TPG readers share their favorite airport restaurants
In the olden days, the landscape of U.S. airport dining was a wasteland of fast-food joints, generic "fine" dining and far-from-fresh fare. But thanks to traveler demand, airport terminals across the country are bringing in local hot spots, chef-driven restaurants, highly regarded national chains and even eateries created specifically for a hub.
With so many options to choose from, though, it may seem daunting to decide which dining venue to prioritize the next time you travel. That's where TPG comes in.
To help you find a tasty bite to eat while flying from point A to point B, TPG's Twitter followers have weighed in to issue you a boarding pass to great meals at airports from coast to coast. Having dined at many of the eateries on this list thanks to covering airports for 10 years and traveling the world since I was 6 years old, I can say with certainty that these spots consistently deliver delectable plates of food. Just be sure to build in time to board your flight and let your server know when you're in a hurry (if you visit a sit-down restaurant) so you can enjoy your meal without feeling rushed.
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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
If you know me, you know that One Flew South is by far my favorite fine dining airport restaurant in the world — and many of TPG's Twitter followers agree. Duck into this restaurant in ATL's Terminal E — you'll see it right after you get off the escalator — to savor upscale Southern-Asian fusion fare. While you can order your food to go, I recommend snagging a table or a seat at the sushi bar, which features a locally mined marble top, so you can admire the state-inspired decor touches (think: Georgia pine planks on the floor and ceiling, and a photo mural of lush Georgia pinewoods) while you wait for your meal. No matter where you sit, you'll find that the ambiance is both sophisticated and down to earth.
In addition to sushi, One Flew South's menu features a selection of Asian entrees with Southern flair, such as soy-glazed scallops with Sea Island red peas, okra and wok chow. If you're craving a drink during your layover, you'll also have your pick of various craft cocktails, global wines and regional beers, including locally brewed Sweetwater and the OFS Old Fashioned (my personal favorite).
Related: 10 airport restaurants so good you won’t want to leave the terminal
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
I'm a big fan of AUS because it focuses on great local restaurants that dominate the scene in the Texas state capital. If you didn't get to indulge in a chopped brisket sandwich while in town, you can fix that mistake before you depart by visiting the Salt Lick Restaurant between gates 20 and 21. I also enjoy the coffee at Jo's Coffee, a local spot with an outpost by Gate 19.
Related: American Airlines will build a new 15,000-square-foot lounge in Austin
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
It should be a law that Charm City visitors can't leave without trying Maryland blue crabs or crab cakes. Fortunately, you can do both if you're in BWI's Concourse B between gates B-7 and B-9. At Obrycki's Restaurant & Bar, you can try these Maryland staples, plus other local crab dishes like Maryland crab soup, hot crab dip with pita bread, crab and shrimp flatbread, a jumbo lump crab roll and a Baltimore club sandwich made with crab cakes. If you're in a rush, Obrycki's will box up crab cakes for you to enjoy when you get home (or on the plane).
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
Although one location in Terminal E is temporarily closed, you'll have four other Legal Sea Foods locations to choose from when transiting through BOS. Let's be real: Those of us in the know all love going to Legal Sea Foods for a bowl of clam chowder and a glass of chardonnay or beer. If you missed getting a lobster roll while in Boston, though, you're in luck, as the one served at the airport is respectable.
Related: Delta targets Boston for major expansion, challenging AA and JetBlue with 5 new high-profile routes
Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF)
The original Anchor Bar, located north of downtown Buffalo, New York, is where chicken wings were invented in 1964. If you didn't get to try this classic snack food while visiting the city, you can sample them at BUF. Located at the upper level of the terminal inside the security checkpoint, Anchor Bar's airport outpost serves mouthwatering Buffalo wings worth planning a trip around. If wings aren't your thing, try the beef on weck, spicy hot chicken wing soup or Buffalo chicken tender salad.
Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD)
I admit to routing myself through ORD just so I can eat at chef Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera, which offers approachable yet refined Mexican food. My personal favorite is the cochinita pibil, a sandwich made up of achiote- and citrus-braised pork, pickled red onions and roasted habanero salsa on the side. I also like to order chips and guacamole fully dressed with artisan bacon, toasted pepitas, MightyVine tomatoes, spicy roasted peppers and a queso fresco-cotija cheese mix to enjoy as my snack on a flight.
If you download the app, you can place your order upon landing to avoid the lines when grabbing your food. You can find Tortas Frontera by Gate B11 in Terminal 1, near Gate K4 in Terminal 3 and next to Gate M12 in Terminal 5.
Related: American Airlines unveils sweeping Chicago-focused route expansion
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen is known for offering great creole and cajun fare. While you'll find locations throughout the South, if you're traveling through DFW, you'll have two you can easily visit: one in Terminal A near Gate 25 and another in Terminal C by Gate 14. Give me a bowl of seafood gumbo and a side of alligator bites, and I'm a happy woman. But if gumbo and alligator aren't what you crave, you can try other diner favorites like the shrimp and catfish platter, the shrimp po'boy and the crawfish etouffee.
Related: Capital One’s first airport lounge opens to the public today — here’s a peek inside
Denver International Airport (DEN)
While the burgers at Steve's Snappin' Dogs are equally amazing, you're really here to get a hot dog. It sounds counterintuitive, but my personal favorite is the Chicago Dog, which comes dressed with spicy mustard, tomato, red onion, green relish, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers and — most importantly — celery salt. You can order it at DEN's Concourse B location.
Related: United confirms that Denver is getting a new — and very unique — lounge
Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
Sora Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar, near Gate A35 in DTW's McNamara Terminal, has a legion of fans. This restaurant is not only known for great sushi, but it also offers other popular Japanese dishes, including chicken katsu, a variety of udon and soba noodle soups, poke bowls and teriyaki.
Related: Why Detroit — yes, Detroit — was the perfect place to bring my mom for her first post-pandemic flight
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
When transiting through IAH, you'll have a few seafood spots to choose from. In addition to its DFW outpost, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen has an IAH location, so you can fill up on fresh crawfish before or after your flight. There's also Landry's Seafood, which serves everything from blackened redfish etouffee to crab-stuffed mahi-mahi by Gate 42 in Terminal C.
Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
Downtown Indianapolis' historic St. Elmo Steak House is part of the chain that also owns Harry & Izzy's, a steakhouse located in IND's Concourse A near Gate 6. Come hungry, as you'll want to have plenty of room for Harry & Izzy's famous spicy jumbo shrimp cocktail and a steak, such as the filet mignon or the New York strip.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
What's not to love about a lobster breakfast taco? You'll find this tasty option, plus other reasonably priced dishes like chowder fries and fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce, at Slapfish in LAX. The restaurant, located in Terminal 2 near Gate 23, features all kinds of fresh seafood on its menu.
Related: Los Angeles Airport 101: The ultimate guide to LAX
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Classic Miami Cuban restaurant La Carreta has an outpost at MIA. Go to the North Terminal's Concourse D (by gate D-37 on the second level) to get your fix of authentic Cuban fare. Order the La Carreta Special sandwich, which features ham, roast port, Swiss cheese and Spanish sausage and comes with a side of plantain chips. I also love the ham croquettes, conch fritters and ropa vieja.
Related: Miami Airport 101: Where to eat and drink at MIA
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Inside Terminal C of EWR is an invite-only restaurant called Classified. Lucky for me, I have snagged an invite to this spot by Gate 120 when transiting through Newark. Besides offering great views of United jets on the tarmac, the eatery serves one of the best burgers I've ever had: a dry-aged patty with double-cut bacon and aged cheddar cheese with a side of beef fat french fries. Other menu items include French onion soup, a tomahawk ribeye steak, butter-poached lobster and a wedge salad with a choice of chicken, steak or shrimp.
Related: 3 of the latest improvements coming to Newark Airport
Orlando International Airport (MCO)
Located in Terminal A/B between gates 100 and 129, Cask & Larder serves farm-to-table food with a Southern twist. Aside from the brisket meatloaf (a reader favorite), you can enjoy comforting Southern classics like pimento cheese with pretzel bread, shrimp and grits, a barbecue platter and a farmer's Cobb salad. If you arrive before 10 a.m., make sure you order the buttermilk biscuits, which are served with sorghum butter and local jams.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
While the Scottsdale location closed in 2018, Cowboy Ciao fans can still get the restaurant's famous Stetson Chopped Salad close to Gate B21 in PHX's Terminal 4. The green chile pork pappardelle is to die for, and the pastrami-style smoked short ribs are well worth eating.
Related: Amex and Escape just opened a third Centurion-branded lounge in Phoenix
Portland International Airport (PDX)
I'm a big fan of airport breakfast. Of all the airport breakfast joints I've tried, one that remains a perennial favorite is The Country Cat at PDX. Situated in the North Lobby of the D/E Concourse just past security, this airport version of a popular Portland, Oregon, eatery is the brainchild of Adam and Jackie Sappington, the husband-and-wife chef-owners. The restaurant specializes in American craft cooking, offering dishes like a three-egg omelet stuffed with butter-braised potatoes, bacon and Tillamook white cheddar cheese, and a house-smoked turkey club on whole wheat bread with crispy bacon, avocado, tomato jam, Bibb lettuce and aioli.
San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
Another one of my favorite airport restaurants is Vino Volo by the TSA screening area in Terminal A at SAT. Yes, the emphasis is on wines that can be bought as a flight of three (tasting notes included) or by the glass or bottle, but there is also a small menu of artisanal food and snacks. Opt for the brie and prosciutto sandwich, which pairs great with a cup of the eatery's tomato soup, or choose the Marcona almonds with brown sugar, rosemary and sea salt. The burrata and roasted tomato sandwich is another tasty option.
Related: A chef’s mission to revolutionize San Antonio’s food scene
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
San Francisco is another foodie destination that focuses on local eateries and original concepts in its airport. By Gate 82 in SFO's Terminal 3, travelers can enjoy a mix of dishes that pay homage to the hometown baseball team at the San Francisco Giants Clubhouse. Not only does the eatery offer great salads, but it also serves all kinds of elevated ballpark fare, including filet mignon sliders with crispy onion rings, an ahi tuna sandwich and the Jerry Garcia hot dog, which is topped with turkey chili, onions and cheddar cheese.
Related: Quick points: There is such a thing as a free airport lunch — here’s how to get one