9 airport restaurants that are worth the trip

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Grabbing a bite to eat at the airport used to mean standing in line at the food court. But in recent years, inventive restaurateurs have found a captive market in some airports. Travelers facing long layovers often prefer to spend their time over food and drinks instead of sitting for hours at their gate. And those without much time often appreciate a great to-go option.

Eating at a local restaurant at the airport is a great way to experience the flavor of a town, even if you’re just passing through. Here are nine airport restaurants to keep in mind the next time you book a flight:

The next time you travel through an airport, there’s a good chance you’ll find some delicious local flavor.

Root Down, Denver International Airport

Root Down has been a big part of the Denver food scene for the last 10 years, so when they opened a location at DIA, locals were beyond excited. The food here is healthy, fresh and creative, and there is an equal emphasis on design. Sit at the bar if you have time for drinks or grab something to go if you’re tight on time. Either way, it’s a must-do the next time you’re traveling through Denver.

Location: Terminal C

Floret, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

This offshoot of Cafe Flora, the popular Seattle-area vegetarian restaurant, is a welcome refuge inside of Sea-Tac airport. Floret features locally sourced ingredients, giving travelers a quick glimpse into the quality restaurant scene in Seattle. Seating is in a relaxed courtyard environment for those who have time to grab a table. There is a grab-and-go counter for those with a short connection.

Location: Central Terminal by Gate A1.

1300 on Filmore, San Francisco International Airport

As with many restaurants in San Francisco, you can expect a good origin story at 1300 on Filmore. The restaurant opened in 2007 in the historic Jass District of San Francisco with the idea of serving southern-inspired American cuisine in a neighborhood location. It succeeded and opened a location at SFO in 2017,  providing air travelers with a bit of history and an excellent meal.

Location: Terminal G

Classified, Newark Liberty International Airport

Classified, the United members-only dining experience in the Newark Airport is, well, classified. Which makes sense since this restaurant is themed as a covert speakeasy in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the world. Rumor is that you need to receive an invitation to dine here and you’ll still need a reservation after that invitation is received. Is it worth it? Do you have the time to seeking out a secret speakeasy in an airport? I’d love to hear feedback from anyone who has been inside.

Location: Terminal C

Local Tavern, Philadelphia International Airport

At Local Tavern, you’ll enjoy tasty food, local beer and smart design. Every seat comes equipped with a charging station (USB and outlets). One of the primary initiatives of the Local Tavern is an emphasis on recycling. Everything from the food waste to non-food materials used in the restaurant are a part of this program. When you’re sitting at the Local Tavern sipping on one of the 60 local beers served on tap, you can feel good that you’re supporting a restaurant that makes an effort to reduce and recycle.

Location: Terminal F

One Flew South, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

This restaurant has received so many positive reviews across travel publications that I am tempted to book a flight through Atlanta just to eat here. They describe themselves as “the first upscale dining experience at the world’s busiest airport.” Their menu is described as “Southernational” and features items like collard greens ramen and poke tacos. This is more than an average airport meal. Anyone who has flown through Atlanta (or missed one, two, three flights in Atlanta) knows that this airport can be a real drag. Mitigating your pain with a craft cocktail and meal featuring locally sourced ingredients is a good thing.

Location: Terminal E

Olive & Ivy, Phoenix Sky Harbor

Those who live in Phoenix are probably familiar with Olive & Ivy, the upscale Mediterranean restaurant. Those traveling through Sky Harbor can now get one of the best meals in the city. Want to enjoy some fine dining while you’re waiting for your next flight? This is the spot. Give yourself plenty of time to relax and appreciate the food served here. You may be on your way to visit family in the Midwest, but for an hour or two, you’ll feel like you’re on the French Riviera.

Location: Terminal 4

Kogi Taco, LAX

Foodies worldwide have been obsessed with Kogi Taco, the LA food-truck success story serving Mexican-Korean BBQ fusion across the city. When they opened a location at LAX, traveling through LA became just a bit more…palatable. Stop in for a breakfast kimchi quesadilla (yes, that’s correct). You might just decide to skip your next flight and stay for another meal.

Location: Terminal 4

Tortas Fronteras, Chicago O’Hare International Airport

Rick Bayless created Tortas Fronteras to highlight the flavors of Mexico, and in the process, has racked up the plaudits (including “Best Airport Restaurant,” by Bon Appetit Magazine). As one would expect from Bayless, everything here is hand-crafted from the tortillas to the margaritas. The menu features local ingredients that are sourced from various establishments around Chicago. If you’re in a hurry, order online when you land at O’Hare and stop by to pick up your food as you journey on.

Location: Terminal 1, by Gate B11

Have you ever had an airport meal that was so delicious you suggested that your friends or family check it out? Let me know your favorite airport restaurant in the comments section below!

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