Whether you’re shopping name-brand chefs or craving a certain country’s cuisine, the airports of the world are now your culinary oyster. In the past, the thought of terminal restaurant food may have had your stomach doing pre-flight flip-flops at the prospect of shady salads or greasy pizza, burgers, and bar snacks. Fear not, foodies. These days, the airfields at most international destinations are proud to provide local specialties and regional bounty crafted by homegrown kitchen talent or offer celebrity-chef outposts earning Michelin kudos.
Of course, you can find delicious fare no matter where your destination or layover city is. Airport websites often do a good job of highlighting local and regional specialties on offer. Reputable guides such as Zagatt and Fodors are great resources for discerning travel diners. Foodie sites such as Eater and review sites like Yelp offer localized advice on finding the best eats — even at the local airport. Rounded up below is a selection of airport grub that makes the culinary cut.
Singapore Changi Airport
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants are truly global in scope and his empire has long included airport eateries. Casual and quick with a decent price-point for quality food, the eateries range from kiosks to counter service to sit-down spaces. Puck’s third venture in Singapore, The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck at Changi Airport, joins his Michelin-starred eateries Cut and Spago, both in the city’s Bayfront area. At all of his restaurants, the international chef offers interpretations of global comfort food, which uses the best available, locally-sourced ingredients. The location of his casual kitchen concept in Changi Airport’s sprawling Terminal 3 — a buzzing cultural crossroads — inspired Puck to incorporate dishes from various cuisines into the menu. Here that means soothing sour and spicy soup with chicken and shiitake mushrooms and scrumptious Korean kimchi short ribs.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
In a city with such a thriving food scene, Seattle's Airport has for years lagged behind in providing passengers an equal array of interesting dining options. Recently, that has started to change. As the Port of Seattle moves forward with modernization and expansion, it is also significantly increasing customer choices — expanding from 85 to 135 dining and retail establishments. Among the new additions are unique local standouts including Floret, the airport’s first full-service vegetarian restaurant operated by Seattle’s standout vegetarian place, Café Flora.
Seattle’s iconic Skillet started as an airstream trailer food truck and is now a city institution with multiple brick-and-mortar restaurants. The restaurant is set to offer its elevated comfort food menu at Sea-Tac. Prominent Seattle chef Jason Stoneburner is behind the food at Seattle Beer Union, where his fresh, seasonal menus will accompany the region’s best beer, wine, and spirits. As a recent Seattle success story, Sunset Fried Chicken is thriving in its Capitol Hill spot and is bringing its succulent chicken sandwich to travelers passing through Concourse D.
Michael White, the culinary luminary behind New York’s famed Michelin-starred Marea and Ai Fiori, brought his signature Italian fare to the airport in 2014 to offer everyday folks a more accessible outlet for his food. Located near LaGuardia’s Gate C30 in Terminal C, his restaurant Cotto was fashioned as a hyper-modern version of a traditional trattoria. The chef envisages the concept as “farm to terminal,” offering the freshest, locally-sourced products. As you enjoy the bright ambiance of the space itself with its floor-to-ceiling windows and mint-green furnishings, you can indulge in freshly baked pizza, pasta, antipasti, and paninis. Try the tangy meatballs or a white pie with melty mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, parmesan, and sundried tomatoes. Another specialty is garganelli pasta tossed with radicchio, smoked ham, and truffle butter. For convenience, you can even order from an iPad right at your table.
Los Angeles International Airport
Located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX you'll find a modern take on Mexican in the terminal spinoff of the L.A. landmark Border Grill from famed restaurateurs and chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. The pair launched the new location in 2013, which offers elevated tacos, quesadillas, and tamales in a relaxed cantina setting. If you aren’t a foodie or local in the know, you might not realize the pedigree of your chile rellenos. After honing their skills in Chicago and Paris, Feniger and Milliken opened City Café (later renamed City Restaurant) in L.A. in 1981. Along with two of their other concepts, Border Grill (1985) and Ciudad (1988), the kitchen super-duo is often credited with re-shaping the culinary landscape of Los Angeles.