12 New Airport Restaurants That Make Going Through Security Way More Rewarding
These days, airport concourses are an extension of a city’s food scene, offering a taste of a destination’s culinary talent without a months-out reservation. Take, for instance, the arrivals of Alain Ducasse, Alex Guarnaschelli and Jacques Torres—along with many other Michelin-starred chefs—at Newark International Airport (yes, Newark!), or the new outposts by veteran restaurateur Richard Sandoval and Top Chef alum Mike Isabella that are opening this summer in Reagan National Airport. They’re all proof that there’s good food to be had at nearly any domestic hub.
Here, our favorite places to fill up pre-flight, no matter your departure point.
Where It Is: New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)
Why We’re Lining Up: Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant empire is ever-expanding thanks to its cult-followed multi-cultural comfort foods. Travelers can experience a few of the chef’s signatures from a light-filled space in JFK’s Delta terminal.
What to Order: Samuelsson has received endless acclaim for a recipe that speaks to his childhood in Sweden: Grandma’s Meatballs, served with lingonberries, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and a rich, creamy gravy.
Where It Is: Dallas Fort Worth (DFW)
Why We’re Lining Up: This Southeast Asian fast casual shop at DFW’s Terminal D speaks to the picky procrastinator, making it easy to grab-and-go in a hurry.
What to Order: Bahn mi sandwiches come with a twist, filled with grilled pork meatballs or coconut chicken breast. We like the former, with its Vietnamese caramel glaze and cucumber-cilantro aioli.
Where It Is: LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
Why We’re Lining Up: Michael White, the Michelin-starred Midwestern chef with 11 restaurants from Manhattan to Hong Kong, opened this elegant Italian trattoria in December, effectively turning Delta’s Terminal C into restaurant row. (Among his high-brow neighbors are Andrew Carmellini and meat maestro Pat LaFrieda.)
What to Order: The chickpea salad with wild arugula, sopressata, and ricotta salata is a satisfying light bite. But before a long flight, we’re partial to the hearty garganelli, served with radicchio, truffle butter, and speck.
Where It Is: Los Angeles International (LAX)
Why We’re Lining Up: After chasing Roy Choi’s addictive Korean-Mexican-American taco truck around Greater Los Angeles, we are delighted to find a vehicle dishing out his fusion fare permanently parked in American Airlines’ Terminal 4.
What to Order: Kogi’s short rib tacos are quickly becoming an L.A. icon—think caramelized Korean barbecue wrapped in corn tortillas with salsa rioja, cilantro-lime relish and kicky chili-soy vinaigrette.
Where It Is: Portland International Airport (PDX)
Why We’re Lining Up: In addition to a new fleet of food trucks—like Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok Wing—Terminal D is now home to Country Cat, a branch of the beloved Montavilla spot from chef-butcher extraordinaire Adam Sappington.
What to Order: The recipe for Sappington’s skillet-fried chicken is four generations in the making. It originated with his great-grandmother, who was a cook at a Missouri county jail.
Berkshire Farms Market
Where It Is: Boston Logan Airport (BOS)
Why We’re Lining Up: Boutique airport restaurant group Tastes on the Fly, the masterminds behind SFO’s beloved Napa Farms Market, opened this 1,200-square-foot culinary bazaar last spring. Part of a $20 million upgrade to Terminal B, the New England-centric shop is stocked with artisanal goods from local producers like Berkshire Bark and Ronnybrook.
What to Order: Locally sourced sweets and savories, like South End Buttery pastries, Williamstown roasted nuts, and sandwiches on Cambridge’s beloved Iggy’s bread.
Grindhouse Killer Burgers
Where It Is: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
Why We’re Lining Up: Alex Brounstein’s four-outpost burger fleet is a citywide phenomenon that reinvigorated an entire historic neighborhood by way of its boozy milkshakes. Last summer, its first airport branch inaugurated the grand reopening of Concourse D.
What to Order: Try the high-flying Dixie Style Burger, which is served with pimento cheese, chipotle ranch dressing, vinegar-based Carolina coleslaw, and a fried green tomato. And don’t skip a side of Grindhouse’s popular crinkle cut fries.
Where It Is: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
Why We’re Lining Up: Two-time James Beard nominee Silvana Salcida Esparaza has been serving what Arizona Republic calls the state’s best Mexican food at Barrio Café for more than 10 years. In November, she debuted this fast-casual offshoot—complete with Mexican beer, tequila, and a colorful, independently commissioned mural—in Terminal 2.
What to Order: Choose your own adventure with mix-and-match burritos or rice bowls, each combining fresh pork, chicken, cotija cheese, crema, charred tomato salsa, spinach, and sautéed jalapenos.
Pensacola Beach House by Mike Isabella
Where It Is: Pensacola International Airport (PNS)
Why We’re Lining Up: Isabella, a Top Chef alum and DC restaurateur, is opening three airport restaurants this year. First up is this bright and breezy spot in North Florida, serving burgers, salads and killer small plates (chicken pot pie fritters, anyone?).
What to Order: Stick to local classics like Gulf shrimp and fried green tomatoes with buttermilk mousse.
Where It Is: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Why We’re Lining Up: The Centurion Lounge opened in Terminal 3 in November with a rotating lineup in the kitchen. First was a menu by three-Michelin star Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow; now Cedric Vongerichten of New York’s Perry Street has taken over. Bonus: the lounge also serves cocktails by PDT’s Jim Meehan.
What to Order: Need to wake up before a red-eye? Try the eggs benedict with Sriracha hollandaise. Come evening, it’s the fried chicken we’re after—if only for its honey lemongrass glaze.
Where It Is: Los Angeles International (LAX)
Why We’re Lining Up: It took $1.9 billion to refurbish the now-gleaming Tom Bradley International Terminal that now houses Michael Voltaggio’s hit sandwich shop—but these hoagies are just as thoughtfully put together as their impeccably designed digs.
What to Order: A combo of gravlax, pickled onions, capers, and “everything bagel” spread is hard to beat, airport or not. (But be sure to pick up some breath mints for the sake of your neighbor.)
Where It Is: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
Why We’re Lining Up: The second airport outpost from the James Beard Award-winning Iron Chef opened in February, bringing hearty comfort food and regional craft beers to Terminal D.
What to Order: If you forgot to pack your Ambien, the Lola Burger—which layers a proprietary blend of Pat LaFrieda beef with a fried egg, pickled onions, bacon, and cheddar on a challah bun—will almost certainly ensure a sleep-filled flight.