Airport food has always been notoriously bad. If you’ve got to grab a bite before take off, your options are usually limited to fast-food joints with names that end in “Xpress” and warmed-over fare that’s likely to sit in your stomach (and make your sardine-like journey all the worse). That’s why finding airport grub that’s not only not terrible, but actually really tasty is all the more awesome. Here are six airport meals that make that two-hour delay (almost) bearable.
Duane Nutter’s restaurant in Atlanta’s Terminal E has Southern roots with global aspirations. A pulled pork sandwich, for example, is reimagined with duck confit and a fig and toasted peanut relish, while Nutter’s take on chicken soup is made with soba noodles, Napa cabbage, scallions, and Chinese five spice-scented broth. The cocktail program is equally impressive and Tiffanie Barriere’s Rise of the Phoenix—mezcal, yellow chartreuse, strawberry, lime, and black pepper—combined with the Georgia pine mural, which runs the entire length of the restaurant, may just make you forget you’re in an airport.
There are two things that make this JFK outpost of Danny Meyer’s rapidly expanding burger-and-custard chain stand out: First, the wait is significantly shorter than elsewhere, especially at the Madison Square Park original. And second, it’s the only one that serves breakfast, including a killer sausage egg n’ cheese sandwich on Meyer’s signature toasted potato bun.
Leah Chase’s Mid-City institution is the place to go for meaty gumbo, crispy fried chicken, and gooey peach cobbler. And as of January 2013, you can get your fill of the 90-year-old matriarch’s Creole cooking outside Concourse C of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport.
This no-frills shack at the food court at Austin-Bergstrom Airport doesn’t have the pilgrimage feel of the Driftwood original, but the slow-smoked brisket sandwich served on mustard sauced bread is killer. Get a platter, which comes with beans, coleslaw, and potato salad, and if you’re still hungry, Amy’s Ice Creams, which serves artisan cones in flavors like Dreamsicle, Brandy Alexander, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, is nearby.
This food emporium at San Francisco International Airport is like a ferry building mini-me, complete with Acme breads, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, and California crabs from Vino Volo. Make a beeline for the back of the market for crisp, juicy birds from Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie. For dessert, there are Kara’s cupcakes and TCHO chocolates.
This Cuban kitchen has nine locations, including one at Miami International Airport’s North Terminal. The outpost has man-size portions of fried chicken, fried pork, garlicky plantains, and the like—plus excellent Cuban coffee and the city’s best flan.
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Freelance writer, travel junkie, ex-Southerner with a love of grits and all things fried.