Flying—for business or pleasure—can be stressful. Gate mix-ups, tight airport security, and forgotten items can all make for a harrowing day of travel. Few things are better than breaking through the craziness with a nice meal—after all, airplane snacks just aren’t what they used to be.
Here are our top picks for the best airport food throughout the country. If you’re landing in any one of these airports, make sure you have a layover long enough to grab a bite to eat.
If you’re landing in any one of these airports, make sure you have a layover long enough to grab a bite to eat.
One Flew South, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Terminal E
You may have heard of the famously delicious restaurants in Atlanta Airport, and now America’s busiest airport gets the luxe treatment with the addition of One Flew South. With a slatted wood wall that offers partial privacy from passersby, you’ll hardly feel like you’re dining in an airport at all. Posh white leather seating welcomes sit-down diners, while a black marble back bar is perfect for lone travelers or individuals who just want to grab a drink and relax.
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients are used to create a travel-inspired menu that is beautifully plated and provides an upscale dining experience. Snack on pork belly sliders with apple raisin slaw, opt for a healthy bacon and goat cheese salad or tuck into a soy-glazed grouper with sea island red peas. Restaurants in Atlanta Airport have a lot to offer in general, but if you’re at ATL, this is a restaurant you don’t want to miss.
Legal Sea Foods, Boston Logan International Airport, Terminal B
What’s a trip to New England without fresh seafood? Whether your trip takes you to Boston, or you’re just flying through, stop by Legal Sea Foods. Boston Magazine named the restaurant for having the best clam chowder in the area, and USA Today voted the restaurant as the #1 Best Seafood Restaurant and one of the best establishments in the U.S. for airport food.
Surprisingly, Legal Sea Foods offers breakfast, and you can enjoy traditional breakfast foods like bacon and eggs and french toast, or you can give your breakfast a New England spin with a lobster and crab meat omelet or a crab cake and egg breakfast sandwich. Dining for lunch or dinner? Baked Boston Cod, a traditional lobster roll, or New England fried clams are all great choices.
Root Down, Denver International Airport
Root Down has a purposefully distinct feel of being in the 1960s when flying from one place to another was a luxury. Don’t let this fool you though—the restaurant is decidedly modern with eco-friendly foods. Vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-sensitive diners rejoice—you’re sure to find something on Root Down’s menu to please your palate.
Airport food can be local and environmentally friendly. If you’re a beer drinker, choose from any one of 24 local Colorado drafts on tap and enjoy helping the restaurant have a positive environmental impact with the beer program. Root Down puts a unique twist on everything they serve, and something as simple as biscuits and gravy becomes transformed with antelope sausage and chipotle honey. If you’re sharing a meal with friends, the blackberry duck wings and the edamame hummus are perfect. Or, sit down for a traditional burger or cheese steak sandwich that is anything but traditional.
Tortas Frontera, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Terminals 1 and 3
Tortas Frontera is an unassuming Mexican torteria that has gained quite the cult following. Bon Apetit and Conde Nast have named Tortas Frontera the best airport restaurant, which is quite an accomplishment. USA Today and GQ both named the restaurant in their top 10 best airport restaurant lists.
Here, the atmosphere matters much less than airport food, although it’s certainly no hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The food is locally sourced in Chicago, and the website even reveals what they get from where—a level of transparency today’s diners want all restaurants to have. You’ll find traditional Mexican fare like tortilla soup, guacamole, chipotle chicken and milanesa, but what makes this restaurant remarkable is not how fancy the dishes are. The food is local and freshly prepared, for an authentic and out-of-this-world taste. Don’t miss the fresh guacamole bar.
Salt Lick BBQ, Austin International Airport, Between Gates 20 & 21
Good barbecue is a staple of the south and few restaurants do it better than Salt Lick BBQ. You’ll know you’re in Texas as soon as you walk into the restaurant, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s warm, it’s welcoming, and it smells absolutely divine. Grab a menu before anyone can see your mouth water and get several napkins — you’ll need them. In fact, you might want to change clothes. If you’re coming away from a barbecue dinner clean, it probably wasn’t any good. Enjoy the country-est breakfast you ever had if your flight lands in the morning, or grab a few breakfast tacos if you’re in a rush. If there’s time to sit down for a platter or a sandwich, pork ribs are always a good choice, and the pulled pork is a classic.
Can’t decide? The BBQ Sampler gives you a little bit of everything. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of their famous barbecue sauce or dry rub so you can recreate the bold flavors of Texas after you fly home.