F&W's Ultimate Airport Dining Survival Guide

Food & Wine: Encounter, the Sky lounge bar at Los Angeles International Airport LAX.
The Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Photo © Mark Bassett / Alamy.
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 20 airports around the country, from where to get a freshly-pressed Cuban sandwich in Miami International Airport to an excellent craft beer spot in San Francisco International Airport.

Arizona   | California   |   Colorado   |   Florida   |   Georgia
Illinois   |   Massachusetts   |   Minnesota   |  New Jersey   |   New York
North Carolina   |   Oregon   |   Pennsylvania   |   Texas   |   Washington, DC |
Washington State


Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

  • El Bravo Mother and daughter Carmen and Lorraine Othon's green-chile tamales have been drawing crowds to their El Bravo restaurant in Phoenix's Sunnyslope neighborhood for nearly 30 years. Now, Lorraine's daughter, Monique, serves those same tamales–prepared earlier that morning in the original location–at El Bravo' airport outpost (Terminal 4, Concourse D).

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Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

  • 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).
  • 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).

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

  • 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).
  • Perry's 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).
  • 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).

slideshow More Los Angeles Restaurants

slideshow More San Francisco Restaurants

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Denver International Airport (DIA)

  • New Belgium Hub The Denver airport has half a dozen taverns featuring the state's microbrewed beers. This artsy bar and grill serves whole-wheat pancakes for breakfast, but also chicken sandwiches and oversize salads to pair with Fat Tire Amber Ale and other award-winning beers from New Belgium, a Fort Collins, Colorado brewery (Concourse B, Gate 80).
  • Tamales by La Casita Also new to DIA is this branch of a three-decades-old Denver favorite, which started as a supercheap take-out spot for red chile-and-shredded pork or green-chile-and-cheese tamales (Concourse C food court).

More Denver Restaurants

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Miami International Airport (MIA)

  • La Carreta The airport outpost of Miami's well-known Cuban chain is open 24 hours, serving favorites like pressed, portable French-bread sandwiches including the Cubano, made with roast pork, Swiss cheese and pickles, and the smaller medianoches ("midnight") made with ham, cheese and pickles (Terminal D, near Gate 37).

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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

  • Paschal's Restaurant 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).
  • One Flew South 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).

More Atlanta Restaurants

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Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

  • Berghoff Café 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).

slideshow More Chicago Restaurants

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Legal's Test Kitchen

Logan International Airport (BOS)

  • Bonfire F&W Best New Chef 1990 Todd English was one of the first professional chefs to move into modern airport dining, opening smaller branches of his Mexican-themed steakhouse in Boston's Terminal B and New York's JFK airport with dishes like fish tacos (Terminal B, near Gate 36).
  • Legal's Test Kitchen Legal Sea Foods, a Boston institution, runs this 80-seat restaurant that tests out new dishes for the restaurant company and offers take-out salads, wok stir-fries and sandwiches as well as Legal classics like clam chowder and fish and chips (Terminal A, near Gates 4 and 5).

More Boston Restaurants

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Legal's Test Kitchen

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

  • French Meadow Bakery & Café The Minneapolis original bills itself as the longest continuously running certified organic bakery in the country; the airport outpost serves baked goods like warm apple crisp as well as savory dishes such as pan-seared walleye with Minnesota wild rice (Concourse F, near Gate 3).

More Minneapolis Restaurants

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Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

  • Gallagher's Steak House The 120-seat airport outpost of the 1928 Manhattan restaurant is outfitted like the original (dark wood, red-checkered tablecloths), and serves steaks, burgers and a fine selection of wines (Terminal C, past Gate 121).
  • Vino Volo This growing chain of cushy airport wine bars serves small plates of cheese, cured meats, olives, and dishes like chilled paella and duck-confit-and-lentil salad. The food is available to go, and you can also order wines you've tasted for home delivery (Terminal C, Gate 72).

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John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

  • Aeronuova JetBlue's Terminal 5 has nine full-service restaurants; the best 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).
  • Bonfire F&W Best New Chef 1990 Todd English recently opened a branch of his Mexican-style steakhouse, with a to-go menu and Bonfire specialties like crab nachos and portobello-mushroom quesadillas (Terminal 2, Gate 21; Terminal 7, Food Court).
  • Vino Volo There's a branch of Vino Volo, the elegant airport wine bar serving small plates and wines, including some sourced locally (Terminal 8, Gate B7).

LaGuardia Airport (LGA)

  • Figs Post-security, LaGuardia's terminals offer very few food options. The most diverse selection can be found pre-security in the food court at the Central Terminal Building, where 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).

slideshow More New York City Restaurants

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Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

  • Yadkin Valley Wine Bar This forward-thinking wine bar offers flights, glasses and bottles from North Carolina's growing Yadkin Valley wine region, including producers like Shelton and RagApple Lassie vineyards–and they'll ship, too (in the connector hallway between Terminals D and E).

More North Carolina Restaurants

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Portland International Airport (PDX)

  • Rogue Ale Public House The funky Newport, Oregon, brewery Rogue produces some of the best craft beers in the country; it also has five Rogue Ale Public Houses–the one in the airport has eight Rogue ales on tap and gastropub dishes like Kobe beef burgers topped with local Rogue Creamery cheddar (Concourse D, near Gate 6).

More Portland Restaurants

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Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

  • Chickie's & Pete's The Philadelphia airport recently overhauled its main food court, adding an outlet of this lively South Philly crab house known for its chowder, steak sandwiches and "crab fries," or French fries seasoned with crab-boil seasoning and served with a creamy cheese dipping sauce (Terminal A-West, near Gates 19-22; Terminal C, near gate 30; and Terminal E, near Gate 6).
  • Vino Volo There's also an outpost of Vino Volo, a growing chain of elegant airport wine bars serving small plates, cheeses, olives and cured meats, as well as bottles, glasses and flights of wine (in the connector hallway between Terminals B and C; between Terminals D and E; and Concourse B near Gate 9).

More Philadelphia Restaurants

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Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

  • Salt Lick The 40-year-old Driftwood, Texas, institution has brought its barbecue–most notably its supertender brisket–to Austin's airport (West Terminal across from Gate 12).

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

  • Cousin's Barbecue As with the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport, your best bets at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are barbecue and local wines. Cousin's offers Texas standards like smoked brisket, ribs, sausage and pinto beans (Terminal D, near Gate D27; Terminal B, Gate B27).
  • La Bodega Winery This tasting room from La Buena Vida Vineyard in Grapevine, Texas, sells wines by the bottle or the glass (Terminal D, Gate 14; Terminal A, Gate 15).

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

  • Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen Like Louisiana, its neighbor to the east, Houston has its share of Cajun and Creole food. This regional chain serves gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp Creole and dirty rice (Terminal E, Gate 3).

More Dallas Restaurants

More Houston Restaurants

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Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

  • Vino Volo Like Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International, Dulles has welcomed a Vino Volo tasting room. This one offers a tasting flight of wines produced nearby in Virginia (Concourse C, near Gate 3; Concourse B, near Gate 62).
  • Five Guys Both Terminals A and B have branches of this Washington, DC-based chain, which makes skinny, flavorful burgers and hand-cut fries to order and offers free peanuts (Terminal A, Gate 3; Terminal B, Gate 71).

More Washington, DC Restaurants

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Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

  • Anthony's This regional restaurant chain in the Pacific Northwest is known for fresh local seafood and stunning views. The Sea-Tac location is no exception, with dishes like Puget Sound oysters and the Olympic mountain range as a backdrop (Central Terminal Food Court).

More Seattle Restaurants

–Additional reporting by Rachel Wharton

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