Like many fairy tales, or the Miami Marlins’ 2012 season, eating at the airport can be grim. Fortunately, these days, a layover or missed connection doesn’t have to mean a date with Pizzarina Sbarro. Many global airstrips have improved their options, bringing local flavors and international restaurateurs to the once-humble (if not unappetizing) dining concourse.
Now, airports across America are getting in on the epicurean action. Massive renovations and impressive rebuilding efforts are changing the face of the food court. From a $26.2 million investment in Chicago's O'Hare to Delta's ambitious new terminal at New York’s JFK, American airport dining is getting a serious upgrade. Here are some favorites.
New Orleans: Louis Armstrong International Airport
In advance of the 2013 Super Bowl, the Crescent City dropped some $1.2 billion on improvements to city infrastructure. The most delicious developments were at MSY’s Concourse C, where longtime Nola darling Dooky Chase opened an eponymous restaurant slinging its signature stewed okra, Creole gumbo and killer fried chicken.
Chicago: O’Hare International Airport
The Windy City’s woebegone Terminal 5 has long been a blight on what insiders know is actually an awfully impressive restaurant city. Fortunately, in late 2012, city officials announced plans to upgrade the international terminal to the tune of $26.2 million, adding 11 high-end retail shops as well as outposts of popular quick service joints Hub 51 and Wow Bao, plus a new installment of hometown hero Rick Bayless’ Tortas Fronteras.
Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City International Airport
Last year, Utah’s little hub that could announced a $1.8 billion renovation plan, with hopes of wooing big-name carriers and consolidating gates. Culinary arrivals will include two Cat Cora-branded establishments and a branch of Squatter’s Pub, an award-winning microbrewery beloved by Park City and Salt Lake residents for over 20 years.
Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport
The $4.1 billion renovation currently underway at LAX is the largest public works project in the city’s history. The international terminal will receive both 18 new boarding gates and an $80 million dining investment, including outposts of local favorites Umami Burger, Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack and Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s Larder at Tavern.
Atlanta: Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
In 2012, this gargantuan airport debuted a $1.4 billion renovation, bringing 12 new boarding gates and a branch of one of Midtown Atlanta’s hottest restaurants to the international terminal. The tarmac-adjacent outpost of Ecco Restaurant serves global travelers cheese and salumi boards, solid wines by the glass and a variety of Mediterranean mezze, including perfectly charred flatbreads cooked on the on-site wood-burning stove.
New York City: John F Kennedy International Airport
In May, Delta debuted a shiny new Terminal 4, replacing the somewhat decrepit 1960s Pan Am post. The $1.4 billion investment includes a 2,000-square-foot roof deck and a dining concourse stocked with NYC favorites like Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke and ubiquitous Shake Shack, plus the elegant Uptown Brasserie by Food Republic co-founder Marcus Samuelsson.
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