U.S. Airports With Excellent Restaurants
Most people would do anything to avoid airport food, especially in the U.S., where options are usually overpriced stale sandwiches and terrible coffee.
But frequent travelers can thank the universe because some of the country's major airports are fixing their errant ways. If you know where to look, you can find airport restaurants with food that makes layovers worth the hassle.
The next time you fly in or out of one of these U.S. airports with great food, make some time for dining before your flight. We ranked these based on not only how good the restaurants are but also how unique their offerings are to the local culinary scene, giving travelers a taste even if they're just stopping by on a layover.
10. Washington-Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
The nation's capital couldn't be left behind when it came to nourishing weary travelers. Here, too, you'll find establishments with James Beard chefs, like Michael Symon's Bar Symon. If you're craving good bar food, you simply can't do better than this.
It seems like people passing through IAD really crave bar food because other noteworthy places to eat include Chef Geoff’s and Devils Backbone Tap Room, where you can expect great burgers at both. And if you're in the mood for a fancier experience, visit Vino Volo Wine Room. Here, you'll get to taste different wines from Virginia's excellent (but underrated) wineries.
9. Philadelphia International in Pennsylvania
Flying through Philadelphia and not trying an authentic Philly cheesesteak is basically a sin. Go to Geno's, one of the best places to get this city staple. Or try one at Tony Lukes. And if you have a long layover, try both and join in on the timeless debate of who makes a better sandwich.
Not in the mood for a sub? Mezzogiorno serves some deliciously fresh pizza, while Noobar's ramen will get you ready for long flights.
8. Houston George Bush Intercontinental in Texas
Yet another airport that boasts a James Beard Award-winning establishment, IAH's best restaurant is indisputably Hugo's Cocina. Inspired by Mexican flavors, you can get some truly mouthwatering dishes like cochinita pibil, a fragrant queso skillet and a mushroom torta.
Pappadeaux Sea Food Kitchen is another standout option. Serving everything from alligator to crawfish platters and Maine lobster, you definitely won't be hungry on your flight — which is great if you're on a long national flight where the only thing you can expect is a tiny cracker packet. And if you want to keep it traditional and go for BBQ, go to Q Bar.
7. Los Angeles International in California
Now that some of the renovations forever plaguing LAX are finally completed, the airport's food scene has finally caught up with L.A.'s high middle class (you know, people with fine tastes and high expectations but not enough money to fly private), who were having a difficult time settling tasteless airport fare.
When in SoCal, Mexican food is an obvious choice. For this, head to Border Grill, which serves dishes inspired by the Oaxaca and Yucatan regions. At Slapfish, you'll get delicious seafood — sustainably sourced, of course. Another standout spot is The Kitchen, helmed by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Prices will be higher than at fast-food pizza chains, but the quality of the food is worth the higher spend.
6. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International in Georgia
Atlanta has some of the best food in the U.S. It also has the world's busiest airport. And while flying from ATL is absolutely chaotic (some would say traumatizing), the food makes up for it. You can get the usual chains like Five Guys and Jersey Mike's, but we encourage you to go beyond and treat yourself to a foodie experience.
Most everyone agrees that the indisputable king of this airport is One Flew South. This restaurant is located in Concourse E and specializes in regional cuisine with a twist. The food is so good that it earned the joint a James Beard nomination. For delicious soul food, head to Paschal's, or indulge at Chicken + Beer, which is owned by Ludacris (and which you'll also find in Los Angeles International Airport). Finally, Grindhouse Killer Burgers, a local staple, has two locations in ATL.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth International in Texas
It should come as no surprise that DFW has great BBQ — this is Texas, after all! So, if you're passing through on a layover and are sad that you won't get to try the state's famous steak, you can stop at places like Cousin's Bar-B-Q or Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse.
For something a bit different, go to White Tail Bistro in Terminal D. This French bistro with a Texan soul serves everything from soup to Texas cat fish fish and chips. Or stop by Cantina Laredo, one of the best Mexican-inspired chains in the country.
4. John F. Kennedy International in New York
Of course gigantic JFK is bound to have amazing food. Yes, it also has some not-so-impressive options, but we won't waste our time with those. Instead, spend your precious airport time at places like Deep Blue Sushi in Terminal 5, which has managed the almost impossible task of serving delicious sushi at an airport.
And if you want to go really fancy, head to the TWA Hotel inside the airport, where world-famous chef Jean-Georges Vongerichtenan operates the decadent Paris Cafe. If you're short on time, an impressive food hall gives you quintessential local options like New York-style bagels, Feltman's Coney Island hot dogs, decent coffee and cocktails.
3. Nashville International in Tennessee
Is it a surprise that so many southern restaurants make this list? It shouldn't be! Like in Texas, BBQ is one of the most famous airport (and city) food options. There are several places to consider: Bar-B-Cutie SmokeHouse or Pig Star, for example.
For the city's famous hot chicken, head to 400 degrees, where the chicken will put your mouth on fire in the best possible way.
2. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Louisiana
Cajun food may be the single best cuisine in the entire United States. You simply can't pass through MSY and not eat at Leah's Kitchen. Named in honor of the late Queen of Creole, Leah Chase, this restaurant will transport you into the home of a local grandmother.
Other great spots to try include internationally inspired Mondo, Lucky Dogs and Café du Monde. For a drink, stop by Bar Sazerac or by Cure, whose cocktails have earned a James Beard Award.
1. San Francisco International in California
San Francisco International features so many local restaurants that you could spend a week here eating your way through it. But for time's sake, when in San Fran, we suggest you not skip on the Asian fusion. Bun Mee, a creative take on Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, will provide all the flavors you never knew you needed, including Hanoi-style catfish. And Tomokazu provides decent sushi that you can eat without worrying about your upcoming flight.
But Farmerbrown may be the most interesting restaurant in SFO. Unexpectedly, this soul food place is one of the airport's most popular. Go for the chicken-and-waffles or the jambalaya. Really, anything on the menu will impress you.