When we arrive at the airport, we don’t typically plan on enjoying fine fare, high-caliber wines and hand-crafted cocktails. But air travel, once thought of as an experience to be endured, is quickly carving out a niche in the culinary world and earning respect from dining experts everywhere. The best airport restaurants and bars cover a wide range of cuisines, from celebrity chef-crafted tacos to locally inspired barbecue platters to some of the nation’s most thorough tap lists and most exciting cocktail menus.
While Hudson News might not be going out of style anytime soon, there’s reason to believe everyone’s airport experiences are improving by the day thanks to these creative airport dining options.
Eat: The Best Airport Restaurants
Root Down – Denver International Airport (C Concourse)
If you thought it was impossible to find a healthy meal on the go, Root Down is here to prove you wrong. The DIA location of this Rocky Mountain “field-to-table” favorite pulls no punches, offering omnivore-friendly options like Diver Scallops, Sweet Potato “Falafel,” and Icelandic Cod. Root Down’s menus lean toward the locally sourced side of things, if you’re inclined to enjoy a unique taste of Colorado during your layover.
Pok Pok Wing – Portland International Airport (pre-security)
The latest location in Andy Ricker’s ever-expanding empire of bi-coastal Thai restaurants and bars, Pok Pok Wing brings its intriguing spin on Thai street food standards to the Oregon Marketplace section of PDX’s pre-security area. Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, this humble food cart-style operation serves some of Pok Pok’s fan favorites, including Mantou (steamed buns) and homemade sparkling sodas.
Tortas Frontera – Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Terminals 1, 3 & 5)
Created by celebrity chef and Chicago institution Rick Bayless, Tortas Frontera embodies the “simple food, made well” ethos that on which the chef has built his reputation. Tortas Frontera has three locations at Chicago O’Hare, each serving a wide variety of rich tortas and molletes, none of which skimp on the savory fillings or cheese. Be sure to stock up on the restaurant’s signature chips and guac at the guacamole bar, offering an array of creative toppings.
Dylan’s Candy Bar – John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City (Terminal 5)
JFK’s seven-year-old Terminal 5, home to JetBlue Airways and a litany luxuries, is as good as it gets when it comes to air travel in the US. And it doesn’t skimp on the food options. You can choose between sushi at Deep Blue, thin-crust pizza at Aeronuova, and French food at La Vie — it’s a foodie’s dream (relatively…it’s still an airport). When you’re crunched for time and stressed by the demands of a tough travel schedule, take our advice and opt for Dylan’s Candy Bar, a New York classic. Bag up some candy, pay by the pound, and succumb to your sweet tooth on the flight away from NYC.
Drink: The Best Airport Bars
Rogue Ales Meeting Hall – Portland International Airport (Concourse D)
Portland’s unparalleled craft beer scene stretches all the way to Concourse D of the airport, where you can unwind with one of Rogue Ales’ beers or spirits. Rogue, a local brewery known for its bold packaging and favorites like Juniper Pale Ale, American Amber and Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout, offers these and other options on tap and to-go in growlers.
One Flew South – Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta (Terminal E)
Not every airport bar offers quality classic cocktails, let alone signature drinks created by an expert bar staff. One Flew South goes far above and beyond the ordinary airport libation destination, crafting drinks like Santana’s Daughter (Tanteo Jalapeno Tequila, Beets, Cardamom, and Lime) and two takes on the Old Fashioned, each made with Old Forester Bourbon.
Harpoon Tap Room – Boston Logan International Airport (Terminal A)
Beantown’s “other” brewery — aside from Sam Adams — has a monopoly on the must-visit beer bar scene at Boston Logan. The brewery’s famous IPA is available on tap alongside other noteworthy brews like the Winter Warmer and UFO Gingerland. The standard pub fare isn’t worth noting at the tap room, but the beer makes it a worthwhile pre-boarding stop.
Lounge 5280 – Denver International Airport (B Concourse)
For a swank and spirited layover in the Mile High City, visit Lounge 5280. This bar specializes in cocktails and wine, boasting an impressive list of house special and classic drinks. In addition to its selection of 53 wines, Lounge 5280 offers a collection of Colorado-inspired cocktails, including the Doctor Leopold (made with Denver-distilled Leopold Bros. Small-Batch Gin) and the refreshing Rocky Mountain Shandy, featuring wheat beer by Breckenridge Brewing Company.