This Secret Fine-dining Restaurant Hiding in Newark Airport Just Reopened — Here's How to Score an Invite

United Airlines' invitation-only restaurant, Classified, just reopened after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

United's Classified restaurant at Newark International Airport

Courtesy of United

I'm ushered down a long hallway toward the back of Saison, a restaurant located near gate C120 in Newark Liberty International Airport. An unmarked door is pushed open, revealing not the back corridors of a kitchen, but instead, an entire cordoned off restaurant, as I'm greeted by a handful of eager staff members. “Welcome to Classified,” I'm told as I'm taken to a table by the window, positioned with a view of airplanes coming and going from the tarmac.

Classified, United's semi-secret, 36-seat restaurant in Newark, reopened in mid-September, ending a two-and-a-half-year pandemic hiatus. “This is home for me,” my server Pasquale says, thrilled to be back after such a lengthy absence. He says the best times of the day to be at Classified are sunrise and sunset, to capitalize on those tarmac views. “It's like art.”

The dining experience comes with a special sense of exclusivity thanks to the speakeasy-style subterfuge and invite-only access.

Inside with view of planes at United's Newark restaurant, Classified

Courtesy of United

The Classified Experience

A day ahead of a recent United trip, connecting through Newark en route to Quebec City, I received an email from the airline. “Your invitation to CLASSIFIED,” the subject line read, with the email explaining I could reserve a table at an invite-only restaurant in Newark during my connection. I clicked through and ultimately snagged a table via a reservation system which allows you to enter in dietary restrictions or make note of any special occasions.

After taking a look at the menu, I was surprised to see that the restaurant was a paid dining experience. This wasn't a free perk thanks to my 1K status with the airline or any particular flying benchmarks I had achieved during the year. The perk was the invite; the rest would come at a cost.

Once you've made your reservation, the location of the restaurant is revealed, and you're told to let the host at Saison know that you're there for Classified. “Oh, well, then,” she responded with a knowing, welcoming smile once I made my presence known. “Right this way.”

From there, I was escorted back and got my first look at the space, a narrow dining room and a back wall that's essentially one long window. Tables feature precise settings and brown leather chairs, the lighting is dim and soft jazz plays. Two large booth sections are housed under overhangs evocative of airplane fuselages.

Guests are greeted with a warm towel, followed by an amuse-bouche. On my visit, it was an endive-and-beet salad, followed by the delivery of bread and butter. It feels a bit like the airline's format for business-class service for long-haul flights.

Ordering and payment is handled through an app interface (while it was touted that miles will be available for payment, the option was not available when I dined), which is well-designed to allow for customizing a given request. For instance, when ordering a martini, there were nearly a dozen gins and vodkas to choose between, and a selection of modifications (i.e., dry, dirty, twist). Other cocktails are offered with tableside service for a bit of a show, while certain whiskeys and spirits are poured from decanters.

To go with my martini, I selected an Arctic char entree with Champagne vinaigrette. The fish is well-cooked, with thick, crispy skin, and the martini is potent and soul-soothing. At the end of the meal, a small box of chocolate bonbons was delivered as a parting gift.

Prices aren't cheap at Classified; my entree and gin martini came to $71 including tax and tip. Considering there's a United lounge next door – which itself has just been overhauled and now offers a far improved experience over its predecessor lounges at Newark – along with dining options throughout the concourse, is United's Classified worth the cost, even if you receive the invitation?

Where Classified excels is by making the concept feel like an exclusive experience. It's unique as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the airport, and with no crowds or chaos, it provides a relaxing atmosphere. It feels elevated and calming, and the staff goes out of its way to provide attentive service. “It's a moment,” Pasquale says. Amid the trials and tribulations of a typical busy travel day then, the experience itself may be priceless... even if it is paid.

United's Classified restaurant at Newark International Airport

Courtesy of United

How do I score an invite?

The specific frequent flier qualifications required for Classified invitation have not been disclosed, and it's unclear what status tier would be considered the minimum threshold, or whether any specific in-year flying benchmarks may serve as a qualification. United representatives declined to provide further clarification or comment on invitations and eligibility, beyond indicating that while passengers with Polaris tickets would be eligible, they're encouraged to opt for the complimentary dining program available at the adjacent Polaris Lounge.

While Classified operates as an invite-only restaurant, you can also visit and look up your potential eligibility with your MileagePlus number. If you're not currently on the list, you can request consideration to receive an invite in the future, basically letting the airline know it's something you're interested in and likely boosting your odds of future eligibility.

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