Order the Cobb and a glass of wine the size of your head, and you will be as close to happy as can be, given your current environs.
Woman Laughing with Salad
Credit: Sarah Crowder

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a human in possession of an airplane ticket, who has arrived at the airport in a timely fashion, will find themselves in want of a snack. My professional advice: If you need to eat a meal in an airport, particularly before a long or overnight flight, your best bet is always the Cobb salad at that middling sports bar/steakhouse/burger joint all airports inexplicably have.

I know you think you have better options. You may be tempted by the chi-chi branding of the wine bar, with its promise of burrata. Do not give in to this temptation; the menu is lies. You may be tempted by the "Mexican place." Resist. The tortillas will be gummy, the cheese a nightmare, the margaritas from a mix. Maybe you want something “healthy.” That hummus cup with flaccid celery will not satisfy you. And for your own sake, steer clear of the demoralizing fruit salad. Your craving, however great, is not for grainy honeydew and slimy pineapple, mysteriously stained by a single unripe strawberry.

The sports bar Cobb salad is always the best bet precisely because of its potential flaws in all other situations. It is a caloric bomb, a fraud of a salad, covered in bacon, egg, avocado, and cheese. But this is your single meal for the next eight to twelve hours. 850 calories in one go is more than OK. You shall not want for many hours after eating that much protein, fat, and 87 pounds of lettuce in a sitting. You will not find yourself in a fugue state brought on by low blood sugar, shoving your face full of sandy pretzels halfway through your flight.

Airport Cobb Salad
Credit: Sarah Crowder

Furthermore, the sheer volume of stuff in a Cobb means that even when parts of it disappoint (and parts of it will disappoint—you’re still in an airport, after all) it’s still likely that some parts of it are salvageable. Rubbery egg? Never fear, the chicken is thoroughly passable. The dreaded unripe avocado? Behold, a boatload of blue cheese remains. A Cobb is nearly impossible to totally screw up. There is always bacon. You will not be left hungry, even with the saddest of Cobbs. (This is not the case with the accurséd airport Caesar, a mistake I have made countless times before.)

Occasionally, you may find yourself in some highfalutin new terminal with a variety of surprisingly legitimate food options, but this is rare. What is not rare is the middling sports bar/steakhouse. You know the place; there are TV screens on the walls and the decor is aggressively “masculine.” Airports seem to be required by law to contain one of these bars, and each iteration unfailingly has three salad options: a Caesar (bad), something very '90s with craisins or an unfortunate vague “Asian” inspiration (worse), and a Cobb (surprisingly fine).

Will the Cobb be good, exactly, living up to non-airport standards? No, of course not. But you will not regret it, and you will not find yourself forking over $16 for an in-flight “bistro box” of flavorless cheddar, rubbery almonds, a strange foil pouch of olives, brittle breadsticks and something almost akin to cream cheese that claims to be a parmesan-tapenade-bruschetta (?) spread. This is cause for celebration.

Never again will you get to an airport and think, “I have 45 minutes before my flight boards, whatever am I going to eat?” and wander into some regrettable pre-packaged sushi. You have checked your bags, you have made your way through security, and now you are now a human with a mission. You are going to find the mediocre burger place/sports bar, order the Cobb and a glass of wine the size of your head, and you will be as close to happy as can be, given your current environs. Godspeed, intrepid traveler.

If you are vegetarian or vegan though, I don’t know what to tell you. You deserve better. I’m sorry airports are doing you dirty.