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Eating on the fly


fresco
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It's probably one of the great understatements to say that nobody goes to an airport for the food. But if you spend any amount of time in the air, you inevitably have to spend time in airports, often a lot more than you bargained for.

For diners, it's probably about the worst possible situation to be in--you're part of a large, but fleeting captive market, which means restaurants don't have to worry much about the quality of their fare or service and can gouge with impunity.

Still, some places are a lot worse than others, and there are a few pleasant exceptions. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt, but the place I loathe the most is Toronto's international airport. Since it's my home airport, it's also the place where it's easiest to avoid eating, save on those occasions where flights are delayed or cancelled and the waits run into several hours. The food runs the gamut from mediocre to terrible at the several establishments in the three terminals and the markups on things like small bottles of water are truly astonishing.

Heathrow, despite its vast array of eateries and other diversions, leaves me cold somehow.

In Mexico, especially at the many regional airports, the food is to be avoided at all costs but officials are usually so relaxed about people wandering around with a beer in their hand that they have their own special charm.

Finally, one of my favorites is Lisbon, where it is actually possible to get a very drinkable cup of coffee AND a half-decent snack.

What are the culinary highs and lows that you have experienced while waiting for a flight?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I have done a lot of traveling in my live and you are right! I cannot remember any great meals in airports. I remember a lot of great martinis/beers in airport lounges with newly made friends from around the world...

I do remember, though, the vending machines in Tokyo in the early eighties. A selection of everything you might want to eat. The quality was extremely poor but it was so revolutionary and cool that I loved it.

I also remember the vodka vending machine in Moscow (not food, but still really cool)

The two meals I have had that were enjoyable were;

LAX --> Wolfgang Puck Express. A chicken pizza and three pints.

Singapore --> a bowl of noodles and four very large sake.

To be fair, the airport food in Singapore was great. The airport was beautiful and we were upgraded to business class. The lounge was spectacular and the hostesses were all supermodels. I had just turned 20 years old and on my first big trip. We spent more money in the airport then we did in the previous week in northern Australia!

Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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Are we talking restaurants and food-outlets here ? or lounges too ? Worst is easy :smile: Any hinterland airport in the Midwest USA - All they have is a vending-machine, maybe !!!!

Among the upper-end, HKG,ICN,SIN are up there in Asia - NCE,BCN in Europe ??? It has been a while since I made an mental update on food, I've started using the lounges more often just to get a moment of peace and quiet.

One is more likey to find more pubs/bars, even though alcohol is known to add to jet-lag and fatigue related to air travel :huh:

Edited by anil (log)

anil

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SEA-TAC used to have a really great restaurant. Several years ago I went through there leaving on a red-eye to the east and planned ahead to eat there having read a good review. I had a great steak, good wine and all was well. Even tough I have been through there many times since, I haven't looked into the possibilitiy. I wonder if it is still there.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Geneva has a little fondue place that is clean, nice, and has good cheese fondue - leave it to the Swiss...

In Lanzarote there is a little cafeteria that serves a mean tortilla de papas in a baguette...

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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On the low end of the scale is the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport. I don't recall any partuclarly bad experience, but certainly don't remember any good ones. The beer isn't even cold. The best option is to get an ice cream cone.

--mh

I try to pack at least a granola bar or two for unexpected delays. If it doesn't happen, my nighttime snack is taken care of.

--mark

Everybody has Problems, but Chemists have Solutions.

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Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Newark Airport had The Newarker, a high end restaurant with French chefs! You could have a meal of shrimp cocktail, Dover sole, and apple cobbler for $11. That was back when $20,000 a year was upper income.

From full height glass windows I watched Viscounts, Convairs, and Electras departing to exotic places like Elmira, Knoxville and Chicago. It was very elegant to a little kid.

Way back then, women wore hats, pearls and furs when they travelled. Gentlemen wore suits, ties, and hats, too.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Terrace Dining Room, Bradley International CT, early Sixties, two tiered seating overlooking the entire runways and docking area, Dancing to live five piece orchester on Friday and Saturday nights.

We used to do approx. 600/700 dinners those night. Very upscale for that time

Peter
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Fresco,

Your Lester B Pearson(Toronto) International Airport actually has an adequate, although non gourmet dining alternative. There is a branch of Swiss Chalet Barbeque in terminal three. Their chicken is better than most, their fries are exceptional and their ribs are acceptable. They also do not run a heavy pencil. You can get an adequate meal, served fairly quickly for a reasonable price.

Porkpa

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There's a "best" ?

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

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Surprisingly enough, the new main terminal at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC has some very good eating and shopping outlets. The last time I flew out, I arrived early expecting a security mess and found myself with an hour and a half to kill. Legal Seafood provided a tasty and well served meal.

Mark

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When in Sebring, FL we go to the airport to eat. There's a very good diner-style restaurant open for breakfast and lunch in the new administration building. An oasis in a culinary wasteland.

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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Surprisingly enough, the new main terminal at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC has some very good eating and shopping outlets. The last time I flew out, I arrived early expecting a security mess and found myself with an hour and a half to kill. Legal Seafood provided a tasty and well served meal.

Agreed. With a weather delay, my boyfriend and I once went to the sushi restaurant in the main terminal. Not the best, but not bad, plus vodka tonics before taking the commuter to NYC. This was in 2000, so I have no idea if the place is still open, since National (I refuse to call it Reagan) was a ghostown following 9-11.

I also always pack an energy bar and a bottle of water when flying. You never know.

When flying in and out of ORD (O'Hare), it seems that you always see a McDonalds, no matter which terminal.

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Actually, i was passing through Memphis a few months ago, and had a surprisingly good BBQ sandwich at one of the airport restaurants...can't remember the name, though

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

blog

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  • 2 years later...

AUS (Austin, TX) has Salt Lick, a pretty good BBQ outlet, for an airport at least. They cook everything offsite at their main restaurant and then bring in the meat by van.

White Plains, NY has a decent bar with raw oysters and steamed clams.

Chicago O'Hare has a Wolfgang Puck Express. I had a steak smothered in butter that I had to eat with a plastic knife since it was behind the security checkpoint.

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The other week I was waiting to meet my SO at Newark Liberty Airport's Terminal A. It was a night of many weather-related delays. After the third revision of her arrival time, I abandoned all hope of a nice meal at home & went to the food court. The Chinese place had already closed, so it was down to BK, Subway & the in-the-process-of-closing pizza place. (I don't recall their name.)

Got a slice of spinach pie & their last remaining tomato & fresh basil slice. Their much touted crust (dough made with water imported from New York City!) wasn't all that impressive, perhaps because it was the end of the night & the slices were reheated. Cheese was OK, spinach was OK, but I was blown away by the tomato & basil slice; these were the ripest & tastiest tomatoes I've had this year outside of the ones I got from the greenmarket.

Were these GM tomatoes? However they did it, I was impressed. Tomatoes that not only look good, but taste as good as they look, at a typical airport food court? Remarkable.

My fave airport for food, though, is Zurich. There is a complete grocery store with cheeses & cured meats from all over Switzerland, & anything else you might fancy. You can assemble one heck of a picnic meal if you want.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Surprisingly enough, the new main terminal at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC has some very good eating and shopping outlets. The last time I flew out, I arrived early expecting a security mess and found myself with an hour and a half to kill. Legal Seafood provided a tasty and well served meal.

I totally agree! I have also had a pleasant meal at Legal Seafood at National. A nice piece of seafood and a glass of wine (or two) is the best preamble to getting on one of those damn puddle jumpers!

I also had a good Mexican meal at Macheesmo Mouse in Portland (PDX) a few years ago. There was also a good country/soul food restaurant in Atlanta that I can't remember the name of....

For some reason, O'hare is the worst! All the restaurants are overcrowded and have no selection.

Anne

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Baltimore has a terminal ("C"?) with a restaurant that does *heavenly* crab cakes. The airport at Charlotte, NC has BBQ I remember happily.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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I had decent chili at the Cincinnati airport a few weeks back. Bought it at Terminal B (I think) and then shuttled over to Terminal C which was a barren wasteland.

This was after I had a well-done burger at LGA at the Fox Sports place--the only way they would cook it. Yuck!

Buffalo has a decent "weck" sandwich at one of the bars on the Southwest side of the airport.

Jennifer

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My most memorable were a small pastry and coffee in Prauge (maybe I was just in good company), a pork chop sandwich in Moline, IA and a lobster roll in Boston at Legal Seafood.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Seoul International has some great food (including a stall where there's a guy pulling noodles), not to mention free internet.

San Francisco's International terminal has some pretty decent fare - well beyond the Cinnabon/Noah's Bagel/Pizza Hut/Jamba Juice/clam chowder bread bowls that you find in the domestic terminals.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

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