Generally speaking, airport food is as appetizing as a three-hour layover. But airports from London to LaGuardia are finally starting to spread their culinary wings. They now offer made-to-order fast food and even have fine dining restaurants with star chefs like Gordon Ramsay. Our crew tasted at terminals around the globe and found these five to be soaring successes.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
As the busiest airport in the world (more than 250,000 passengers fly through here every day), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International is bound to be on your itinerary at least once. It can be a hassle to navigate, but if you have a couple of hours to kill, make your way to Terminal E’s One Flew South restaurant. Executive chef Duane Nutter serves up modern takes on classics, like a pulled duck sandwich with a fig and toasted peanut relish, or thyme-roasted pork belly in his fine dining airport eatery. Don’t have time for a sit-down dinner? Toss back a beer and a burger at Terminal B’s SweetWater Draft House & Grill.
Miami International Airport
Whether you’re arriving in Miami for a beach vacation or heading home from a business trip, stop off at Terminal D for Lorena Garcia Cocina’s excellent fresh meals. The food is made in-house daily, including small bites like the LG Cocina salad, with caramelized walnuts, apples, fresh strawberries, blue cheese crumbles and balsamic-honey dressing, and sandwiches, such as a roasted portobello on ciabatta. If you’re flying through in the morning, nab some of the handmade baked empanadas. (Garcia also has another restaurant, Tapas, opening at Hartsfield-Jackson at the end of October.) If you just need a quick boost before takeoff, visit one of the various Café Versailles locations throughout the airport for one final shot of invigorating Cuban coffee.
New York is one of the fine dining capitals of the world, and you can finally taste it at LaGuardia. The once-dreadful airport has filled Terminals C and D with appealing eateries. Sit down for a meal at Terminal D’s Bisoux and savor a menu created by chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson, the toques behind Soho’s Balthazar. Their Provençal cuisine includes definitive dishes like croque monsieur, duck confit and tuna niçoise. For a quick bite, try Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda—the same meat purveyor who supplies the famous Shake Shack—in both Terminals C and D. These grilled-to-order burgers pair nicely with the killer made-from-scratch milkshakes.
Denver International Airport
After a long weekend on the slopes or hiking through the Rockies, a bit of relaxation is in order before flying home. Sample a few of the 58 wines at Lounge 5280—named for Denver’s mile-high altitude—overlooking Concourse B. Pair them with appetizers like osso-bucco-style pork wings or the perfect-with-wine cheese platter. If you aren’t in the mood for vino, Lounge 5280’s custom cocktail list features libations concocted with regional Colorado ingredients, like the Rocky Mountain Shandy with Breckenridge Agave wheat beer, housemade lemonade and Gosling’s ginger beer. Microbrew fans should check out New Belgium Hub, also on Terminal B. It carries tons of specialty beers that the Centennial State is known for.
London Heathrow Airport
Europe’s busiest airport doesn’t cut corners when it comes to dining—in fact, London Heathrow drafted Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay to up its restaurant scene. Ramsay’s Plane Food restaurant in Terminal 5 serves breakfast and an à la carte menu with dishes such as crispy chicken wings with tamarind sauce; various cuts of British beef; and steamed sea bass with avocado purée. Those with strict flight schedules should opt for the Plane Fast menu, which maps out how long your meal will last. If you’re about to board, grab a Plane Picnic to go for a delicious meal you can enjoy as soon your tray table no longer needs to be in its upright and locked position. Travelers with more time—and a penchant for seafood—will want to make a beeline for Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar in Terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5.
Photo Courtesy of Lorena Garcia Cocina