Airports can be places of stress, heartache, and panic. There's that nagging worry that you might miss a flight; the sadness of saying goodbye to a loved one, whether it's a relative going back home or a friend going off to war; and the anxiety of setting foot on a plane at all in this era of terrorist attacks.
But airports are also places of anticipation, love, hope, and beauty. They're the place where a college student flys off to study abroad and expand his or her horizons; a new mother brings her child to meet his or her grandparents for the first time; a young couple in love sneaks off for a romantic weekend; and, during the holidays especially, families and loved ones reunite.
A number of the places we hailed in our 2013 piece on the subject are here again, and some have dropped off the list. Airport restaurants tend to open and close relatively quickly, whether due to business issues or terminal redesign, so we had to rework our list several times to accommodate closings — like that of one of our favorites, Kogi Truck at Los Angeles International Airport.
Just like passengers, restaurants arrive as well as depart. New arrivals this year include Sushi Kyotatsu in Narita International Airport. Read on to learn where they placed.
This Brazilian restaurant snack chain started 48 years ago, and today there are over 400 locations throughout Brazil (and, interestingly, one in Newark, New Jersey). Its namesake, pão de queijo, is at the center of the menu: warm gougère-like cheese rolls made with cassava flour. Pick up any of five flavors, which include Cheddar and guava, on your way to the terminal. Options also include tasty desserts like brigadeiro (sort of a chocolate truffle made with condensed milk) and an assortment of sandwiches.
If you’re flying Delta, Frontier, or Northwest, you’ll have access to this restaurant in Terminal 1, specializing in burgers, soups, sandwiches, and salads. Table service is from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., while the bar stays open until midnight. The Perry’s Burger comes with cheese, bacon, and avocado, and entrees include a grilled filet mignon sandwich.
Yelp / Nicole S
Chef Jimmy’s Bistro & Spirits is filled with bright, warm light and lots of options for hungry travelers, like American and Italian fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options. Grab-and-go selections are available, as well as chef-inspired dishes at your table. Try the home-style biscuits and gravy or the chicken enchilada pasta. Another plus: Most dishes cost less than $20.
Dine in or take out at Kampong Café in Singapore Changi Airport. Bento meals, or Japanese-style lunches in a box, are available for the traveler with little time to spare. One bento box option contains roast chicken, bean sprouts, and Thai spice tofu, while the Malay Bento includes white rice, Assam stingray, salted egg, and pineapple chili prawns.
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Open from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m., this is one barbeque joint you won’t want to miss out on once you pass through security. The family who runs the restaurant still uses the same barbequing method one of their ancestors developed in 1867. It’s a tried-and-true joint, where popular menu items include brisket, pork ribs, and blackberry cobbler.
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Giraffe is a great place to enjoy a rich breakfast, lunch, or dinner during your travels. Its three airport locations make that an easy goal. At Heathrow Airport, Giraffe, which is located in Terminal 5, welcomes travelers with three giant giraffes standing tall. Tempting menu items include the Falafel Deluxe Burger with tzatziki and harissa hummus and the Grilled Sirloin Steak, which is 21-day-aged Irish-reared beef. For a quick bite, pick up the avocado, hummus, and roasted cherry tomatoes on artisan sourdough with basil oil.
Obrycki’s Restaurant / Facebook
This restaurant, specializing in Chesapeake Bay regional food, was established in 1944 in downtown Baltimore and later expanded to this airport outpost. Fresh blue crab meat is the star of the menu, so travelers should make sure to pick up savory homemade crab soup, deviled crab balls, or the famous crab cakes in order to get the full Obrycki’s experience.
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This Cantonese restaurant inside Terminal 1 specializes in dim sum and local Guangdong dishes. Signature menu items include roasted goose, steamed chicken with sliced ham and vegetables, and deep-fried crispy pork fillets with black vinegar. The eatery also prides itself on not adding MSG to its specialties.
Jamie’s Italian UK / Facebook
Opening at 4:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and closing 30 minutes before the last flight boards, Jamie’s Italian is a premier destination for airport-goers. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver founded the venue as an airport version of a welcoming neighborhood hangout with quality Italian food. It accomplishes that mission with menu items like wild mushroom and winter greens risotto and Amalfi lemon meringue cheesecake. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options are also available.
Barrio Café at the Phoenix International Airport / Facebook
This casual Mexican eatery specializes in burritos, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. The original Barrio Café was founded by Wendy Gruber and two-time James Beard Award nominee chef Silvana Salcido Esparza as a neighborhood restaurant in 2002 and took off from there. Menu highlights include Hongos en Trufa enchiladas, with mushrooms and shallot cream sauce with white truffle oil; and Torrejas, or Mexican-style French toast, with sliced bacon and cinnamon-apple sauté.
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Deep Blue Sushi, in Terminal 5, boasts both quality food and an immersive atmosphere — the all-encompassing blue light makes guests feel they’re dining underwater. A variety of rolls are available, such as spicy tuna, toro scallion, and avocado. Other menu choices include edamame, jumbo shrimp tempura, and miso roasted chicken. (Management needs to keep the place cleaner, though; lots of sticky tables and detritus on the seats. Sit at the sushi bars.)
Caviar House & Prunier / Facebook
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This open, airy airport spot wears multiple hats, as it serves as a live entertainment venue, restaurant, and brewery all in one. Airbräu only uses hops from Germany’s Hallertau region in making fine beers. The menu showcases dishes like roast duck, grilled fillet of salmon steak, and Tyrolean spinach dumplings.
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This tapas bar in Terminal 5 serves skillfully-plated dishes with flair. Choices for the hungry traveler include both hot and cold tapas, sandwiches, meat, fish, vegetables, and desserts. Try the anchovy-stuffed deviled eggs or the crispy fried salt cod fritters, and finish up with chocolate mousse cake and an espresso.
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Michael Voltaggio’s popular sandwich joint is located at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which is known for quality dining. The veggie banh mi sandwich is made with barbeque tofu, pickled vegetables, and mushroom spread; the Spanish Godfather incorporates ham, chorizo, and manchego; and the cold fried chicken includes ranch cheese, Gindo’s Spice of Life pepper sauce, and pickles. Other menu items are the classics: turkey melt, club, BLT, and grilled cheese.
This Terminal 2 restaurant, which specializes in French cuisine, is open Monday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (although the bar opens an hour earlier and closes an hour later). Consider starting with cauliflower cream soup with glazed mushrooms and hazelnuts; choosing an entrée like grilled beef striploin with red onion and pepper sauce; and finishing with crème brûlée and vanilla ice cream.
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This cocktail and tapas lounge by celebrity chef Cat Cora prides itself on using locally-sourced ingredients as often as possible, especially in the case of seafood. The establishment also uses eco-friendly plates, boxes, and utensils. Menu items include the Greek Fisherman Stew, made with the seasonal fresh catch, ouzo butter crostino, and fennel; salt-roasted beets with goat cheese crostini and arugula; and lobster macaroni and cheese.
Crust / Facebook
This pizza eatery, located past security in Terminal D, is open from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., so it’s easy to stop for a bite on the way to catch a flight. Salads and antipasti are also on the menu, but the standout is the pizza. It’s made in a thin-crust, Neapolitan style, and customers can build their own or choose a menu special.
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Most menu items at this airport branch of a celebrated Miami Cuban eatery are under $10, making it the perfect place to grab a snack on your way out of town. Try the classic Cuban sandwich, the Mediterranean salad, or any of the tostones (fried plantain slices) on the menu. One option is toston lechoncita, which is made with pulled pork, queso fresco, and avocado.
Carles Gaig / Facebook
Corky’s Memphis / Facebook
This barbeque hotspot, located in Terminal A, and is an outpost of a beloved barbecue chain. Snack on BBQ nachos with chicken or pork, cheese sauce, and special seasoning; or go for the famous ribs and beef combo. Desserts include Josh’s apple or peach cobbler and Miss Emma’s chocolate fudge pie — make them à la mode for less than $2.
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This eatery by celebrity chef Rick Bayless prides itself on hand-crafted tortas, hand-shaken margaritas, and fresh guacamole. The origins of the food are laid out plainly on the menu. Featured items include tortilla soup with artisan Jack cheese and red onion; the Cubana torta with smoked pork loin, chipotle mustard, and Gunthorp bacon; and guacamole with the customer’s choice of toppings, such as spicy roasted peppers, toasted pepitas, or sun-dried tomatoes.
Michelin-starred chefs Gilles Dupont and Thomas Byrne founded this restaurant, lounge, bar, and rentable conference center in the Geneva airport. Menu highlights include filet mignon; king crab ravioli; and seasonal specials such as chestnut and pumpkin risotto with foie gras and fried spinach leaves.
One Flew South / Facebook
This upscale restaurant in the world’s busiest airport serves “’southernational’ cuisine inspired by world travels,” as well as extensive to-go options, traditional and signature cocktails, and an international wine list. Consider starting out with cream of pumpkin soup, then ordering the thyme-roasted pork belly with blackberry-onion marmalade as a main course.
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This classy venue features an expansive space with high ceilings and upscale lighting. The restaurant, which specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner menu items include a baked Mediterranean tart with eggplant and goat cheese; cedar-wrapped British Columbia salmon with whiskey maple sauce; and smoky buttermilk fried chicken with a watermelon feta salad.
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Brasserie FLO opens at 11:30 a.m. to serve hungry travelers traditional Parisian brasserie fare. The original establishment, in Paris itself, dates back to 1901 but was revamped over 40 years ago to create the brasserie people love today. Try the sea bass and salmon ceviche or the roasted filet of cod with parmesan risotto. For dessert, consider the pineapple gazpacho with lime sorbet.
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This go-to sushi spot in Terminal 1 is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It’s a traditional old Tokyo-style sushi shop, celebrating “individuality and craftsmanship,” which is why it doesn’t have a standardized menu. The establishment buys fish from the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, which is known as the world’s largest and busiest fish market.
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You can find this branch of the famous seafood chain in Terminal 5, just past security, serving New England seafood fare. The décor is also distinctly ocean-inspired, with a “bubble ceiling” and mosaic fish. Try the crab cakes, fish and chips, or Surf & Turf Burger on the all-day menu. If you’re looking for a souvenir, Legal Sea Foods also packs to-go live lobster for plane travel.
Four British chefs curated the menu at the Gorgeous Kitchen, which offers both light modern dishes and traditional British fare to travelers passing through the airport's Terminal 2. Try kedgeree or a full English breakfast in the mornings, crab with lemon mayonnaise sandwiches or wheat-free pistachio cake for afternoon tea, or pea and mint soup with crème fraîche and pea shoots or pan-fried sea bass with sautéed leeks and garlic cream sauce for lunch or dinner.