Food can be the highlight of a travel experience. In fact, food can even be the reason for a trip (case in point, there is no po’boy sandwich that rivals one from Louisiana and you won’t convince me otherwise).
But you don’t always hear rave reviews about the food eaten en-route. Specifically, airport food.
Even in the airport restaurants that bear the name of renowned chefs or belonging to reputable franchises, no one seeks out or anxiously anticipates needing to purchase a meal at an airport restaurant.
Sure, it might be partly related to the general malaise that accompanies a day of travel — even when there’s excitement about the arrival at the eventual destination. There is simply an inarguable, inescapable unease of the human spirit when languishing in the liminal space that is the airport terminal, awaiting a connecting flight.
So, while you’re in airport purgatory, you might as well indulge in some of life’s greatest comforts: food and drink.
Here are a few different approaches to visiting an airport restaurant …
Stick with the status quo
Trying new things can be wonderful, exciting, rewarding … but it’s a calculated risk when you’re at an airport restaurant.
Do I recommend a Philly cheesesteak because you happen to have a layover at the Philadelphia International Airport? Probably not. And you’re not going to want to try sushi for the first time from the Cincinnati Airport.
If you would rather save your sense of adventure for arrival, there’s no shame in sticking with the coffee or sandwich chain with which you’re familiar. Costa Coffee and Starbucks are chains that pride themselves on consistency. You know what you like.
Check out what looks good
Not all airport restaurants are sub-par. In fact, some of them can have downright delicious fare. Do a little Googling, read menus, and sniff around.
Larger airports and international airports outside of North America do seem to offer a different quality of cuisine and range of ingredients than what we find at smaller regional airports. So while you might not want to go too far outside the box, it can be an opportunity for a sprinkle of something different.
Pssst! Head to the Pastelaria Versailles at the Lisbon International Airport to procure a cappuccino and a pastry or sandwich that will have you forgetting about the person who hogged the armrest during your red eye.
Time it wisely
If you’re planning to enjoy a leisurely meal in a nice sit-down airport restaurant, do you have the time? If it’s a pre-security restaurant, will you have enough time to make it to the gate is the security line suddenly goes bonkers? If you’re on a layover, how long is it? Do you need to switch terminals or check bags first?
Airport meals can be $$$ and we don’t want to see you rushing through your entree (or worse, not even getting to enjoy more than a bite or two) before you have to zoom off to the gate. Plan ahead.
Enjoy a pre-flight cocktail
There’s something romantic about grabbing a cocktail at an airport restaurant to kickstart a vacation or perhaps calm your nerves before a long flight. They might be priced higher than an average restaurant but, for the solo traveller, can you really put a price on a potential meet-cute?
Read an airport restaurant review first
Oh, you didn’t know there was such a thing? Well, we’ve been reviewing airport restaurants and sharing our favorite dishes, so if you’re heading to any of the airports we’ve written about so far, you’ll have a quick guide to the best menu items.
Enjoy a breakfast of champions
Next to being the most important meal of the day, breakfast is an easy meal to get right at an airport restaurant. Uncomplicated coffees or sweets, fruit, porridge, or a breakfast bowl are all great options to fuel up without the risks posed by more complex dishes.
Supplement with snacks
When in doubt, sticking to snacks at an airport restaurant is one of the best ways to satisfy your hunger while travelling. Indulge in something fried, like a doughnut or french fries, or stick with something fresh and crunchy like carrot sticks or apple slices. Easy and (relatively) inexpensive, snacks are always a good choice.