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Best Airport Food: Who Made the List (And Who Should Have)

Urban Spoon just released their list of the best airport eats: U.S. Edition and while I agree with many of the mentions, I also know there are a lot of restaurants that have been overlooked simply because they aren’t in popular airports or airports where people tend to spend a lot of time. In the several years I’ve been traveling I’ve seen airport food go from nothing but chains and a greasy #2 combos to local chef owned restaurants that pride themselves on local flair and flavor.

No matter where you’re at in your journey — these days you should be able to find something far more fresh and flavorful than a stale sandwich, making eating at the airport just as much a part of your travels as the actual place you end up. Urban Spoon offers sage advice on staying away from chains, asking airport staff and using apps (like Urban Spoon!) to find the best food available when you’re on the go. A huge trend lately is to take a popular destination restaurant and place it where all the people are, the airport. You can now get Shake Shack at JFK and In-N-Out at LAX, meaning oftentimes you don’t even need to set foot in the city to eat what is deemed legend by the locals. I know this is the case for my favorite deli in Indy, no need to travel downtown, just down to gate A23 in the Indianapolis airport.

While the full experience may never be the same, the food will be just as tasty and you’ll leave on the next leg of your journey far more satisfied.

  • Urband Spoon Pick – LAX: Pink’s Hot Dogs 1 of 9
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    Pink's is one of those places that is generally on everyone's must eat list for any LA visitor. But what if you're just stuck in the airport on a long layover between JFK and Hong Kong? Well, now you can get your famous hot dog fix without ever having to step foot anywhere near La Brea Ave. traffic (or lines!)

    Image Credit: Nicholas D. via Flickr

  • Urban Spoon Pick – JFK: Shake Shack 2 of 9
    shake shack

    People either get Shake Shack or they don't, I personally support cheeseburgers and shakes existing side by side in perfect harmony. Again, New York knows what people want and brought it right to them in the airport (which is handy because whenever I'm in NYC it always seems like there's a Shake Shack around when I'm not hungry and never one close enough when I am. Go figure.)

  • Urband Spoon Pick – ORD: Tortas Frontera 3 of 9
    tortas

    Reality star chef Rick Bayless is able to list where most of the food in his O'Hare restaurant comes from, and most of it is from within Illinois or a neighboring midwestern state, which is often unheard of in neighborhood restaurants — let alone airport restaurants.

    Frankly, they had me at 'fresh guacamole.'

    Come to mama, she's been traveling too long.

    Photo Credit: Phil Denton via Flickr

  • Urband Spoon Pick – SFO: PIQ Bakery and Cafe 4 of 9
    piqbakery_on_Instagram

    This is another case where a popular Berkley bakery decided to get closer to the hungry and weary traveler. Reviews of the actual airport location seem mixed, but remember we're dealing with hungry and weary travelers (which equal tough critics.) The original bakery in Berkley has always ranked high with Urban Spoon users which makes this place worth checking out if you're ever stuck in SFO.

    (Hey, it's better than a #2 from that chain down the hall. That thing will stick with you.)

    Photo Credit: PIQ Bakery via Instagram

  • Urban Spoon Pick – ATL: One Flew South 5 of 9
    one flew south

    Atlanta is my least favorite airport in the US, it's as if all the joy and happiness in the world is sucked out before you set foot in the terminal and isn't found again until you're off the ground and on to somewhere else. Enter One Flew South, Atlanta's first upscale dining experience in the airport where happiness went to die.

    I support this idea of a culinary haven amidst all those grumpy rushed passengers and jolting rides on the plane train. Next time in Atlanta I'll be checking it out with an open mind and empty belly.

    Photo Credit: Geologue via Urban Spoon

  • My Pick – SLC: Cafe Rio 6 of 9
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    The best thing Delta ever did for me was offer a direct flight from SLC to IND, because it means a pork burrito from Cafe Rio can make it from the Delta terminal in SLC to my belly in under 3 hours. One of the few things I miss about living in SLC is Cafe Rio and the fact that there is now one in the airport makes parting just a little less sad. All my family knows that if they take that direct Delta flight they are to bring no less than 3 burritos with them.

    Bonus if you'll actually be eating your burrito there? Crunchy ice in the soda fountain. YESSSS.

    Photo Credit: Todd Jordan via Flickr

  • My Pick – IND: Shapiro’s Deli 7 of 9
    shapiros-2

    Clearly these Urban Spoon people don't feel like giving the nicest airport in the US its dues. Indy is the only airport in the US to be built from the ground up after 9-11 and y'all? It's an airport dream come true. To make that dream even better? The best pastrami sandwich in existence is available in terminal A. Their corned beef isn't terrible either, but trust me on the pastrami. Rye, spicy mustard and swiss, — just the way it's supposed to be.

    If you have the chance to come into the city you must visit the original Shapiro's downtown. I once sat by Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer there on the Fourth of July.

  • My Pick – YLW or YVR: White Spot 8 of 9
    whitespot-2

    So what if the Kelowna and Vancouver airports aren't in the states, these are my picks and frankly the breakfast sandwich from White Spot forever changed my views on breakfast sandwiches, breakfast potatoes and airport food in general. I would fly out of either airport at a terrible hour just to have a chance at that sandwich again.

    White Spot is a BC thing, so if ever in BC (even just the airport) — White Spot. Triple O Sauce. You're welcome.

    Image Credit: Nathan LeClair via Flickr

  • My Pick – SLC: Squatters Pub and Brewery 9 of 9
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    The Salt Lake airport has become a pretty popular layover airport and lest you think you would be stranded in the desert with nothing to drink, I assure you Squatters will have what you're looking for — both in food and beverage. Squatters has been a SLC staple for as long as I can remember, even my husband's boss' favorite beer is a Squatters brew.

    While I may not live there anymore, I have a lot of hometown pride in our local restaurants.

    Image Credit: Mindy via Flickr

I want to know what’s the best airport food you’ve found? What should I look forward to eating the next time I’m on a layover?

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Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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