Serious chefs have set their sights on airport terminals across the country, so you can pass on the in-flight snack in favor of true destination dining.
3rd Bar Oyster & Eating House
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Terminal B
Get a glimpse inside celebrated Houston chef Bryan Caswell’s growing restaurant empire with a Gulf-centric raw bar (Reef), sliders (Little Bigs), and even boozy milkshakes (El Real Tex-Mex Cafe). Or just drop in for a pint of one of the many Texas brewed craft drafts.
Must-Try Dish: snapper carpaccio
The Centurion Lounge
San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3
SFO is flush with options backed by high-profile names (Cat Cora, Tyler Florence), perhaps none bigger than James Beard Award winner, Daniel Patterson (Coi, LocoL), who designed the menu at this swanky lounge complete with shower suite and Napa Valley wine tasting room. Pair dishes like Patterson’s zucchini and burrata salad or roasted cauliflower in almond brown butter with cocktails created by legendary bartender Jim Meehan (formerly of PDT in New York).
Must-Try Dish: eggplant miso soup
Los Angeles International Airport, TBIT, Great Hall
Lucky for anyone with a layover in LAX, Top Chef season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio’s excellent sandwich spot offers the same menu and attention to detail as his outpost on Melrose. Choose from combos like his Tortilla Espanola (chips, egg, caramelized onion), The Spanish Godfather (chorizo, ham, and Manchego cheese), or Angelino-approved snacks like lime- and chili powder-flecked pineapple.
Must-Try Dish: pork shoulder bánh mì
The Country Cat PDX
Portland International Airport, Terminal D-E
Unlike most airport spinoffs, Adam and Jackie Sappington’s The Country Cat PDX more than doubles the size (120 seats) of their flagship in Montavilla. Not only can you order from a greatest hits list of The Country Cat original (smoked salmon benedict, chicken and biscuits), you can stock up on local provisions like Quin candies and Woodblock Chocolate at the adjacent grab-and-go market.
Must-Try Dish: cast iron skillet fried chicken
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Concourse B
Edgar Chase IV, the grandson of Leah Chase—the legendary chef behind Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in Treme—just opened this MSY standout in early January. Alongside classic New Orleans fare like barbecue shrimp and gumbo, Chase has crafted original dishes like his pork belly with candied yams and a fried oyster salad laced with blue cheese and pepper jelly vinaigrette.
Must-Try Dish: catfish n' grits