Con­course Cui­sine

The air­port foodie scene is on the rise

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Sery Kim

Rapid changes in the res­tau­rant scene in the United States have re­sulted in the emer­gence of an in­ter­est­ing new bas­tion for all-star food and bev­er­age pro­grams: air­ports. While some trav­el­ers barely clear TSA’s ar­du­ous (and some­times slightly ridicu­lous) se­cu­rity check in time to get to their gate, most trav­el­ers find them­selves at air­ports around the world with a cou­ple of hours or more to spare while they wait for their flights.

Some un­for­tu­nate trav­el­ers, usu­ally me, al­ways fall on the wrong side of Lady Luck and end up with ex­tended de­lays and can­cel­la­tions. Thus, it is worth not­ing which air­ports make suf­fer­ing through the bit­ing haze of fly­ing less painful with culi­nary de­lights and sooth­ing bev­er­ages. Here, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, are some for your con­sid­er­a­tion.

Cantina Laredo or Cousin’s Bar-B-Que Dal­las-Ft. Worth In­ter­na­tional Air­port (DFW)

At 18,076 acres, my child­hood air­port DFW has grown big­ger than 99 per­cent of small towns in Texas and is one of the largest air gate­ways in the world. Four bar­be­cue restau­rants; eight Mex­i­can restau­rants; eight bars; plus even a ce­real res­tau­rant in Ter­mi­nal C, Gate 6 – DFW has some­thing for ev­ery­one. Which is a good thing be­cause I’ve never had a flight leave DFW on time. If you haven’t had bar­be­cue while in Texas, then you can’t leave with­out try­ing Cousin’s Bar-B-Que, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing they have two lo­ca­tions (Ter­mi­nal B, Gate 47 and Ter­mi­nal D, Gate 28). Texas bar­be­cue is brisket-based so or­der­ing the beef brisket will re­sult in less judg­ment. Don’t for­get the sides of Texas-style pinto beans and Texas toast, a 2 ½-inch-thick pil­low of car­bo­hy­drate good­ness.

Now, try­ing to choose be­tween the best Mex­i­can res­tau­rant in DFW is a hat-throw­ing, boot-stomp­ing chal­lenge. Some pre­fer Pap­p­a­sito’s Cantina, but I

am straight-up a Cantina Laredo woman. Lo­cated in Ter­mi­nal D, def­i­nitely or­der a Mar­garita, the Top-Shelf Gua­camole, a bowl of chili con queso, as well as one of the nine en­chi­lada plates. My mouth drools for the En­chi­ladas Ver­acruz made with chicken, spinach and monterey jack topped with tomatillo sauce, mar­i­nated veg­eta­bles and queso fresco. Be­cause re­ally, does any dish with melted cheese ever go wrong?

Shake Shack or the Delta Sky Lounge at John F. Kennedy Air­port (JFK)

If you haven’t heard of Shake Shack af­ter their bil­lion-dol­lar IPO and don’t feel com­pelled to eat a soul-chang­ing amal­gam of bread, cheese, meat and veg­eta­bles, then you are truly miss­ing out in life. For those who de­sire toe-curl­ing milk­shakes, per­fectly cooked and not greasy fries, as well as a mul­ti­tude of burger op­tions, then Shake Shack at JFK in Ter­mi­nal Four is the ob­vi­ous choice. Be pre­pared to stand in line. While the num­ber of peo­ple wait­ing is noth­ing com­pared to lunch hour in Midtown Man­hat­tan, the line is still fairly sub­stan­tial.

How­ever, if you are re­ally trapped at JFK, then pay the $50 to en­joy the com­pletely gut­ted and re­designed Delta Sky Lounge. The flag­ship lounge for Delta, the spa-like tran­quil­ity of this space will help you zone out the stress of hav­ing mul­ti­ple can­celled flight. Drink and be merry with a strong se­lec­tion of wine and cock­tails be­fore tuck­ing into the in­clu­sive food menu fea­tur­ing sushi, cheese, char­cu­terie and dessert. Or or­der a bot­tle of Dom Perignon and Muga Prado Enea, Gran Reserva. Also, if you re­ally want to tor­ture your­self a bit, this Delta Sky Lounge has a Sky Deck so you can watch all those planes you could have been on take off into the sky while drown­ing your sor­rows with some pre­mium French cham­pagne.

Pung­gyeong­maru or Panorama Lounge at In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port (ICN)

One of the few air­ports in the world where you can re­ally get a feel of the host coun­try – in this case Korea – with­out ever leav­ing the sprawl­ing air­port, ICN has nu­mer­ous tasty Korean restau­rants to sam­ple. In Ter­mi­nal A at Gate 3 is Pung­gyeong­maru a low-key fa­vorite with a mouth-wa­ter­ing pre­sen­ta­tion of tra­di­tional Korean fare. The su­per-cheap $8 Galbi tang (short rib soup) is the most or­dered dish but you re­ally can’t go wrong with any­thing there. Be pre­pared to sit on the floor though as it is a tra­di­tional Korean seated meal.

Or if sit­ting on the floor is not your thing, then head to the Panorama Lounge on the fourth floor of the com­mon area. Op­er­ated by the fa­mous Cho­sun Ho­tel, the Panorama Lounge, as its name sug­gests, of­fers marvelous views of the run­way with un­com­monly sat­is­fy­ing tra­di­tional Korean fare. Ad­di­tion­ally they have a buf­fet dur­ing lunch time which can­not be beat.

Air­bräu Brauhaus at Mu­nich In­ter­na­tional Air­port (MUC)

Sur­pris­ingly, the heart of Bavar­ian Ger­many is home to one of the best air­ports around the world, Mu­nich In­ter­na­tional Air­port, par­adise for food­ies crav­ing both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional fare. While many pre­fer the Ital­ian cui­sine at Il Mondo, Air­bräu Brauhaus is cer­tainly the

best op­tion for Bavar­ian cui­sine. Af­ter all, “When in Rome, do as the Ro­mans…”

Lo­cated in Ter­mi­nal One, Air­bräu Brauhaus is the only air­port brew­ery in the world which crafts beers in com­pli­ance with the Pu­rity De­cree of 1516, ba­si­cally mean­ing the fla­vor and sta­bil­ity agent in their beers are phe­nom­e­nal. (For those who make the pil­grim­age to Ok­to­ber­fest in Mu­nich each year, this des­ig­na­tion is quite mean­ing­ful.) Or­der the Su­per­sonic, an ex­pan­sive Bavar­ian dish with roast pork, knuckle of pork and one piece of duck, served to­gether with fresh dumplings and side dishes. While the dish“re­quires”two peo­ple at a min­i­mum, make the at­tempt or at least drink the en­tire siphon of beer which ac­com­pa­nies this € 21 dish.

Rooftop Cac­tus Gar­den and Harry’s Bar at Sin­ga­pore Changi Air­port (SIN)

An ab­so­lutely live­able three ter­mi­nals filled with more ameni­ties than a five-star ho­tel, Sin­ga­pore Changi Air­port has a glut of choices for food and bev­er­age. Hon­estly I have never seen a wa­ter slide in an air­port, let alone one as mam­moth as the one at Sin­ga­pore’s award-win­ning gate­way.

How­ever, if slip-and-slide is not re­ally your thing, the best place to drink is the Rooftop Cac­tus Gar­den and Harry’s Bar in Ter­mi­nal One. One of four gar­dens in­side SIN, the Rooftop Cac­tus Gar­den has an en­chanted feel of­fer­ing pre­mium views of the Sin­ga­pore skyline. Or­der one of Harry’s Bar’s sig­na­ture drinks such as the“Dirty Harry”or the vodka-fu­elled“Eye Candy” and let your travel wor­ries slip away with nary a care. Or, per­haps, con­vince your­self of the wis­dom of tak­ing a run through the multi-story wa­ter slide.

Ben’s Chili Bowl at Ron­ald Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port (DCA)

Our na­tion’s cap­i­tal is un­der­go­ing one of the most rapid changes in the food and bev­er­age scene and Ron­ald Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port is cer­tainly not im­mune to the whiplash-in­duc­ing num­ber of new restau­rants and bars in Washington, DC. While not all of them are good changes, the open­ing of famed U Street stal­wart Ben’s Chili Bowl at DCA is cer­tainly welcome.

One of the rare restau­rants be­fore TSA se­cu­rity check, this pris­tine en­vi­ron­ment still has the dirty de­li­cious“Half Smoke All-The­Way.”Drenched in a mon­soon of chili, cheese and var­i­ous spices, this pro­cessed meat tube – dou­ble the size of your av­er­age hot dog – will an­ni­hi­late your taste buds. Or­der a side of the cheese fries as well, if your heart is in mint con­di­tion.

Res­tau­rant Top Air at Stuttgart Air­port (STR)

A Miche­lin star des­ig­na­tion (yes the same com­pany which sells tires) in the world of food is an award akin to win­ning an Os­car. Cur­rently, the only res­tau­rant in an air­port with a Miche­lin star is lo­cated in the Baden-Würt­tem­berg state of Ger­many, Res­tau­rant Top Air at Stuttgart Air­port.

Lo­cated in Ter­mi­nal One, Level Four, a very young (33), yet ac­com­plished Chef Akuzun Marco presents a gor­geous menu of gourmet dishes for a rea­son­able price. En­joy the Tast­ing Menu or or­der á la carte. Ev­ery­thing is sim­ply di­vine so no need for me to give point­ers. When in doubt, just ask the knowl­edge­able and friendly wait­staff – but re­ally why not just get the Tast­ing Menu?

Vir­gin Lounge at Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port (LAX)

Choos­ing the best res­tau­rant in Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port is a marathon chore of choices. Lit­er­ally. With seven dif­fer­ent ter­mi­nals, you could run 26.2 miles from end-to-end but why would you? Sit down at Umami Burger or Petrossian Caviar & Cham­pagne Bar in the Great Hall Food Court, which are both dy­namic, de­li­cious choices.

How­ever, the new Vir­gin Lounge at LAX Ter­mi­nal Two should not be missed. Part­ner­ing with lo­cal LA fa­vorite Hi­noki and the Bird, the Vir­gin Lounge of­fers the res­tau­rant’s mind-melt­ing chili crab toast as well as miso donuts. It is worth pay­ing the daily rate to use the Vir­gin Lounge just

to have an end­less sup­ply of both dishes, as well as all the other ben­e­fits of Vir­gin’s su­perb cus­tomer ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence. Don’t for­get to or­der one of the fab­u­lous cock­tails and, of course, since it’s LA, one of the healthy drinks and smooth­ies while look­ing out over the Hol­ly­wood Hills.

Saltlick Res­tau­rant at Austin-Bergstrom In­ter­na­tional Air­port (AUS)

Cul­tur­ally aware bar­be­cue afi­ciona­dos will rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of the bat­tle for dom­i­nance be­tween Saltlick and Franklin Bar­beque in Austin, TX. (The pref­er­ence is based on how the meat is pre­pared but, re­ally, it’s about which owner is“cooler,”i.e. more of a hipster.)

While many pre­fer the queue for Aaron Franklin’s meat-smok­ing man­i­festo Franklin’s in South­east Austin, I per­son­ally pre­fer Saltlick’s seared and then slowroasted“Tex-ifi­ca­tion”which in­volves sea­son­ing the meats with a blend of chili, cumin and cayenne. For those who can’t make it to Driftwood, TX, pop into Saltlick at AUS. Open from 5:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily, this is cer­tainly one of my fa­vorite air­port eats. If you miss it, you can al­ways or­der online at saltlickbbq.com/pages/ Online-Or­der­ing-Info.

Jack­son At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Air­port (ATL)

While Fast Food Na­tion may en­cour­age me to feel guilt when eat­ing at one of the 1,900-strong Chick-fil-A fast food restau­rants, I feel no guilt or shame or con­vic­tion when I chase af­ter a Chick-fil-A at ATL – just sheer plea­sure as I sink into a spicy chicken sand­wich with a side of the fa­mous waf­fle fries. With nu­mer­ous lo­ca­tions spread through­out all the ter­mi­nals, find­ing one is as easy as look­ing for sand at the beach.

If fast food fried chicken, even one as numb­ingly de­li­cious as Chick-fil-A, isn’t your thing, then go to Con­course A and the Main Ter­mi­nal Atrium for a taste of At­lanta in­sti­tu­tion Paschal’s Res­tau­rant. They serve large por­tions of south­ern clas­sics like fried cat­fish, coun­try-fried steak (yum!) and mac­a­roni and cheese (dou­ble yum!). Paschal’s even mar­kets a line of bat­ter mixes for fried chicken so buy some for the next Paula Deen in your net­work. BT

Clock­wise: Meal from Cousin’s (DFW), Cac­tus Gar­den (SIN), Air­bräu Brauhaus (MUC), burger from Shake Shack (JFK)

Clock­wise: (ATL), Hi­noki and the Bird-Vir­gin Lounge (LAX), Ben’s Chili Bowl (DCA)

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