Airports usually have the best restaurants, specialties and flavors of local food in the city. Here are some great places to eat on a layover.
Local food isn’t just a culinary trend in hipster hangouts. It’s also popular in airports. That’s good news for travelers. You can forgo orders from fast food chains during a layover in favor of the city’s best restaurants, specialties and local food. Here are some of the best places to have a unique dining experience and then catch your connection.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Some of the most popular restaurants in the Valley of the Sun have landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor. Top brunch restaurant Matt’s Big Breakfast (try the waffles with sweet cream) has legendary status around town, as does Iron Chef champion Mark Tarbell, founder of airport restaurant The Tavern. To satisfy the sweet tooth, stop by Tammie Coe Cakes for cupcakes or large cookies, or Sweet Republic for artisanal ice cream in salted cream caramel swirl. If you only have time for a craft beer, Three Beaches Brewing Company and Four Peaks Brewery both have local brews.
Austin is a foodie town, and its airport is no exception. Take advantage of the town’s food trucks to induct burgers from the lodge or bahn-mi tacos from Peculiar Tortilla. Salt Lick BBQ is a mountain-imported barbecue sauce that’s thickly coated with smoked meats, sandwiches and baked potatoes. Plus, you can buy some packaged brisket to take home. Austin Institute Amy’s Ice Cream also digs artisan ice cream like the Mexican vanilla flavor.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Travelers don’t even have to leave the airport to travel along the Texas barbecue trail. From Fort Worth’s classic Cousin’s BBQ or Cousin’s back porch, hop on over to Ditch’s BBQ Pit (the chain is based in Dallas), and Salt Lick. This way, diners can balance all the Texas flavors with a fair share of Mexican flavors at restaurants like Pappasito’s Cantina.
Los Angeles International Airport
This airport is the gateway to Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that there are several starred chef restaurants at the airport. As an example, Top Chef Award winner Michael Fotaggio is the mastermind behind ink.sack, a gourmet sandwich store. At Homeboy Bakery, diners eat local food and give back to Los Angeles. The bakery, a social enterprise of Homeboy Industries, serves men and women formerly involved in gangs and, at the bakery, trains them in job skills. Travelers can also buy local food at the original farmers’ market. 80 years later, the Los Angeles agency opened an airport that provides meals, snacks and candy directly from the market’s restaurants and stalls.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport
Manhattan was a playground for internationally renowned chefs, many of whom opened restaurants at the airport. New York native Andrew Carmellini opened a sandwich store featuring sandwiches. Top Chef Masters winner and James Beard Foundation award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson started Uptown Brasserie, which serves international cuisine in a brewpub setting. Milkshake Shack may now be a national chain, but it started in New York City so travelers can get their burger hotspot and feel like they’re eating local all in one bite.
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport International Airport
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Airport is the busiest international airport in the world, so travelers will likely be here at some point or another on a regular basis. In Atlanta, dining at the Chick-fil-A chain counts as eating local – the chain was founded in Atlanta – but there’s a lot more to it than chicken sandwiches and waffle fries. The airport’s first upscale restaurant, One Flew South, serves global food, and the already sixty-year-old Paschal’s serves double the soul food.
Nashville International Airport
Visitors can record late night sessions with the Nashville-born Eighth Roast Coffee Company for ambiance. Tacos may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Tennessee, but Blue Coast Tacos has spread its taco wings throughout the state and boasts an airport facility. There’s no shortage of beer in Music City, either. Pick up a craft sketch at the Yazoo Brewery newsstand, Tennessee Brewery and Fat Bottom Brewery. The Swede serves up a classic Southern lunchーーdon’t miss the pecan pie.
Denver International Airport
Denver is all about beer and big time meats. Head to Denver ChopHouse & Brewery for craft beer from Denver-based Rock Bottom Brewery co. with filet mignon and bison burgers on the menu. Elway’s, owned by local icon and former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, also serves hand-cut steaks. For lighter fare, head to the mile-high city’s favorite root food joint, which specializes in healthy, gluten-free and vegan dishes.
Portland International Airport
All hail the hipster gods, who bring hordes of local food to Portlandia’s airport. Travelers can purchase caffeine supplements at local institution Stapleton Coffee. Donuts are practically mandatory in Portland, and passengers can find donut versions at Portland’s second most famous store, PDX’s Blue Star Donuts. Laurie Wood Public Bar and Brewery offers craft brews and solid bar food, like fish and French fries. Food trucks PDX keeps things lively with a rotating lineup of local food trucks that serve breakfast and lunch. Previous carts have featured Cuban food, waffles and Asian cuisine.
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco was going green and serving local food long before it became popular, and its airport restaurants reflect that tradition. Since 1994, Hamburger Associates has been raising meat humanely and sustainably on family farms and ranches, and it continues to do so inside the airport. The Plant Café also serves local, organic food and sustainable seafood. On the run? ducks into the Napa Farm Market, a market that reflects the agricultural richness of Northern California, offering take-out sandwiches and baked goods.