Gastronomical paradises, airports are not. You’ll rarely hear anyone raving about airport grub, which is more quick sustenance than actual culinary enjoyment.
But airports are trying to change that. Many are embarking on major renovations, and making restaurants a central part of those plans. United tapped OTG to redo food options at its hubs in Newark, New Jersey, and Houston, Texas — adding iPads for ordering and payment.
We, of course, are not restaurant critics. So, we’ve asked Yelp to comb through its crowd-sourced reviews to help determine which are the most popular places to eat at the nation’s 10 busiest airports – whether you have some time to kill, or you’re looking to grab something tasty to-go.
The methodology, according to Yelp: “These are among the best places to eat in America’s 20 busiest airports, as defined by the FAA’s 2015 stats. ‘Best’ is determined using an algorithm that looks at both the number of reviews and overall star rating. All of these businesses are in our Food and/or Restaurants category, are located inside of an airport, and have at least three stars.”
The airports listed are ranked by how busy they are, based on passenger traffic. Chances are, you’ll most likely fly into one or more of these airports.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Calling itself “the first upscale dining experience at the world’s busiest airport,” One Flew South specializes in “Southernational,” Southern cuisine inspired by world flavors. One commenter wrote: “Definitely not the cheapest spot in town, but definitely worth a try.”
Los Angeles International Airport
- Ink Sack (Tom Bradley International Terminal)
- James’ Beach (Tom Bradley International Terminal)
- Lemonade (Terminal 5)
LAX’s terminals aren’t the easiest to travel between, but the Tom Bradley International Terminal alone is home to many great eateries. Here, you will find an outpost of James’ Beach – featured in the movie, I Love You, Man – where you can get some “delicious fish tacos.”
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
- Tortas Frontera (Terminal 1, 3, and 5)
- Wicker Park Seafood and Sushi Bar (Terminal 2)
- Skybridge Bar and Grill (Terminal 2)
Chicago chef Rick Bayless is an authority on Mexican cuisine, and you’ll find his Tortas Frontera quick-serve restaurant at three locations at O’Hare. Yelp reviewers seem to enjoy the food, with one frequent traveler calling it “the very best restaurant I have ever eaten at in any airport in the United States.”
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- Twisted Root Burger Co. (Terminal A)
- Mister G’s (Hyatt Regency Hotel, adjacent Terminal C)
- Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (Terminal A)
DFW passengers give top marks to the Twisted Root Burger Co., according to Yelp, but then again, who doesn’t like giant hamburgers? Maybe it’s an appearance on the Guy Fieri food fest, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, that’s made the Texas-born chain so popular.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York City)
DT’s NYC team can’t shut up about Shake Shack. The burger joint has developed a cult following worldwide, so it’s apropos that it has set up shop at JFK’s main international terminal (unfortunately, you’ll have to be flying through Terminal 4). The eatery is so popular that it has two locations inside the terminal.
Denver International Airport
Modern Market places emphasis on fresh and healthy farm-to-table fare, and is popular with Yelp users. Founded in nearby Boulder, Colorado, the restaurant has two locations at DIA: Concourse B and C. That’s great, since United and Southwest, the two busiest carriers, operate out of those concourses.
San Francisco International Airport
We’ve enjoyed some excellent fare at SFO. If you’re flying through Terminal 2 (Virgin America and American Airlines), you’re in luck: three of Yelp users’ top picks are located here, which includes two from celebrity chefs, Cat Cora and Tyler Florence.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport
How good is Beaudevin, the top Charlotte airport restaurant among Yelp reviewers? One said, “I would fly back through CLT even though it is out of the way, to eat at Beaudevin.” The eatery has generally favorable reviews, with the usual dash of entitled Yelp “critics.”
McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
- Rachel’s Kitchen (Terminal 1, D Gates)
- Jersey Mike’s Subs (Terminal 1, C Gates)
- Village Pub and Grill (Terminal 3, E Gates)
It’s concerning that a nationwide sub shop, Jersey Mike’s, is the number-two restaurant at LAS, but hey, who are we to judge people’s taste buds? Thankfully, the top spot goes to Rachel’s Kitchen, a local Las Vegas chain that dishes out wholesome food. Since airport and airplane food options are usually subpar, this is a nice respite for travelers keeping healthy.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
The three top eateries at PHX popular with Yelpers are all Arizona-based restaurants. Olive and Ivy received a four-star rating from 120 reviews, making this Mediterranean-focused restaurant the top spot.
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