Review: Classified, United's Exclusive Invite-Only Restaurant at Newark Terminal C
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Considering how much time I spend in airports, you might assume I like to experience the energy of the terminal — passengers hustling to their gates, mobility cart drivers and their verbal "beep beeps," the constant robotic voice announcing departing flights and unattended bag warnings. Yeah... no thanks.
My goal is to escape the chaos — fortunately, credit cards and airlines alike are making it easier than ever to do just that. High-end cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, make it easy to access international airline lounges, even when you're flying coach. Meanwhile, premium-cabin passengers traveling on American and United now have their own escapes, be it AA's Flagship First Dining or United's Polaris Lounge.
Unfortunately for customers traveling through Newark's Terminal C, there aren't any Priority Pass lounges to visit, and United's Polaris Lounge won't open until next year. There's the United Club, of course, but the Terminal C lounges are in desperate need of an overhaul, which has finally begun. Until that process is complete, I'll probably be waiting for flights at the airline's new "secret" restaurant, Classified.
Classified opened its doors Thursday, but despite the appeal, there isn't a line snaking through the terminal to get in — and that's by design.
Classified is an invite-only establishment — if United's given you the nod, you can log in here and make a reservation; if you don't have an invitation, you'll be prompted to join a waitlist.
I really like the space, but there's no question that the super-bright iPads at each of the 36 seats — loaded with advertisements, games, links to news sites and more — detract from the "speakeasy" atmosphere.
If dining alone, I don't mind the tablets much — you can turn them off or set them on the table, if you'd like, and I really appreciate being able to browse the menu and place an order at my leisure. You can also easily track your flight and access your 20% discount from the United MileagePlus Explorer Card simply by scanning your boarding pass.
Now, this might seem a little silly, but one of my favorite Classified features is the fact that there are two restrooms available within the restaurant. There's no better way to spoil the atmosphere than having to walk out to the terminal to use the bathroom; fortunately, you'll never have to do that here.
How to Get In
Want to dine at Classified? Well, there's a process...
First, you'll need to make a booking. Sounds easy enough, right? Unfortunately access is incredibly limited at the moment. United has pre-selected MileagePlus customers — you may have received an email invitation; if not, you can still try to log in to the reservation page using your MileagePlus number and last name.
From there, you'll have your pick of date and time — currently, bookings seem to be pretty wide open, which makes sense given how few customers are eligible. It doesn't seem like there's much rhyme or reason to who's getting the nod from United, but you can request access for the future if the airline isn't offering it now.
Once you've managed to make a reservation, Classified is fairly easy to find. Make a left turn after the security checkpoints, walk to the end of the hall and make a right. The restaurant is located at the back of French bistro Saison, near gate 120 in Terminal C.
You'll check in at the front of Saison, and an associate will walk you back to Classified.
I didn't get an invitation, unfortunately, but a friend was able to make a reservation on my behalf.
I requested a table for two, and sent out an invite on Twitter to see if anyone happened to be passing through Terminal C at the right time — TPG reader Chris answered the call.
I made a reservation for 10:30am, hoping to catch the end of breakfast service and the beginning of lunch. Chris and I tried a handful of items, including the Chili Lobster Scramble for breakfast ($21.00) and an enormous porterhouse steak for lunch ($104.00).
Since Classified is connected to Saison, you might expect to find a similar menu — and you will. Many of the menu items and prices overlap with the restaurant's public counterpart, but the staff is entirely different — while the two restaurants share a kitchen, Classified has its own servers, managers and chefs. And while the menu is similar, several items are available exclusively to Classified guests, including:
- The EC Chicken Sandwich — "We layer crispy buttermilk fried chicken with a housemade biscuit, chili honey, and Old Bay buttermilk ranch. Topped with everything spice mix and served with French fries." $15.50 or 1,940 miles.
- Chili Lobster — "Our chefs poach fresh Maine lobster, then serve in a spicy tomato broth, and garnish with chopped herbs. Served with four slices of Texas toast." $34.00 or 4,250 miles.
- 40 oz. 28-Day Dry-Aged Prime — "Our chefs prepare a 40 oz. 28-day dry-aged prime porterhouse on a wood burning grill to your liking. The porterhouse is a well-marbled classic steakhouse cut that consists of two tender steaks — the strip and tenderloin. Seasoned with Maldon sea salt and served with a watercress and radish salad." $104.00 or 13,000 miles.
Classified offers separate menus for breakfast (5:00am-10:59am Monday-Friday; 5:00am-8:59am Saturday-Sunday), brunch (9:00am-3:59pm Saturday-Sunday), lunch (11:00am-3:59pm Monday-Friday) and dinner (4:00pm-close).
Since I dined during breakfast and lunch, I'll share those menus below. First up, the breakfast menu.
And here's what Classified was serving for lunch:
You can view the rest of the food menus in this post. A beverage list is available on United's site here. As you may have noticed, you can redeem United miles for menu items, but at just 0.8 cents per mile, it's a terrible value.
Food and Beverage
As far as airport facilities go, my Classified visit felt almost on par with my experience at Lufthansa's First Class Wining and Dining facility at JFK Airport. Everything is free at the Lufthansa lounge, of course, but besides the high prices and (perhaps too loud) music, Classified reminded me of Lufthansa's restaurant-like space a few miles from Newark.
I was greeted with a cold towel, an offer of black linens (instead of the white already on the table) and my choice of complimentary still or sparkling bottled water. A few moments later, Classified's manager, Herman, came by to offer a complimentary glass of wine or sparkling rosé Cava, which will be available free of charge to all guests for the next week.
A waiter brought over an amuse-bouche, consisting of seared banana wrapped in bacon with a maple glaze. It was a great way to start the meal.
Next, I ordered a "premium" Bloody Mary for $19.50. That's about twice as much as I'd expect to pay for a breakfast cocktail, even at the airport, but it was quite large and came with bacon and a gigantic shrimp. I didn't really regret spending the ~$20 on a single drink. I do wish the bacon were a bit less fatty, though.
Meanwhile, my Chili Lobster Scramble ($21.00) was super tasty. I'm glad I upgraded from home fries to fresh fruit for $3.05.
Just as I was finishing my breakfast, United Flight 79 to Tokyo pushed back just outside the window. I had forgotten that I was at Newark until I saw that 777-200 appear just a few feet away. Classified has incredible airport views!
Being that it was now after 11:00am, it felt appropriate to order a Manhattan, which Chris and I (and a frequent flyer across the room) enjoyed.
About 20 minutes after placing our order, the 40-ounce porterhouse arrived. Yum!
Unfortunately the TSA limits the cutlery available in the terminal — and since cutting through a gigantic steak with a plastic knife isn't much fun, Herman offered to slice up our porterhouse in the kitchen.
I ordered the steak medium rare, and that's how it arrived. Fan-tastic!
Yeah, we could have done without the iPads...
Chris had to run to his flight, so he missed out on a complimentary cappuccino.
And some phenomenal (and free) chocolates from Melange.
Finally, a waiter brought over my leftovers — we easily had enough food for four people, so I'll be bringing some steak back to the TPG office for the crew to enjoy later today.
If United were to foot the bill for international premium-cabin passengers, this would easily be one of the world's best airline lounges — the food is great at the Polaris Lounge, but you can't beat the selection at Classified. But with customers paying their way, this restaurant is expensive.
That said, the 20% discount if you have the United MileagePlus Explorer Card does go a long way to offset the steep appetizer, entree and cocktail prices, and if you're traveling with an expense account, you should be able to stay within your per diem, especially if a lunch or dinner at Classified is your one and only paid meal for the day.
Have you managed to book a table at Classified?