"I wish I could fold up Patrick Smith and put him in my suitcase."
- Stephen Dubner, Co-author of Freakonomics
Photo by Author
My favorite airport restaurant has gone to hell. Is sweeping the floor too much to ask?
And, is there a future for non-chain restaurants at airports?
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In the 1980’s and early 90’s all restaurants at Sea-Tac suffered from the death of grip of Marriott Foodservices. After a major remodel and construction project the Port of Seattle decided to try to make Sea-Tac at least a mild destination and signed contracts with some smallish restaurants and local chains. They were not allowed to sell crappy food at an “Airport premium” and their leases reflected that.
Then 9/11 happened and that pretty well cured that idea.
However, some did managed to survive and you can get good enough food and drink at a reasonable price to make it worth coming to Sea-Tac three hours early.
Speaking of Rocco Manniello, there is one thing I wanted to ask you (PS): did you learn Italian in your childhood? Can you still speak and/or understand the language?
Austin has some rules where a lot of the food and stores there are to be local. It has a good, charming feel because of this.
I ate at the Yankee Clipper about 2 years ago. While it was not exceptional, it was OK, definitely not your standard airport fare and I was glad I was able to get a chance to eat there and the location is certainly unique. I’m flying out of the MAT again next week, and while I probably won’t get there early enough to enjoy another meal there, I think the Marine Air Terminal is the coolest functioning airport terminal left in the country.
On the note of good airport food. MSP requires that all restaurants in the airport also have a location at the Mall of America and that they have to charge the same prices at both. So, while it doesn’t impact the quality of food that much, you’re at least guaranteed to not get more gouged than you would at the mall.
DTW also has a number of local restaurants.
ORD for the most part has awful food, but there is a relatively new restaurant there (only located in T3 I believe) called Rick Bayless Tortas that I actually look forward to. Also, the McDonald’s in T2 has to be the busiest McDonald’s per square foot on the planet. There’s just something about downing a whole sleeve of McDonald’s spuds, some McPoultry, and maybe a Big Mac before cramming yourself on a 50 seater for a 90 minute jaunt to podunk, USA that just seems right.
Ther is no French Meadow, Ikes or Houlihans at Mall of America… they are in other parts of town…
I have been a regular since the start-up of the Pan Am shuttle back in the 80s. I try to travel during off hours, when getting the shuttle out of the Marine Air Terminal can actually be a relaxed and pleasant experience (except when there are major weather disruptions). I’ll either stop off for a sandwich in that delightfully ordinary dining room, or pick up a sandwich to eat on the plane, to go along with the free wine Delta still serves on its shuttles. In addition to all the points mentioned, I should add that the cafeteria has plenty of windows opening right onto the apron, and so plenty of daylight, where most airport food areas are of course buried in caves, and it is usually pretty empty — customers are all airline or service crew. The sandwiches are also real NY deli, not the usual airport ersatz – they’re no different from what I get at my corner bodega in Brooklyn. I haven’t noticed the degeneration mentioned here, but I haven’t been in several months.
The brand-new Delta wing at Terminal 4 at JFK has good local spots, including the only airport-based Shake Shack. Also, the main area of Terminal 4 has The Palm Steakhouse.
Congratulations on the Q&A piece in the NY Times Sunday Travel section this past weekend.
Patrick—Instead of merely making this public, did you actually try to talk to Rocco et al at the restaurant and tell him that the conditions were unacceptable?
Chicago connections used to be made a lot more bearable by the Berghoff’s in Terminal C (I think? It was a while back).
Australian airports are a desert. At least in Hobart, Tasmania’s tiny airport you can get some of the local Moo Brew beers to tide you over.
In fact, I’d be interested to hear about good beer in airports.
– Does Cincinnati still have Bluegrass Brewing Co. bar?
– Denver: Boulder Brewing…
Bell’s is due to arrive at Grand Rapids (GRR) later this summer.
Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in
it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive
the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog.
A fantastic read. I’ll definitely be back.
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