Terminal Dining Gets an Upgrade

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From LaGuardia to LAX, airport terminals are upgrading their food scenes

It feels like something of a pipedream to think of consistently finding good food in an airport. Yes, there are the few good restaurants that have opened up in airports, as well as wine bars and fun gourmet shops, but it still remains that the bulk of airport food is an endless decision between Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, or Burger King. But some airports are getting wise to the fact that as more travelers are booking food-focused trips, there is money to be made by upgrading the dining options (and thus the travel experience) along the way.

Last week, The New York Times reported that Terminal C at La Guardia Airport, which has been taken over by Delta, is launching a host of restaurants helmed by local and celebrated chefs. Michael White is on board with his Cotto serving pastas and pizza, Empire Tavern will be run by Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson from Balthazar, Kombu will serve Japanese food from a Morimoto alum, and Andrew Carmellini will open Victory Grill. The rollout started this weekend and will be complete by late 2013. Even places like Brooklyn Brewery, Artichoke Basille, and Pat LaFrieda are joining the ranks at Terminal C with a beer garden, Artichoke pizza, and burgers, respectively.

Los Angeles International Airport approved a slew of local restaurants’ airport outlets last summer that will largely go into Terminal 5 with some trickling into Terminals 4, 7, and 8 as well. The rollout for the long list of eateries opening at LAX, billed as the Original Farmers Market at LAX, is still unclear, but is set to include ¡Lotería Grill!, Ludo Vite (run by the pop-up master Ludo Lefebvre), King’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, Monsieur Marcel, and T&Y Bakery. Terminal 4 is set to get a Cole’s French Dip and Campanile, Mark Peel’s long-loved LA eatery, as well as an 8 Oz. Burger.

At Tulsa International Airport, upgrades are just beginning, as well, with the focus on "designer meatballs" and a more tech-friendly airport experience. And Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has been on the forefront of offering more in the way of good food to make sure that stranded or delayed travelers see less red — they have Vienna Beef outposts as well as Wicker Park Seafood, local favorite Garrett’s Popcorn, Gold Coast Dogs, and Eli’s Cheesecake.

Airports have got to start somewhere, so while most have just a small handful of noteworthy restaurants scattered between terminals, we have faith that it’s just the beginning of a happy marriage between food and airports. For tips on where to find the best of the best, check out our list of the airports with the best food around the world