While we all loathe the lines, security hassles, and endless waiting involved in air travel, there is one thing we can all agree on: the dining can be a treat. The only trouble is that you have to know where to go to get the best airport dining. That’s where we come in; we’ve curated a list of nine of the hottest airport restaurants from all over the world to keep you inspired and hungry on your travels. Bon appétit!
JFK (New York City, New York): Piquillo (Terminal 5)
Most of the airport restaurants you see lean on American, French, Italian, or Asian culinary traditions — which is why we’re so excited about Spanish-inspired Piquillo. It’s hard to miss if you’re idling in Terminal 5; just look for the concrete dome atop a sprawling wooden bar. Sidle up the bar, grab a glass of Tempranillo, and hand-pick your nibbles from the impressive tapas menu. Simple is often best, so start with the Roasted Dates wrapped in serrano ham (a classic), but don’t be afraid to get adventurous with the cinnamon-tinged Cream of Spinach or the unusual (but umami-licious) Crab Slider. If you have an hour or more and an appetite that won’t quit, order the Paella de Mariscos (seafood paella). Brimming with a sea’s worth of shrimp, clams, calamari, and mussels, it will undoubtedly prime you for a siesta when it’s time to cozy into your seat and take to the skies.
LAX (Los Angeles, California): Petrossian (Tom Bradley International Terminal)
Caviar in an airport terminal? You’re not dreaming; you’re just waiting for your international flight at LAX. If time allows, make fish roe-rich Petrossian your go-to for an indulgent pre-flight sip and snack. The menu is limited, but that’s fine — how many different kinds of drool-worthy caviar do you need? Our rec: 30 grams of the nutty-sweet Osetra (only a cool $93) or the three-caviar sampler for only $70. If you’re aiming for a traditional pairing (and effective sedative before takeoff), order a Stolichnaya vodka to go with. More affordable sides and entrées round out your options, including our favorite: the Smoked Fish Platter with crème fraiche and toast points. Even if you’re not flying first class, a meal from Petrossian will ensure you eat like it.
SEATAC (Seattle, Washington): Floret (Concourse A)
The little sister to Seattle’s famed Café Flora, Floret is a vegetarian feast for the senses. Everything from breakfast to dinner is on offer, though a few dishes stand out to us as destination-worthy eats. The Avocado Toast gets a full-throated “yes!” from us; while we know avo-toast is a trend of the past, we can’t get over the combo of local Macrina bread, meaty avocado, beets, pistachios, almonds, and sesame oil. It’s a deliciously confounding flavor bomb. If your stomach is grumbling too loud for toast, go for the Portobello French Dip; the mushroom-garlic au jus is good enough to slurp with a spoon. If you have time and calories to spare, punctuate your meal with the Coconut Cake-cum-mango coulis.
DIA (Denver, Colorado): Root Down (Terminal C)
Chef/Proprietor Justin Cucci is something of a celebrity in Denver restaurant circles, so little wonder that his original Denver concept, Root Down, has a spin-off airport restaurant at DIA. We recommend a sit-down experience for brunch (if time allows), starring the Waffle Benedict (poached eggs atop a crispy waffle with Canadian bacon, all drenched in hollandaise). For the sweet-tooths ever on the hunt for a meal made of dessert, there’s no better option than the Peach-Bourbon French Toast, crusted with Corn Flakes and served with a sprinkling of cashews, cocoa nibs, and candied ginger. If you need a boozy touch, mimosas are always a popular choice, though the signature Blood Orange Mimosa kicks that up a notch or three.
Heathrow (London, England): YO! (Terminal 2)
Want a wake-up call after a transatlantic flight? YO! is your best bet — a brilliantly-colored feast for all the senses. Sushi and other Japanese fare take the spotlight here, with a very simple, three-step ordering process: grab a seat, order your drinks, and take the cold dishes you want from the conveyor belt (the price of the dishes is signified by the color of the dish). For hot dishes, place an order with a server. Rolls and nigiri abound, so all appetites will be sated; choices range from basic Salmon Maki to Spicy Chicken Katsu rolls, while katsu curries, teriyaki bowls, fried rice, and yakisoba star among the hot food options. And since you’re going Japanese, grab a flask of sake. Wherever you’re headed next, a sake-and-sushi meal at YO! will leave you satisfied without being weighed down.
Charles de Gaulle International Airport (Paris, France): Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar (Terminal 2F)
A UK original, this caviar and seafood house is undoubtedly pricey, but the seafood experience is worth it. Get a flute of Champagne because yes, then get the Balik Delight Discovery Plate for a healthy helping of house-smoked fish. For a healthier-ish route, go with the Salade Royale, plied with green beans, foie gras, and crayfish. You can always add on to this with choice caviar, but that depends entirely on how deep your pockets are. For us, the seafood is enough to really enjoy this airport restaurant.
Frankfurt Airport (Frankfurt, Germany): Unterschweinstiege (Steigenberger Airport Hotel)
Not technically housed in an airport terminal, this is a great stop if you have time to leave security for a meal and a trek around the city. Unterschweinstiege (say that three times fast) feels German through and through — complete with the rustic wood beams, elk antlers on the wall, and Old World prints on the banquettes. The menu is a dizzying smorgasbord of traditional Deutsches Essen, so let’s help you navigate it: Go with either the Schnitzel von Kalb (tender, pan-friend veal with a mushroom cream sauce and fried potatoes) or the Regionale Wurstspezialitäten (regional sausage platter, featuring black pudding sausage, game meat sausage, and other wurst-like offerings paired with cheeses and veggies). To drink? Why, a Keiler Weissbier, of course (similar to American lagers).
Beijing International Airport (Beijing, China): Crystal Jade Kitchen (Terminal 3)
This exemplar of Cantonese cuisine is focused on the wok: stir-fries with noodles and rice, featuring thinly sliced meats and veggies. If you want to go outside this centerpiece of Chinese fare, then grab some Shanghai dumplings or dive into a plate of Sweet and Sour Pork. If you’re in a hurry, make a point to get the dumpling soup — it’s one of our staples whenever we’re in Beijing. (And though it shouldn’t be necessary to point out, we particularly love that Crystal Jade knows not to cook vegetables to smithereens. The texture play when cooked properly is a delectable joy.)
Dubai International Airport (Dubai, United Arab Emirates): McGettigan’s (Dubai International Hotel)
Airports are a curious opportunity to explore world-class dining in destinations where they seem totally out of place. Case in point: McGettigan’s in Dubai’s international airport. They just re-opened this month following some renovations, so dive in to get the best of this new and improved Irish pub. For a meaty entry to the UAE, get a plate of Sausage, Hash, and Fried Eggs or just go all-out green and get the Fish & Chips (surprisingly good this far from the Emerald Isle). Alternatively, grab the Bangers & Mash, but be sure to savory that onion gravy with a pint of Guinness; there’s hardly a better flavor pairing in the world, if you ask us. (Oh, and a word to the wise: Avoid the weird, non-Irish menu items like Chicken Pad Thai. I mean, why did they even include it?)
Stay tuned for more airport eats in the months ahead — we’ll be adding more highlights as our 2020 treks continue.