It was once difficult to find anything more than a cold sandwich or fast food burger at an airport. Today, airports across the globe have embraced gourmet cuisine and a who’s who list of celebrity chefs have jumped on board to open establishments. Just as I was about to feature the great new dining options at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, I received a list of the top 31 airport restaurants around the world from The Daily Meal. Given that this is Thanksgiving week — the busiest airport week of the year — it seemed a perfect time to share both Phoenix and international airport restaurant favorites.
New Phoenix Sky Harbor restaurants
While folks arriving in Terminal 2 (the smallest and oldest terminal) on Alaska, Great Lakes or United still don’t have many dining options and those arriving at Terminal 3 (home to Frontier, Sun Country and Delta) don’t fair much better, those arriving into Terminal 4 (US Airways, Southwest, WestJet, Aeromexico, Air Canada, AirTran and British Airways) — roughly 80% of all passengers flying in and out of Phoenix — are in for a real gourmet treat.
The renovation is scheduled in three phases, running from 2012 through 2014. Some of the Phoenix classics that are now open in Terminal 4 and located outside of security include:
- Chelsea’s Kitchen is an Arizona roadhouse with the original location in Phoenix’s Camelback corridor. Food is fresh, local and full of flavor There are several gluten-free options on the menu.
- Sauce is a restaurant from Fox Restaurant Concepts, which has establishments throughout the Valley. Sauce serves fast, fresh Italian food from pastas and salads to pizzas. At the airport, Sauce is also open for breakfast.
After you clear security, there are many options available to travelers. Despite the illusion that gates are separate, once inside security, you can access all gates in Terminal 4 (A, B, C or D) from any security entry point. Everything is connected by a series of moving sidewalks and long walkways. The longest walk, from the A gates to the D gates, would take about 10 or 15 minutes. If you have a long layover, or if you get to the airport early (who ever though I would be suggesting you arrive at the airport early just to eat?), some of these restaurants are worth the walk.
Restaurants at the A Gates
The A gates offer most of the new dining venues, including:
- Blanco Tacos + Tequila, another Fox restaurant known for authentic Mexican street-style food (try the barbecue pork tacos) and great margaritas and Mexican beer.
- Modern Burger is — you may have noticed a trend here — another Fox restaurant. The original Modern Burger is in Scottsdale Fashion Square, adjacent to the fine-dining Modern Steak. The burgers are cooked to order and if you’re in the airport early, the restaurant offers breakfast sandwiches.
- Dilly’s Deli is a gourmet sandwich shop that has been in the Valley for almost 20 years. They make their own bread and use fresh ingredients in every sandwich. The shop at Sky Harbor is exclusively a Grab & Go location with sandwiches pre-packaged and ready for you to take on board your flight.
- Olive & Ivy Marketplace is — you guessed it — another Fox restaurant. The original Olive & Ivy is on the Waterfront in Scottsdale. The airport location serves a fast casual menu of breakfast items as well as lunch/dinner options, salads and desserts.
The B gates have a few new venues and are expecting more in the coming months. Those currently open include:
- NYPD Pizza, a Valley favorite that started in Scottsdale before expanding serves great New York-style pizza.
- Cowboy Ciao is a downtown Scottsdale restaurant with an eclectic menu, though it is pricey. They offer a nice wine list and the Stetson chopped salad is one of the dishes that has made this a local favorite.
- Press Coffee Food and Wine sells coffee, daily soups, paninis, and wine by the glass.
The C gates will see more new offerings in 2013, but for now, the one offering is a Tucson classic:
- Sir Veza’s Taco Garage serves Mexican and American street food such as burgers, tacos, tamales, burritos and its famous Nitro Nachos along with beer, margaritas and tequila. The owner is a tequila aficionado and his mother, the restaurant’s chef, is owner of Tucson’s famed 90-year-old El Charro Cafe.
The D gates offer two of the largest new venues:
- Barrio Café is a Phoenix classic with a funky attitude. Since its establishment in 2002, the restaurant has been serving authentic southern Mexican cuisine and airport prices are exactly the same as those you’ll find at the local Barrio Café.
- Le Grand Orange is owned by LGO, which also owns Chelsea’s Kitchen. The venue at Sky Harbor, located right next door to Barrio Café, reflects the style of the local Arcadia-neighborhood eatery, serving burgers, sandwiches, beer and wine along with breakfast items such as egg dishes, pancakes, yogurt, oatmeal and their signature English muffins.
Upcoming Phoenix restaurants
SSP America is handling the next phase of the renovations, from January through December, 2013. The restaurants slated to open during 2013 include:
- America’s Taco Shop
- Cheuvront Restaurant & Wine Bar
- Four Peaks Brewing Company
- Joe’s Real BBQ
- Lola Coffee with Tammie Coe Cakes
- Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles
- Matt’s Big Breakfast
- Peet’s Coffee & Tea with Tammie Coe Cakes
- Pei Wei
- Sweet Republic
- Tammie Coe Sandwiches, Salads and Pastries
- Wildflower Bread Company
- Zinc Bistro
Best Restaurants Around the World
Wherever you are flying, you might want to check out the list of the 31 best airport restaurants around the world. The list was developed over six months by The Daily Meal’s editorial director Colman Andrews, an 8-time James Beard Award winner and international food and wine authority. I’v had a chance to eat at a few of these and am looking forward to trying some more.
- Porta Gaig (El Prat del Llobregat, Barcelona)
- Salt Lick BBQ (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
- Tortas Frontera (Chicago O’Hare International Airport)
- Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar (Amsterdam Airport Schiphol)
- Obrycki’s (Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport)
- Crust (LaGuardia Airport, NYC) - I love this one. The pizza has a wonderful thin crust and not too much sauce.
- Five Guys (Dulles International Airport, Washington DC) - You have to try this one, even if you aren’t a huge hamburger fan. Five Guys started in DC and they have simple, made-to-order burgers. The fries are fabulous.
- Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda (LaGuardia Airport, NYC)
- Encounter (Los Angeles International Airport) - This is a classic (it’s the restaurant that looks like a space ship that you see when you land at LAX) and the view/ambiance are every bit as good as the food.
- Legal Sea Foods (Boston Logan International Airport)
- Pink’s Hot Dogs (Los Angeles International Airport) - I am not normally one to eat hot dogs, but these are really good!
- Brasserie Flo (Paris Charles de Gaulle) - An excellent bistro, great wine and one of the few bright spots in Terminal 2. Enjoy a glass of Sancerre.
- Plane Food (Heathrow Airport, London)
- Tagliare (LaGuardia NYC) Also great food, but if you are going to choose Italian at LaGuardia, I prefer Crust.
- Versailles Restaurant (Miami International Airport)
- Piquillo (John F Kennedy International Airport, NYC)
- Icebox Café (Miami International Airport)
- Union Jacks Bar by Jamie Oliver (Gatwick Airport, London)
- Kim Choo’s Nonja Kitchen (Changi Airport Singapore)
- Airbräu Brauhaus (Munich Airport)
- Globe@YVR (Vancouver International Airport)
- La Moraga (Málaga – Costa del Sol Airport, Costa del Sol, Spain)
- Cat Cora’s Kitchen (San Francsico International Airport)
- Altitude (Genève Aéroport, Geneva)
- Columbia Restaurant Café (Tampa International Airport)
- One Flew South (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International)
- Anthony’s Fish Bar (Seattle Tacoma International Airport)
- Tacañon (Benito Juarez, Mexico City)
- Dutch Kitchen Bar & Cocktails (Amsterdam Airport Schiphol) - This one is insanely busy, but the poffertjes (miniature Dutch pancakes) that they cook to order are worth the crowd and the wait.
- La Pausa (Ministro Pistarini International Airport, Buenos Aires)
- Tadinda Anadolu (Istanbul Atatürk Airport)
To see a slideshow featuring the 31 restaurants, visit http://www.thedailymeal.com/31-best-airport-restaurants-around-world-slideshow
It is refreshing to actually have great-tasting meal choices when traveling. While airlines have slacked off in providing in-flight meals, airports and restaurants have stepped up to fill their shoes. Of course, the passengers still end up shelling out the extra bucks, but at least we have now have gourmet options.
How many of these restaurants have you visited? Do you have favorite airport restaurants?