Sluggishly slow ticketing lines, airport security and a great meal? F&W's ultimate airport dining survival guide features the best places to eat and drink in airports around the country, from Carolina-style barbecue in Charlotte and fresh sushi in San Francisco, to the culinary juggernaut that is Terminal 5 in NYC's JFK airport (a brasserie, a tapas joint and yakitori). These tasty pre-flight establishments are a reward for surviving endless security lines and weather delays.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Salerno and Rachel Wharton
- New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
- New York's LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- More Major U.S. Airports
NEW YORK - John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Photo © John Bartelstone.
The JetBlue Terminal at JFK has an unrivaled culinary monopoly on airport restaurants, whatever cuisine you’re craving. Deep Blue features an extensive menu by Michael Schulson—formerly of Buddakan—includes sushi, tempura, yakitori and entrees like Shiso Lamb Chop with braised daikon (Terminal 5).
Also in Terminal 5 is Aeronuova, an Italian restaurant created by New York City star chef Mark Ladner, with dishes like grilled Berkshire pork chops and warm radicchio bruschetta (Terminal 5, near Gate 22).
Brasserie La Vie
Brasserie La Vie is run by former chefs at NYC hot spots Balthazar and Pastis; French bistro dishes include Salade Niçoise and Sole Meunière (Terminal 5).
Tia Pol’s Alexandra Raij has developed an enticing menu for Piquillo, the first tapas bar to open in a U.S. airport. Yes, there is the ubiquitous sizzling garlic shrimp—but there’s also canelones, pasta sheets stuffed with braised meat and béchamel (Terminal 5).
CALIFORNIA - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Photo courtesy of Encounter Restaurant.
At the center of LAX is the 1961 Theme Building, a freestanding structure designed to look like a flying saucer. It's home to this space-age restaurant, known for 360-degree views, stylings stolen from The Jetsons and California-style dishes like organic salads and mushroom ravioli with grilled asparagus (Theme Building).
Pink’s Hot Dogs
The legendary Hollywood hot dog shack—customers have been lining up at the original stand on Melrose and LaBrea since 1939—opened an outpost at LAX in July. Hopefully the line at the airport to sample the likes of the Lord of the "RINGS" dog (topped with barbecue sauce and onion rings) or the Martha Stewart dog (topped with relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream) won’t be quite as long (Tom Bradley International Terminal).
La Brea Bakery
Those who want to avoid a trip through security–which the Encounter requires–should head for the sandwiches at this well-known L.A. bakery (Terminals 1, 2 and 7).
GEORGIA - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
One Flew South
Photo © www.garnishphotography.com.
This sushi restaurant is Atlanta's first upscale airport restaurant, complete with a menu created by chefs Todd Richards and Duane Nutter of The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hilton in Kentucky (Terminal E, near Gate 26).
This city institution, which even markets a local line of batter mixes for fried chicken, serves large portions of southern classics like fried catfish, country-fried steak and macaroni and cheese (Concourse A food court; and Main Terminal Atrium, SE Corner).
ILLINOIS - Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
Photo courtesy of Berghoff Cafe.
O'Hare's coolest quick dining option: This outpost of the restaurant was opened by German brewer Herman Joseph Berghoff in the 1880s. Beyond Berghoffés beer on tap and root beer, there are hand-carved roast beef, turkey and corned beef sandwiches and the house specialty: the Reuben (Terminal 1, Gate C26).
NEW YORK - LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda
Photo © Paul Whicheloe.
The revamped LGA food court features burgers by Pat LaFrieda, the butcher who supplies meat blends for Shake Shack, Minetta Tavern and other celebrated burger purveyors (Terminal D).
At this pizzeria by Dominick DeMarco Jr. (of the famed Brooklyn Di Fara pizza family), hungry flyers can get a classic New York slice without ever leaving the terminal (Terminal D).
LaGuardia’s Delta Terminal may soon be giving JFK’s JetBlueTerminal some healthy competition for top airport dining. Porter House New York’s Michael Lomonaco recently opened Prime Tavern, which features prime dry-aged beef and the usual steakhouse accoutrements (Terminal D).
At the pre-security food court in the Central Terminal Building, F&W Best New Chef 1990 Todd English has an outpost of his Boston pizzeria Figs. It has a view of departing planes and a menu with sandwiches, salads and pizzas with toppings like fig and prosciutto (Central Terminal Building, between Concourses B & C).
CALIFORNIA - San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Photo courtesy of San Francisco International Airport.
Sushi from an airport food court may not be a first choice, but the fare at Ebisu—which also includes ramen, udon and tempura dishes—is consistently fresh and tasty. And while the original location in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset district is usually packed, SFO travelers can enjoy the same #29 Roll (yellowtail, salmon, shrimp and green onion wrapped in soybean paper, deep fried with tuna on top) without the wait (International Terminal).
Offerings include a classic cheeseburger and fries, but the version here is made from Niman Ranch Angus beef and fresh-cut potatoes. Free-range chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers (cooked on a meatless grill) and hormone-free hot dogs, as well as thick milkshakes made with local Double Rainbow ice cream, round out the menu (International Terminal).
Anchor Brewing Company
The famed San Francisco brewery's airport outpost serves the full range of its craft beers, including its Anchor Steam Beer, made using a unique brewing process that gives it the fruitiness of an ale and the rounded maltiness of a lager (Terminal 3, Gate 70).
Klein's Deli and Coffee Bar
The Bay Area's busiest airport reflects its citizens' attention to their food. Klein's, formerly in Potrero Hill, has take-out counters that sell crisp chocolate chip cookies and overstuffed sandwiches named after famous women, like the Kahlo: a curried chicken sandwich with mango chutney, raisins and almonds, named after Frida Kahlo (Terminal 1, Gate 36; Terminal 3, Gate 64).
This classic San Francisco tavern also has an outpost at the airport. It's known for its Cobb salads and Perry's Hamburger, which can be topped with applewood-smoked Hobbs' bacon (Terminal 1, Gate 42).