9 Best American Airports to find Regional Food

Air, Air Travel News, Extras, Food News, Leaving & Coming Home, United States — By on September 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm

by Nancy Yeomans

LG Air Travel Editor

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For me, the phrase “When in Rome…” ends with “eat pasta”.  One of the things I anticipate most when traveling is the local cuisine.  I love seeing and tasting what passes for everyday food in distant places.  Not just on foreign soil, however, as there are regional culinary differences right here in the US.  Many cities around the country are known for specific types of food, one of a kind restaurants, or unique dishes.  Airports seem to be picking up on this and it’s possible to sample the local specialties on the fly.  Here is a rundown on the most authentic edibles at airports across the country.

1. Atlanta – ATL

If it’s southern comfort you’re looking for, Paschal’s is the place.  Serving up hearty comfort food in the down-home tradition, a meal at Paschal’s before departing for points unknown will fill you up so you won’t even notice the lack of an inflight meal. Paschal’s airport locations include the Main Terminal outside security as well as inside Terminals A and C.  While any of the dishes will stick to your ribs, the must-try dish here is the Southern Fried Chicken.

2. Boston – BOS

Up here in the Northeast, seafood is king.  And no one does seafood better than Legal Seafoods.  “If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal” is their motto and they live by it.  With several terminal locations at Logan Airport, you can’t miss them.  Restaurants are located pre and post-security in Terminal B, pre-security in Terminal C, and a more eclectic menu at the LTK (Legal Test Kitchen) post -security in Terminal A.  Some of the locations will even pack live lobsters for travel to your final destination.   Definitely try the world famous New England clam chowder.

3. Chicago – ORD and MDW

You can’t leave Chicago without partaking in what they’re known for:  hot dogs.  There is a lot of debate about who does them best, but Gold Coast Dogs always turns up the the top 3.  There are 2 locations at O’Hare airport, inside security at Terminals 3 and 5 and Midway airport has 1 location in the Food Court after security.  The jumbo char dog with everything is the meal to order here, and don’t even think about asking for ketchup on your dog…a no-no in the Windy City.  For about 4 bucks, it’s a bargain meal anywhere, let alone at an airport.

4. Los Angeles – LAX

Just try to flip through a tabloid magazine without seeing some mention made of Pinkberry.  The celebrity vice of choice (at least publicly), Pinkberry is a chain of frozen yogurt shops that has developed a cult following.  So far, just one airport location exists;  in Terminal 1 just after security.  The tangy original flavor is still the most popular, but they offer several varieties.  Pinkberry yogurt is healthy, low or non-fat and delicious.  Add fruit, nuts or granola and you’ve even got breakfast…hey, it’s yogurt, right?

5. Memphis – MEM

If there’s a third reason to visit Memphis beyond Elvis and blues it’s definitely BBQ.  Neely’s Interstate is one of the best BBQ joints in the city and has a location at the airport on Concourse B inside security.  The smell alone will draw you in.  The meals here might be quite messy for eating on an airplane, so a sit-down dinner is advised.  If you aren’t in the mood for the classic Bar-B-Q sandwich, try the BBQ spaghetti, an Interstate original!

6. Miami –  MIA

Seeing as you’re more likely to hear Spanish spoken than English at the Miami airport it’s only fitting that there should be a Cuban restaurant here.  And there is, a good one, in the form of Cafe Versailles. Cafe Versailles has several airport locations…in the North Terminal after security and the Central Terminal both pre and post-security.  The Cuban pressed sandwich is the food item to order here and it’s big enough to split for both a preflight and inflight meal.  Don’t pass on the Cuban coffee…it packs a caffeine punch and will keep you going through your flight.

7. Philadelphia – PHL

Nothing says Philadelphia louder than a Philly Cheesesteak.  Chickie’s & Pete’s is the spot for the real deal.  Terminal’s A-West, C and E all boast Chickie’s& Pete’s locations inside security.  There is an extensive menu, but purists stick with the original Philly cheesesteak…a lobster cheesesteak is some kind of blasphemy.  If your timing is a bit off and you’re at the airport for breakfast, you can satisfy your craving with a South Philly Steak and Eggs.

8. Phoenix – PHX

For the best tostadas this side of Mexico, El Bravo is the place.  To be fair, the airport location is second to the original on the north side of town, but for airport food it shines.  El Bravo is located in Terminal 4 inside security.  The green corn chicken tamale is the dish to order, and the guacamole is fresh and tasty too.  Burritos are a good bet for packable, portable airplane food.

9. Seattle – SEA

In the Pacific Northwest, salmon and crab, King or Dungeness, are the important members of the seafood family.  Sea-Tac airport has just the place for those who didn’t get enough during their visit to Seattle.  Ivar’s serves up authentic, local seafood at their airport location past security in the Central Terminal.  Ivar’s knows their seafood and has been a Seattle tradition since 1938.  Salmon chowder is mandatory and where else can you find a king crab breakfast sandwich?

Bonus: Buffalo – BUF

No, it’s not a major airport, and you’re only likely to fly there on your way to Niagara Falls, but I couldn’t resist including Buffalo, NY.  The world-famous Buffalo Wings were invented in this town at the unassuming Anchor Bar and there is finally an airport location.  The buffalo wings on the menu are an obvious choice, but the white pizza is pretty darn good too.  No time for a meal?  The Anchor Bar’s airport outpost is located inside security which means you can pick up a bottle of their wing sauce to bring a taste of Buffalo home with you.

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