newark's Continental terminal.
I will gladly pay for real food at any airport than buying crap with 1000% mark up at movie theaters!
Wow. You can use the word c rap, but my comment got pulled for moderation. The only thing I can imagine triggered it is the word s lop. CNN has a strange sense of propriety.
It's a modbot - not a human. I'll peek into the queue.
Yes, but at a movie theater you can get back into your car, go home, have a decent meal you already paid for and you don't have to sit next to someone unwrapping a sandwich wrapped in the loudest paper on earth and listen to them chew loudly with their mouths open at 30,000 feet.
Even the fast food is expensive in an airport. Bottom line: If you want to eat good, you're gonna pay, simple as that. Airport restaurants are there to make money. You can always bring your own food.
Airport restaurants also have a high cost-of-doing-business. Also, floor space on airport concourses is so valuable that the kitchen is often quite some distance away. A single, central kitchen often serves all of the restaurants and bars on a concourse. It's just not an environment that's conducive to haute' cuisine. So, don't expect it. Stick to basic dishes.
THe French Laundry in Minneapolis is pretty good.
I think you mean the French Meadow. And it is good.
The "French Laundry" is that super high-end restaurant in Yountville, CA.
The restaurant in the small Key West airport has remarkably good food, and less expensive than in town.
Oh come on....wimping out on the worst without giving names and locations is perpetuating the worst fraud on the unsuspecting public.
Another reason to eat before you fly!! I am surprised they don't charge for the bathrooms too.
Shhh.... don't give them ideas.
Also, why are waters $2.60? Isn't that price gouging?
Nope, I don't think it is price gouging... It is capitalism. I know that's a bad thing in the Soviet States of America. But the fact is, you have a choice. Buy bottled water (that is only tap water) for $2.60 or get the water from the tap your self or use one of the many drinking fountains. You may not like your choices, but you have a choice. Want to make some money? Then rent some retail space in the airport and sell the water at non-arirport prices. I'm quite certain you will soon go out of business, but if you can figure out how to make it work, then you have made capitalism work for you. And BTW, I find it funny that you don't find selling tap water in a bottle for $1.50 in a non-airport outlet price gouging. By your definition, I would think it would be... but in my definition it is still just good old capitalism.
TSA at the local airport will not permit you to take an empty bottle through security, so what do you put this free water from the drinking foutain in? Maybe you're adept at filling the 1 quart plastic bag that holds your 3 ounce liquid containers, but I haven't mastered that yet, and I'm not interested in paying the airline $5 for their on-board water bottles.
Why so angry my capitalist friend? Have to keep your fangs sharp for all those bloody NPR liberals out there?
OtherGuy, it actually is price gouging, since you aren't allowed to bring in bottled water purchased elsewhere, and you aren't allowed to bring in an empty water bottle to fill at the drinking fountain. They have a captive audience, they are charging that audience more than they would pay elsewhere, ergo price gouging applies.
Where, exactly, are you not allowed to bring in an empty water bottle? I have brought an empty water bottle through security on every flight I've been on since the no-water rule went into effect. and have never had even a blink from TSA.
I have brought an empty waterbottle in the side pouch of my backpack on over 30 trips this year, and I fill it up once inside the terminal. TSA has no problem with empty plastic bottles.
Airport food service has a very high cost-of-doing business.
Airport food is overpriced and typically tastes dull.
Austin Texas – where all airport restaurants are local by city mandate! Salt Lick BBQ and Amy's Ice Cream provide delicious local options.
And I've crossed my fingers for a delay in Nashville where you can smell the BBQ wafting in from the jetway before you are even off the plane
Austin is smart in this way.
One thing that many travelers don't know is that in many airports, while the restaurants and bars may all have different names and different themes, they're all owned by the same company (very often a division of a well-known national hospitality-industry company that specializes in this market) and all of the food for all of them is prepared in a single, central kitchen down in the basement. No wonder it's all sort of homogenous and not so good.
Thea – You are right. I am from Austin and fly out of there on occasion. Salt Lick and Amys Ice Cream are good, as are the Round Rock donuts which are based in Round Rock, just down the road. Austin is a great airport to fly out of once you get through the rude American Airlines desk and the security that takes your shaving cream from you even though you are in uniform returning to Afghanistan from your 2 weeks of leave.
TSA are equal opportunity rude and stupid. Austin is not special.
I do like the Austin airport
We recently had the opportunity to eat at BWI's Obryckis. I had their Chicken Chesapeake wrap: chunks of white meat chicken smothered in Maryland crab & cream cheese spread. It was wrapped in a tortilla, broiled and came with a side of homemade potato chips. Delicious. While it's not how I would want to eat every day, it was a refreshing change from the typical Chili'sToo/Quizno's/PizzaHut food stops.
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