10 amazing airport restaurants

December 19, 2014, 2:00 PM UTC
Boeing 777 Crashes At San Francisco Airport
Photograph by Justin Sullivan — Getty Images

Airport dining gets a bad rap for being pricey, bland or both. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some eateries now offer first-rate chow — you just need to know where to go.

Fortune went on a quest to find the best airport restaurants in America (just in time for the busy holiday travel season). We reached out to award-winning food writers, phoned restaurants and crawled reviews. The result: a nationwide list, so travelers never have to eat greasy pizza or shrink-wrapped pretzels again.

Ike’s Food and Cocktails

Minneapolis-St. Paul International
The Airport Mall

At Ike’s, there are no gimmicks — just solid American fare served at a dimly-lit spot resembling classy pubs of yore. Diners rave the burger is one of the best in Minneapolis, but Ike's also serves up healthier options, too, like "Ike’s seafood 'Louie,'" a salad that mixes greens with lobster, lump crab and shrimp. “It's the standard-bearer and maybe the only airport restaurant in the country that gives you a true sense of how the city really, truly feels, acts and functions beyond the terminal walls,” says Howie Kahn, an award-winning food writer.
Average meal price: $10-$15


Los Angeles International
Tom Bradley International Terminal

LAX's take of this gourmet deli franchise is more industrial and stark than its West Hollywood counterpart, but "Top Chef" winner Michael Voltaggio's distinctive 4-inch sandwiches are as savory as ever — a corned beef tongue Reuben or BBQ tofu banh mi that pairs well with homemade crab chips. It's also hard to beat those prices. At $4-$6 per sandwich, Ink.Sack offers the best bang for your buck at any airport.
Average meal price: $10

Cat Cora’s Kitchen

San Francisco International
Terminal 2

Cora, the first woman to win the cook-off show “Iron Chef,” opened this open-air San Francisco eatery in San Francisco three years ago. The focus: twists on staples such as flank steak soft tacos drizzled with pineapple salsa, made mostly with locally-sourced ingredients, served alongside cocktails with cheeky names like Love & Haight. Avant grade award-winning chef Grant Achatz, owner of the Chicago restaurant Alinea, calls Cat Cora's Kitchen an airport favorite.
Average meal price: $20

Anthony's Restaurant and Fish Bar

Beneath Seattle, Bertha waits.

Seattle-Tacoma International
Central Terminal

Finding good airport seafood isn't impossible — just elusive. Luckily, those coming through Seattle-Tacoma International have Anthony's Restaurant and Fish Bar, one of 29 local seafood spots run by ex-chef Tim Ferleman, and purveyor of some of the best, fresh seafood around. (Many diners claim they would be regulars if only they lived nearby.) Come for the salmon and chips, and linger around for an epic view of the runways.
Average meal price: $20

Shake Shack

JFK International
Terminal 4

Restauranteur Danny Meyer opened the first Shake Shack in July 2004, the first of over 30 locations worldwide that helped pioneer the notion of gourmet fast food. Its hand-spun caramel, strawberry and peanut butter shakes are hailed as some of the best, and its Angus burgers aren’t far behind. Equally yummy? That slow-roasted, whole Portobello mushroom burger.
Average meal price: $12

One Flew South

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International
Concourse E

At One Flew South, modern aesthetic marries rustic decor. The eatery's floor and ceiling were fashioned with local pine wood, while a photo-realistic mural of the Georgia forest serves as the backdrop for diners peer at while they nosh. The chow itself weds sushi and southern food. So expect items like cornmeal dusted trout alongside spicy tuna rolls or seaweed salad with soy egg, drizzled with sesame vinaigrette. Meanwhile, wine connoisseurs will appreciate the eatery's large, international wine collection, with prices that start low ($8 for a glass for Riesling) and top off at $350 for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.

Average meal price: $25

Cousin's Bar-B-Q

Dallas/Forth Worth International
Terminal B

Even the pickiest barbecue fan should appreciate Calvin and Beverly Payne's award-winning ribs. The husband-and-wife team opened their first restaurant in 1983 in Fort Worth, Tex. and now runs six locations across Texas, including this airport outpost. Customers flock here for the pulled pork but sometimes can't resist tossing in some beef brisket – a pairing that costs just over $20.
Average meal price: $15

Deep Blue

During the summer months, delays at some airports get far more common.

JFK International
Terminal 5

It's a rare feat when an airport eatery makes travelers forget where they are, but Deep Blue, manages that, with a softly lit, modern space akin to something at a W Hotel. Michael Schulman, a chef at the Manhattan eatery Buddakan, earned rave reviews for serving a wide-ranging sushi menu mixing conventional — spicy tuna, jumbo shrimp tempura — with the more unusual. (A kobe beef sushi roll with sun-dried tomato, for one.) The best airport sushi in America? Quite possibly.
Average meal price: $35


Minneapolis-St. Paul International
Next to Concourse G

High-end ramen in the Midwest? Don't knock it until you try it. At the Japanese eatery Shoyu, chefs Sara Johannes and Dan Zeroth fill large steaming soup bowls with fresh noodles made daily — ideal comfort food when temperatures plunge into the single digits.
Average meal price: $25

Tortas Frontera

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 27: Travelers move through a colorful public art intallation in Terminal 1 at O'Hare International Airport entitled "Sky's The Limit" by Michael Hayden on March 27, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois. Often called the "neon light tunnel," the mercury vapor lighting is designed around a moving walkway connecting United Airline's concourse B and C. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

Chicago O’Hare
Terminals 1, 3 & 5

Mario Batali, the prolific restauranteur currently co-hosting a cooking-themed talk show called "The Chew," has called Tortas Frontera the one airport eatery he trusts, and for good reason. American chef Rick Bayless's restaurant chain are known for offering upscale Mexican cuisine at affordable prices. Travelers line up here for items like beer-braised beef short ribs, garlic-seared shrimp and a taqueria salad with caramelized onions and avocado dressing.
Average meal price: $15

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