Eat, Fly, and Be Happy

by Dennis Machicao

Whether you are a once in a while airline traveler or a genuine road warrior you have surly experienced airport terminal food that, let’s say, is not on the top ten gourmet list. Between your Starbucks and Burger King is sandwiched, appropriately, a Subway sandwich shop and sometimes establishments lower on the food chain totem pole.

The concept that an airport passenger is a captive audience and almost anything goes as far as feeding you is starting to change at airport terminals.

According to an article written by Caroline Castello in the Airfarewatchdog website, there are 7 food trends that are starting to pop up in various terminals to make your layover a bit more pleasant while waiting for your flight.

According to Ms. Castello, believe it or not, the concept of food trucks has migrated indoors and off the street curb. It seems that food trucks, rather food carts for indoor mobility, have brought the eclectic food truck dining experience to airline passengers.  If you pass by Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon, you will find before the security checkpoint the popular Portland Asian-fusion truck, Koi Fusion, offering its tacos, burritos and kimchi quesadillas. Also in the same area there is Andy Ricker’s, a Michelin starred chef, Pok Pok mobile restaurant that rotates every 6 months with the other food carts.

Local eateries have also set up shop in terminals offering their menus to hungry travelers. It seems that in Toronto’s Terminal 3 at Pearson International Airport a know Little Italy deli, Caplansky’s Delicatessen, is an oasis for those that crave a good deli sandwich to take on board. If you are craving a good hotdog while at Denver International’s B Concourse you can find Steve’s Snappin’Dogs and at Portland International The Country Cat opens early 2015. These are just among many examples of well-known city eating establishments that have opened terminal restaurants. At JFK’s American Airline terminal a more upscale Bobby Vans restaurant offers many of its steak dishes that you find at its New York City establishment.

Now you ask what’s an airport terminal without a good farmers market offering local fresh seasonal produce?  If you pass through Terminal B at Boston’s Logan International Airport, you can come across Berkshire Farms Market offering made to order smoothies, fresh backed bread and home brewed Fire Cider.  In San Francisco’s Terminal 2 there is Napa Farms Market and in early Spring 2015 at LAX’s Terminal 5 you can enjoy the Original Farmers Market.

Pop-Up restaurants that have been so popular in various cities, have now also popped-up at various airport venues. If you were an international traveler you would have come across Hallo Hello at the Copenhagen Airport that ran for four weeks in September encouraging people, oddly enough, to share their meals with strangers. The Helsinki airport had four spots around its airport with pop-up versions of regional restaurants. Catching a flight at London’s Heathrow Airport you can dine on ceviche at a pop-up version in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Since these pop-up establishments last for a short time, you just might get lucky to experience one of them if your timing is right.

Restaurant week or month has encouraged city diners to try new participating places that offer special meals at special prices.  Well guess what, that concept has started at airport restaurants too. This October was the very first Airport Restaurant Month offering the same concept as eateries in the city. With twenty airports participating one can order a varied meal between $17 and $25.

Now this concept I experienced first hand at New York’s Us Air LaGuardia Airport terminal. These are high tech restaurants that have a table-side iPad where you look at the menu, order your food, pay for it and also can search your flight’s information and surf the Internet while you eat. The only human contact you have is when the server brings you your food.

A more traditional trend is onboard picnics or meals to go. But this is not your ordinary picnic. If you fly out of London Heathrow you can bring this concept to a real gourmet level with 118 restaurants offering this service and especially the known Gordon Ramsey, Plane Food restaurant that offers an unlimited range of plates at a wide range of prices. Of course you can just have a sandwich to go at a sandwich shop costing a few pounds or you can sneak onboard the King Seafood Platter from the Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar for a mere 145 pounds.

So although the airlines themselves no longer give you pillows, blankets, or leg room and  you have to pay for a mediocre meal, you can make the most of it before you board with the changing concept of offering better, fresher and more nutritious food at the terminal level. Bon Voyage.

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