As the holiday season looms, so too does the prospect of being stuck in an airport with a layover to kill and bellies to feed.
If the thought of one more stale $12 turkey and brie baguette brings you to your knees, you’re not alone. Precisely why we’ve compiled our go-to dishes from the best airport restaurants and bars across the U.S. Skip the Terminal B Au Bon Pain and beeline it straight for these trusted transit hotspots instead.
Kogi BBQ Taco Truck
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal 4
Order: the short rib tacos. In December 2014, this iconic Korean taco truck landed in LAX. And with it came their classic short rib taco: double-caramelized Korean barbecue, salsa roja, cilantro-onion-lime relish and a fresh Napa-romaine slaw tossed in a chili-soy vinaigrette — all lovingly piled inside two warm corn tortillas.
Chickie’s & Pete’s
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), Terminal A-West, C, D, E
Order: the crab fries. These golden-brown, crinkle-cut sticks of piping hot joy are tossed in Pete’s signature crab seasoning (see: Old Bay) and served with not one, but two sides of their housemade creamy white cheese sauce.
One Flew South
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Terminal E
Order: the pulled duck sandwich. This layover hub boasts one of the best sandwiches south of the Mason-Dixon. Layers of decadent duck confit, fig-peanut relish, chopped scallions and spicy-sweet mustard mingle effortlessly within a perfectly toasted brioche bun.
The Salt Lick
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Gate 10 Post-Security
Order: the smoked beef brisket sandwich. The third installation of this renowned Texas barbecue joint satisfies hungry travelers with its classic brisket sandwich piled high with hearty shavings of tender smoked beef brisket, pickles and onions. And while you’re there, might as well grab a slice of their famous pecan pie. You know, for the road.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Terminals 1, 3, 5
Order: the cochinita pibil torta. Voted “best airport restaurant” by Bon Appétit, Tortas Frontero lives up to the hype, offering up an impressive assortment of Mexican favorites including tortas, molletes, soups and guac. When in doubt, reach for the cochinita pibil torta — a sandwiched gift from the gods loaded with achiote and citrus-braised pork, pickled red onions, black beans and a side of housemade roasted habanero salsa for dipping.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Central Terminal, Concourse C
Order: the O.G. mac and cheese. When in cheese land, add mac. Beecher’s tosses al dente penne with its award-winning creamy artisan cheese — the ideal dish for combating a rainy travel day.
Cava Mezze Grill
Reagan National Airport (DCA), Terminal B
Order: the build-your-own breakfast bowl. Create your own breakfast destiny at this fast-casual Mediterranean joint. Start with a base of your choice (grains, greens or pita), then pile on the eggs, dips, veggies and sauces before you top things off with a hearty helping of locally made chicken sausage.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 4
Order: the ShackBurger and a black & white shake. No trip to New York City would be complete without Shake Shack — even if only within the confines of JFK. First time? Go with a classic ShackBurger topped with lettuce, tomato and secret sauce (a heavenly blend of mayo, mustard, ketchup and spices) on a freshly buttered and toasted Martin’s potato roll.
- Marion Bernstein
Main Image Jonathan Cohen