In the olden days of airport dining, you were lucky if you could eat a fast-food burger or drink a low-end cocktail. But airports understand that travelers are demanding better food and drink options, and they have stepped up their efforts to deliver. World-class high-end dining and celebrity chefs are flocking to airports to feed masses with more high-end food choices. Below are seven great airport restaurants to try during your travels.
Saison, Newark-Liberty International Airport, Terminal C Gate 120
Terminal C’s food and beverage options received a major upgrade starting in 2014, thanks to a $120 million partnership between United Airlines and airport restaurant operator OTG Management. Among the new eateries is this French brasserie, the brainchild of Chef Alain Ducasse, who holds three Michelin stars. You feel as if you’re sitting in an authentic Paris brasserie, right down to the tin ceiling, the wooden seats and the black-and-white checkered floor. The menu includes French menu stalwarts like onion soup, hand-cut beef tartare prepared tableside and croque monsieur sandwiches. There’s also a great selection of fresh seafood, cheeses and mussels. Wash it down with a great selection of wines and specialty cocktails. And if you’re in a rush, the iPad ordering and payment system ensures that you won’t miss your flight.
One Flew South, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Terminal E
This restaurant is a mix of upscale Southern cuisine and amazingly good sushi, in a space that takes you away from the hustle and bustle at the world’s busiest airport. Sushi lovers will enjoy the spicy tuna roll and the hamachi hand roll. If sushi isn’t your thing, try the pimento cheese plate as an appetizer and the bacon BLT with five-spice french fries or the thyme-roasted pork belly. There’s also a great beer and wine selection, along with your pick of craft cocktails.
Le Grand Comptoir, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Gate C33
This upscale European bistro features food that’s a twist on French and Italian fare, along with a large selection of global wines by the glass. There are great views of the tarmac near the window, along with space to place roller boards and flight information boards throughout the restaurant so travelers can keep an eye on their status. The handmade blue cheese potato chips paired with prime rib sliders is a great choice. The chicken Le Grand Comptoir, a twist on chicken cordon bleu, is also a favorite.
Wicker Park Seafood & Sushi, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Terminal 2, Gate E1
I will not lie. I have routed myself through O’Hare to eat here. Aside from the lovely view of the runways, the sushi, under the watchful eye of Chef Go, is world class. Try the hamachi sashimi or the Spanish Dynamite roll, filled with yellowtail, shallot, mixed spicy crab, fresh tuna, jalapeño, cilantro and a ponzu sauce. Make sure you also try their many sakes and Asian-designed cocktails.
Piquillo, JFK Airport, Terminal 5 Marketplace
You will feel like you’re in Spain in this restaurant that serves hot and cold tapas, along with full meals, all from the Iberian peninsula. I prefer to choose several small plates when I eat here, and my personal favorites include Potato Brava, Croquetas, Tortilla De Patatas and the artisanal Spanish cheese plate. Try a glass of Spanish wine or a cup of the excellent Cafe Con Leche.
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Houston Hobby Airport, Gate C11
This cajun-themed restaurant is a local favorite and if you didn’t get to visit while in the city, this is your last chance to check it out. The shrimp and crawfish fondeaux with garlic bread or fresh oysters is a great way to start your meal. Main courses to try include chilean sea bass with jumbo lump crab gratin, the shrimp etoufee and of course, the gumbo. Get a piece of pecan pie to go and have it as a treat on your flight.
Esquire Grill, Sacramento International Airport, Terminal B Gate B10
This airport outlet of a favorite local American cuisine eatery offers food and ingredients that are locally sourced. It has a sophisticated, yet relaxed vibe. As a restaurant near Napa Valley, Esquire Grill offers a great selection of California wines, along with craft cocktails. Start with deviled eggs and follow that with either the Ahi Tuna or 1/2-lb Angus burger.