Best Airport Food: Eight Restaurants for Chowing Down on Local Flavors

Posted Apr 18th 2011 01:45 PMUpdated Apr 18th 2011 01:54 PM


airport restaurants

jasonlam, flickr

Given the questionable reliability of air travel these days, there's a chance that that booking fee is going to include a no-expenses-paid, overnight vacation in an airport terminal. Or there's always the missed connection or five-hour layover option. The situation can be especially depressing when escaping the airport is not an option.

Fret not, stranded travelers. There is some solace to be found in the food court, of all places. Some airports feature local restaurants, which offer travelers a chance to taste regional culinary favorites without even having to leave the airport. So, whether it's thanks to chicken wings at BNIA or barbecue at AUS, logging a few extra hours in transit can be that much more bearable.

Want to dish about more local airport goodies? Let us know in the comments below!

cplbasilisk, flickr

Authentic Mexican tortas and fully dressed dogs in Chicago:
Besides "stuffed" pizza and Italian beef sandwiches, no food item is more quintessentially Chicago than the hot dog. For a true Chicago dog, only an all beef sausage nestled in a poppyseed bun will do. That puppy needs to then be "dragged through the garden," or topped with yellow mustard, diced onions, neon green relish, tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. This mighty dog is available from Chi-town staple Gold Coast Dogs in terminals 3 and 5 at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

mrjoro, flickr

Plump lump crab cakes times two in Baltimore:
As the movie "Wedding Crashers" so aptly proclaimed: "Crab cakes and football. That's what Maryland does!" Many will find the football portion up for debate, but Maryland can definitely carry the title of crab cake capitol. Needless to say there are countless restaurants around town serving up this specialty, but travelers need not leave Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to have a taste. Two landmark Baltimore restaurants have set up shop at BWI: Obrycki's in terminal B and Phillip's in terminals A and B. Besides golden crab cakes, diners will also find Maryland-style crab chowder (with a tomato broth and vegetables) plus crab prepared every which way. Think crab dip, crab salad wraps, crab meat cocktail and more.

Crusty pressed Cuban sammies in Miami:
Little more than 200 miles separate Miami and Cuba, and the country's influence on the Miami culture is undeniable. When it comes to food, Latin flavors are widespread, and Café Versailles might be called the star of Cubano cuisine in MIA. But, if a day here means reclining in terminal D or E of Miami International Airport rather than on South Beach, sink into a hot Cuban from Versailles. The classic sandwich brings together ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on a crusty Cuban-style baguette. It might taste even more like Miami when accompanied by a guava pastry and strong café Cubano.

Navin75, flickr

Hot and juicy chicken wings in Buffalo:
Yes, chicken wings are available in abundance at just about every airport, but where else besides Buffalo Niagra International Airport serves the original Buffalo wing. It was at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo that the dish was invented by the owner for her son's friends as a late night snack. She took chicken wings that were usually reserved for making stock, fried them and then added a coating of "secret sauce." For a taste of the original, head to the upper level, just past security-and bring plenty of napkins.

d0ug&r0byn, flickr

A slew of fresh Pacific fish in Seattle:
It's difficult to think of the Pacific Northwest without picturing seafood, and lots of it. In Seattle, Ivar's has been slinging seafood since 1938. In that year, Ivar Haglund opened the city's first aquarium, on Pier 54, and began selling fish'n'chips and chowder to hungry patrons. A legend was born. Now travelers can enjoy the Pacific's catch at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport's central terminal. Taking a cue from Ivar's original snack stand, Ivar's Seafood Bar serves all that and a side of chips. Really. Menu items include: fish'n'chips, prawns'n'chips, scallops'n'chips and so on. For those not so into 'n'chips, also on deck are red or white clam chowder, salmon chowder, grilled fish and Dungeness crab cocktail.

kristiewells, flickr

Steaming bowls of creamy clam chowder in Boston:
It's impossible to pass through Boston without sampling "lobstah" or "chowdah." And, when facing the prospect of a long layover, a bowl of thick and creamy clam chowder might offer the right amount of comfort to the travel weary. Legal Sea Foods was established in 1950 in Cambridge, and has become a well-known name in New England seafood with outposts along the Eastern Seaboard. But, where better to give it a taste than on its home turf-even if that means Terminal C at Boston Logan International Airport. Chow down on New England classics like steamed lobster, fried clams, lobster or crab rolls, and of course, clam chowder. Legal has other outposts at Logan: Legal C Bar in Terminal B, Legal Sea Foods Café in Terminal B and Legal Test Kitchen in Terminal A, all serving chowder.

joshbousel, flickr

Smokey, tender barbecued meats in Austin:
Texas Hill Country is known for its barbecue, cooked low and slow. Opened in 1967, The Salt Lick is a well known purveyor of this regional specialty, based on an old family recipe of course. Beef barbecue is the name of the game in these parts (unlike in the Southeast where pork is king) and beef brisket is a sure bet. But, outside of Austin at Salt Lick, there's all sorts of meaty goodness like sausage, turkey, chicken and pork. Passengers at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport can rustle up some grub from Salt Lick in the West Concourse.

Filed Under: Air Travel

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

If the crabcakes at Phllips in BWI are any indication of Baltimore cuisine, keep me away. But, then again, if I thought all Chicago had to offer were the horrible food experiences of Midway I would never have discovered real Chicago-style pizza or dogs, neither available at Midway.

April 23 2011 at 8:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gardunos New Mexican food at the Albaquerque airport is my absolute favorite. The enchilladas and sopaipillas are the greatest.

April 23 2011 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jane's comment

I second this... I used to travel to ABQ all the time - loved that place!

April 27 2011 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love the airport food places and hit them up whenever i travel and take some on the plane, I,m thinking maybe i should buy xtra and sell it on the flight..

April 21 2011 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Chicago Midway has a great food court with a Greek restaurant that serves great gyros. I try to go through Midway whenever I have to go across the country.,

April 21 2011 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is no place like Buffalo for chicken wings! I have tasted wings in various parts of the eastern seaboard but NO ONE makes better wings than the Anchor Bar. Please spell the airport name correctly BUFFALO NIAGARA FALLS INTERNATIONAL

April 21 2011 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen McLean Hessel

Don't forget the cheesesteaks in Philly. But you neglected to mention that the food vendors shut down when the airport is still full of delayed passengers at night. Desperate people can not buy decent food or emergency items (diapers for babies) etc. and that should change --it is cruel and inhumane-no place to eat or sleep when stranded in Ohare or other airports where weather regularly causes excessive delays.

April 20 2011 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Add to this list Dickie's at DFW! Love it!!! Years ago, when secutiry wasn't as tight as it is now, Ioverhead a local man who had eaten there whilehe was waiting for his flight, that he had brought his wife to Dickie's for lunch to let her taste the delicious food.

My husband and I were in Dallas last year and with time on our hands, we ate at Dickie's. It's still excellent!

April 20 2011 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Wilson

I am loving the article. Keep up the good work.

April 19 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't Miss


Find the best resorts, wherever you are.

Hit The Slopes

Tales of learning to expect the unexpected.

Change Your View
Getty Images

Unexpected encounters and wildlife tours.

Cows, Sharks, Monkeys & More

Travel Careers

amtrak train conductor

See the world and interact with people from different cultures.

flight attendant plane interior

It's as crazy as you think.