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Inside the Best (and Most Exclusive) Airport Lounge in the US

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On a recent Lufthansa first-class trip from New York to Frankfurt, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig stopped by the airline’s famed JFK Wining and Dining facility for a delicious five-course meal.

Last month, I was looking forward to my first long-haul flight on Asiana. I booked the airline’s A380 first class one way for my girlfriend Sarah and I for 130,000 United miles each, from JFK to Siem Reap, Cambodia. That’s a LOT of miles to redeem, but it was part of a round-trip award booked as a round-the-world journey, taking us from New York to Cambodia, Manila to Paris, and then Paris to Los Angeles and back to New York, with long stops in Asia and Europe. I had plenty of miles to burn, though, between those I’ve earned from United and those I’ve transferred from Ultimate Rewards, earned with cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Freedom and Ink Plus.

Then Jonas hit. My Asiana flight ended up being canceled, but several days before the storm arrived I decided to switch the routing to Lufthansa via Frankfurt instead, bringing us from JFK to Frankfurt to Seoul and then on to Siem Reap. It took us nearly 38 hours door to door, but we got out just before the storm, and we got to spend a few hours at Lufthansa’s fantastic First Class Wining and Dining facility at JFK before the A340-600 flight to Frankfurt.

Lufthansa Lounge at JFK

Lufthansa first class

After checking in and being escorted to the front (like, right up to the X-ray belt) of the insane Terminal 1 security line, we were brought straight up to the First Class Wining and Dining facility on the third floor of Lufthansa’s JFK lounge.

Lufthansa first class

You can also access the Wining and Dining floor from Lufthansa’s Senator Lounge, which is located on the second floor and accessible to Star Alliance Gold members.

Lufthansa first class

The check-in desk is on the third floor, though Lufthansa actually handles check-in on the ground floor. An agent will verify your flight details and then type in a code in the elevator that’ll allow you to access the third floor. The same employee who escorted us through security handled all of this, though.

Lufthansa First Class Wining

Lufthansa first class

The third floor is actually fairly compact. It’s accessible only to HON Circle members and first-class passengers. Since we arrived nearly four hours before departure (we were really freaked out about Jonas!), we had the lounge to ourselves for the first hour or so. Later, four other passengers arrived, but considering most Lufthansa aircraft have a total of eight first-class seats and the flight times are spaced out quite a bit, the facility should always feel fairly empty.

Lufthansa first class

There’s an upper-top-shelf self-service bar in the main lounge area, complete with a very respectable selection of single-malt scotch. There’s also several other types of spirits, wine, beer, soda and water — basically anything you could possibly want to drink is available there.

Lufthansa first class

There’s also another wine and Champagne selection in the dining room itself.

Lufthansa first class

And then even more at the buffet.

Lufthansa first class

There’s also a complete selection of Nespresso pods in the desert section of the buffet.

Lufthansa First Class Dining

Lufthansa first class

Speaking of the buffet, there are several appetizer options.

Lufthansa first class

Along with some grilled veggies and a few pieces of Balik salmon (which the Lufthansa employees kept filled throughout the evening).

Lufthansa first class

Then there’s a dedicated dining room (overview pic up top). There are plenty of tables to choose from — we picked one overlooking the Senator Lounge and gate area one floor below.

Lufthansa first class

While the buffet is fine, the highlight is the a la carte menu, with items ranging from lobster bisque to grilled Amazon cod. Unfortunately some items weren’t available when we visited, including the Brussels sprouts salad and creamy corn soup.

Lufthansa first class

I started with the lobster bisque, which was fantastic. There was plenty of lobster in the soup itself, and then an entire de-shelled claw placed on the lid. Sarah ordered the corn soup, but since they didn’t have that they brought up a butternut squash soup from the Senator Lounge (with a first-class presentation).

Lufthansa first class

For my entree, I had the flat iron steak. It was one of the most interesting pieces of meat I’ve ever had — it was delicious, but it had a very unique (almost smokey) flavor. I asked the waitress about the preparation, and she went to ask the chef, but apparently it’s a secret he wasn’t willing to share. Either way, it was really good, as was the cauliflower mash. I finished every bite. I guess I’ll just have to burn a boatload of miles every time I’m craving that steak.

Lufthansa first class

Sarah had an assortment of steamed veggies. They were about as good as you could expect for steamed veggies with no sauce.

Lufthansa first class

The desert selection is fairly modest, but I was too stuffed from dinner to bother with more than a couple pieces of fruit.

Lufthansa Senator Lounge

Lufthansa first class

Obviously, the Wining and Dining floor is a big step up from any business-class lounge, but the Lufthansa Senator Lounge is among the better US-based lounges I’ve visited. And you can’t beat the view!

Lufthansa first class

There’s also a manned bar, though I didn’t see many passengers bother with the liquor there.

Bottom Line

Generally, I wouldn’t recommend arriving at a US airport early just to enjoy the lounge, but I’d definitely add in some time to stop by Lufthansa’s First Class Wining and Dining facility if you’re eligible to visit. The food was great — definitely restaurant quality — and I was so full that I skipped dinner on the plane, opting to order my dinner for breakfast instead.

DSC08049

There are a few other great US lounge options, including Amex’s Centurion Loungesthe Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK and the Oneworld and Star Alliance lounges at LAX, but it’s hard to beat the quality and exclusivity of Lufthansa’s JFK Wining and Dining facility. It’s clear that Lufthansa has taken cues from its first-class lounges and Frankfurt’s First Class Terminal, and while those still have this outpost beat, the JFK dining area is a very close second. I generally prefer flying out of Newark, but I’d definitely choose JFK instead just to visit the lounge again.

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