Take a look at the Pancake Palace and just try not to be bitter about today's airport dining options.

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Interior of San Francisco airport's Pancake Palace restaurant, in the 1960s
Credit: Collection of SFO Museum

Surprisingly enough, you could actually get a good meal at an airport restaurant at one point in history.

Airport food has gained a bit of notoriety for being unhealthy, tasteless, and downright inedible in some places. Although an airport’s fast food restaurants and on-the-go sandwich kiosks may be preferable to the in-flight meal, travelers who have to resort to these still cringe-inducing options probably don’t realize that dining in an airport used to be a fun and delicious occasion.

At least it was at San Francisco International Airport back in the 1960s and 1970s.

SFO used to be the home of the once-famous Pancake Palace restaurant, which sat in the old International Terminal (now called Terminal 2).

Diners in the Pancake Palace at the San Francisco airport, 1960s
Credit: Collection of SFO Museum

While a pancake place might recall images of an everyday IHOP, the Pancake Palace practically looked like a palace. Gilded top-to-bottom in the golden hues of perfectly griddled pancakes, this stately restaurant had gold curtains and wainscoting decorating the walls, chairs with tufted cushions, and luxurious couches for lounging in the center of the dining room.

This might seem like a lot of fuss just for a stack of pancakes, but all doubts fall away when you learn they served 14 different varieties, including buttermilk, buckwheat, potato, strawberry, and chocolate. They also had waffles and other breakfast classics.

Cover of the Pancake Palace Menu
Credit: Collection of SFO Museum
Menu from San Francisco Airport pancake palace
Credit: Collection of SFO Museum

Sadly, the legendary restaurant is no more. Occasionally, you might find a place that’s just as special and unique as the Pancake Palace, like say, a secret, invite-only restaurant at Newark Liberty International Airport, but you’re more likely to have to satisfy your hunger with fast food or express versions of chain restaurants when you go to the airport today.