A respectable airport restaurant is like a port in a storm. If you’ve made it through security with your dignity intact, and your flight wasn’t canceled, you’ve got time to kill and a reason to treat yourself. If you’re away from home, you’ve got one last chance to experience the culture of a different city, even if it’s the mall food-court version.
Desperate travelers will settle for less — a bag of trail mix from Hudson News, a ridiculous Starbucks concoction or a salad snatched from a refrigerated shelf. But even in the corporate wasteland of the airport, there’s quality to be found. Many of today’s shiny new terminals include classic hometown restaurants and notable chefs from the cities they’re in.
Concourse concessions come with concessions, of course. Just like at pro sports stadiums, giant management companies license restaurant names, which means you might get a watered-down version of a signature recipe. When you’re wearing airport goggles, big chains start to look better because consistency equals dependability — but we’re imploring you to go beyond the Chili’s Too.
For your preflight checklist, we consulted local experts — including food and travel writers — to get their recommendations at the 13 busiest airports in the country. We solicited input from readers, considering almost 600 responses. At each airport, from Atlanta to Denver to Los Angeles, we included one leisurely sit-down option, one quick-serve counter and wild-card picks full of craft beers, desserts and more local classics.
We hope you packed your appetite.