"" What's She Eating Now?: Airport Dining Worth Flying For

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Airport Dining Worth Flying For

A guest post by friend of the blog, Eddie Jacobs. Without further ado...
I'd like to thank the humble editor for giving me a tiny bit of real estate on this blog. I am someone who travels for pleasure quite frequently and when I travel I like to eat. I choose destinations for a variety of reasons but none more important than exotic (or not exotic) foods and dining experiences. I have fond memories from great trips with friends and for one reason or another they all seem to take place at a table or in some way in front of a meal. Butter Chicken in Delhi after 24 hours of travel, tasty street noodles in Bangkok after a tuk-tuk ride gone wrong, a Melon's burger on just about any trip back home, and so on. That said, I find it almost frustrating how difficult it is to get a decent meal while in transit.
Why is it that TCBY, a failure in nearly every strip mall, has had a rebirth in airports nationwide? Sbarro and Chili's rake in the bucks. And perhaps the most egregious airport dining option, Famiglia Pizzeria at Newark Airport, pounds that cash register as it besmirches the good image of New York pizza for all. While airport dining is a challenge, and one that seldom comes cheap ($4 for bottled Dasani water, really?), I am submitting this brief list of restaurants and airport dishes that are hidden gems in a sea of overpriced disappointing options. If I can sway just one person in the right direction I will feel this effort was well worth it.

But first, a disclaimer or two. With the exception of #5 on the list, all are in frequently traveled US domestic airports. Also, I ignore all educated tips that advise travelers to refrain from greasy foods or alcohol. This, of course, is a meal recommendation, not lifestyle advice. Here we go:

#5) Bangkok Airways Finger Sandwiches, Bangkok Airways Lounge, Thailand
Prior to being diagnosed with Celiac's disease I could eat a sandwich or two. Come to think of eat, it may have been the 12 finger sandwich lunch that ultimately caused my gluten allergy. Regardless, they were very tasty. Here's the skinny: with the purchase of ANY ticket on Bangkok air you are granted entrance to the first-class lounge where unlimited gratis finger sandwiches (cucumber with cheese as well as a smoked salmon sandwich) can be enjoyed and washed down with orange (Tang-ish) drink and popcorn.

#4) Figs, Laguardia Airport, American Airlines Terminal
Todd English=failure in Manhattan. Todd English=Magic at Laguardia. Perhaps it's the lack of decent options at Laguardia (a Wendy's that has a 40 minute wait, always) but "Olivia's Chicken Salad," grilled chicken over mesclun greens followed by white bean soup, was a heck of a pre-flight meal. Not an awful place to watch sports, either, should you find yourself in need of a place to post-up for pre-flight viewing. 

#3) Legal Seafoods, Logan Airport, Boston
Say what you want about Legal's, it's pretty decent for airport food. The lobster salad is fresh, the bloody marys are damn good and the clam chowder is dependable. A rare concession from a New Yorker, but something good has come out of Boston.

#2) Phillips Seafood, Charlotte Airport, Concourse C/Islip Airport, Long Island
Two airport seafood restaurants in a row? Has he lost it? Phillips makes a whale of a crab cake (no whale), and the crab chowder is really solid too. 

#1) Paschal's Restaurant, Hartsfield Airport, Atlanta
Paschal's is an oasis amongst the crowded halls of AirTran's terminal in Atlanta. Blackeyed peas, yams, cornbread, collards, fried and baked chicken, sweet tea, and the best peach cobbler I've ever had. Great service. This was an easy choice. It seems like every flight goes through Atlanta and the food options are limited. Paschal's is the way to go. 

Eddie Jacobs is a native New Yorker and a fan of cuisines from around the world, so long as they don't contain toxic glutens.


  1. Great list Eddie! I'd like to add a few. It wouldn't suit you but the Lucky's near the Delta Shuttle at Logan has great sandwiches, perfect for taking on board. And have you been to T5 in JFK recently? Jet Blue has really stepped it up. The new bar makes those inevitable flight delays a lot less horrible. And remember Balducci's? They may be defunct in the city but they are thankfully alive and well for carry out in JFK's terminals 2/3 and 7. Take that poorly-maintained-gross-food-serving Sam Adams Brewery!

  2. Sky Asian Bistro at PHL. Spicy crab pad thai to die for. Abt the only thing that got me thru the 7 months of weekly Wilmington trips for a disaster pharma client.