Gone are the days of having to decide between greasy burgers and limp pizza slices as you wait to board your flight. Airports are stepping up their culinary game and offering travelers much more variety when it comes to dining options. In particular, it’s now possible to sit down for a nice meal (rather than grab and go or jostle for counter space) at fine dining establishments in airports around the world. Not to mention, choices when it comes to menu options at these restaurants are seemingly endless — from steak and seafood, to sushi, Italian, French and beyond.
If you’re hungry on the go, skip the airport food court and the often-generic options they offer, and instead treat yourself to a nice, sit-down, full-service meal in an elegant, stylish setting. Whether you’re leaving or coming home, we’re sharing some of the best upscale airport restaurants around the world for travelers who want more of a culinary experience versus a quick bite on the way to their departure gate.
Heathrow is full of fine dining options for weary travelers who need a place to unwind and enjoy a good meal. Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food offers gourmet European-inspired meals in a sleek setting. There’s fine dining to be had at Rhubarb, or you can enjoy classic French cuisine at Oriel French Restaurant and Bar. Get your Japanese noodle fix in a simple and calming dining room at popular UK spot Wagamama, and head to Tin Goose for the gastropub experience where classic pub food gets a fine dining upgrade. There are also many spots to relax with a glass of wine or a pint. You can even find a seasonal cocktail menu (not often seen at airport bars) at The Three Bells.
Munich Airport has a few unique spots to have a meal that go beyond the usual airport fare. Beer enthusiasts will want to make a beeline for Airbräu, a Bavarian restaurant with its very own brewery and an indoor beer garden. Organic is the focus of aptly named Bistro Organic, where you might not get a fine dining setting, but you will get food (and even beer) that comes from certified organic farms, which is a bit of a culinary step up from traditional airport eats. Upscale Thai food is also an option at Mangostin.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport recently put an added focus on fine dining and there are several options for getting a high quality meal and a glass of wine or a cocktail while you wait. A spate of celebrity chefs, from Susur Lee and Mark McEwan, to Roger Mooking and Lynn Crawford, have opened or are in the process of opening upscale eateries at the airport. Order Japanese food from an iPad at Acer, pizza and antipasti is offered at Corso, small plates and salads along with an extensive wine list are available at Vinifera, and Indian food in a relaxed yet stylish setting is what you can find at Marathi. Keep an eye on YYZ as the dining scene here is expected to get even better.
Los Angeles International Airport
Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport have several options when it comes to more upscale fare. For starters, Chef Suzanne Goin’s Larder at Tavern recently opened in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which boasts freshly baked bread and a focus on organic, seasonal ingredients. There’s also Lemonade, a favorite among foodies with locations across the U.S. and beyond. It’s casual in atmosphere, but the food is top-notch. If you just want something small, you can get that at chic spot Drink LA, which also has fine wines, classic cocktails and craft beers.
Who needs fast food when you can have a glass of champagne while waiting for your flight? If you find yourself craving a glass of bubbly and a plate of oysters while at Amsterdam Schiphol, make your way to Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar, a smartly decorated spot to get an upscale meal at the airport. Brasserie offers white tablecloths and a contemporary French menu, and you can even make reservations. Though not necessarily fine dining, there is an elegant atmosphere, high windows with views, and classic Dutch food to be found at Grand Café Het Paleis.
Le Sommelier Bar & Bistro at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark was ranked by the Daily Meal as the best airport restaurant in the world for 2013. The French bistro isn’t the only option for fine dining at Copenhagen Airport – travelers can also enjoy a meal at MASH, an upscale steakhouse with an impressive wine list, or have a glass of wine and some seafood, caviar or smoked salmon at Caviar House and Prunier Seafood Bar.
John F. Kennedy International Airport
JFK has a wide range of dining options that go from fast food all the way up to fine dining. Terminal 5 in particular has a high concentration of upscale eating options. Start with authentic Spanish tapas made with seasonal ingredients at Piquillo where you can order flavorful hot and cold dishes in a chic, modern space. Deep Blue boasts eye-catching décor and a high quality menu with a focus on sushi, tempura and yakitori. If it’s French cuisine you’re after make a stop at Brasserie la Vie, or if you’re in the mood for Italian you can nab a table at Aeronuova.
Hong Kong International Airport
Consistently ranked among the best airports in the world, Hong Kong International is not only an efficient, well laid out airport with many amenities for travelers, but it also plays host to plenty of dining options. The airport recently won the award for best airport dining in the 2014 World Airport Awards and there are numerous places to satisfy any pre-flight cravings you might have. Italian is the focus at Grappa’s and, like Amsterdam Schiphol, HKG also has a Caviar House and Prunier Seafood Bar. Alternatively, you can sample from a diverse international menu at the Peak Lookout, among many other options.
Vancouver International Airport
Not only is Vancouver International Airport ranked among the best in the world, it’s also home to an award-winning fine dining restaurant – Globe@YVR. The stylish eatery specializes in Pacific Northwest cuisine, fresh ingredients and sustainable seafood. You’ll also find wine from around the world as well as from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views, adding to the overall experience. You can also find Vino Volo at YVR, where you can pair small plates with wines from British Columbia and around the world.
San Francisco International Airport
If you find yourself hungry while at San Francisco International Airport and you’re in the mood for more of a fine dining experience, make your way to Cat Cora’s Kitchen, a sophisticated tapas restaurant offering small plates using fresh and organic ingredients. The airy setting makes for an ideal place to enjoy a meal and unique cocktails. Another place to get small plates as well as a glass of wine is Vino Volo, which also offers wine tastings if you have time to sample a few varieties before your flight.
Geneva International Airport
You won’t go hungry at Switzerland’s Geneva International Airport, and you won’t have to settle for mediocre food. The panoramic views over the Jura Mountains and the tarmac are reason enough to step into Altitude at Geneva International Airport, but the gourmet food is the real star of the show. Ravioli stuffed with fois gras and morels, beef carpaccio, and creative seafood dishes are just a few noteworthy menu items. In addition to Altitude there is a Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar, an Argentinian restaurant (La Terraza by La Rôtisserie) and a Mediterranean restaurant (L’Olivier).
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
As one of the world’s busiest airports, Chicago O’Hare serves up an unsurprising number of places to eat, and some of them fall into the fine dining category. Rick Bayless’ crowd-pleasing Mexican restaurant Tortas Frontera is a good place to start. The celebrity chef brings his fresh, modern take on authentic Mexican flavors and hand-shaken margaritas to hungry travelers. Get a refined dining experience at Wicker Park Sushi Bar as well as Italian eatery Tocca. If you want the wine bar experience head to Beaudevin for a glass alongside small plates.
Singapore Changi International Airport
Like Hong Kong International Airport, Singapore’s Changi is also consistently voted among the top airports in the world, often ranked first. The airport is full of fun and functional amenities for travelers as well as shops and dining options. Singapore natives love to eat and you can find amazing food on every corner in the country. Changi is a reflection of that. You might not get linen tablecloths at many restaurants, but you will get lots of flavor and meals even people who aren’t traveling will come to the airport for. Try PappaMia for a blend of Malaysian and Western cuisine, The Green Market for Japanese with a healthy twist, Peach Garden Noodle House for authentic Cantonese, or head to the rooftop of Terminal 1 to have a meal and a drink at La Cave Wine Bar.
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Eating at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport doesn’t just mean burgers (although there are many places to grab a good one). You can settle in for a nice glass of wine and an upscale yet moderately priced Italian meal at Ecco, which gets consistently good reviews. The other fine dining hot spot is One Flew South, with zen-like décor and a unique menu comprised of sushi as well as more global fare. This spot is also known for its cocktails. If you’re craving a steak while waiting for your flight you can get one at Atlanta Chophouse, which also has a decent wine list to choose from.
While there are plenty of fast food options at LaGuardia, you can also find some nice spots to sit down and enjoy a leisurely airport meal. Start with Taste of Bisoux, a newer addition to Terminal D. This dining spot has a French, bistro-style twist and you can order both your meal and a glass of wine from the iPads provided. If you’re craving a steak, have a sit-down meal at Taste of Prime, and if seafood is what you’re after you can find it at Minnow, which offers fresh fish and shellfish along with craft beer and a solid wine list.
Stuttgart Airport boasts the only Michelin-starred airport restaurant in Europe. Top Air is a fine dining spot that offers gourmet European fare with views of the runway. The food is creative, fresh and definitely not your typical airport fare. There is also an extensive wine list to choose from. Another sit-down, fine dining option with runway views is Red Baron. Order from their classic European menu and toss in a glass of Champagne to celebrate your travels.
(Main image: jamesz_flickr)