Flying is a pain. Between security, flight delays and hauling your luggage with you everywhere you go, you need—nay, deserve—a drink. But not all airport bars are created equal. Your only surefire safe bet on a drink is to go to a chain that’s as consistent as California weather. Do that and you might find that airport bars truly are the world’s most underappreciated. These aren’t the best airport bars in the country, but they are the spots that you can rely on in pretty much every major airport.
You won’t recognize the best airport chain to drink in unless you are a frequent flier with a taste for fine wine. Vino Volo has locations in 33 airports around North America, with most offering lunch, dinner, small plates and an extensive (for an airport) wine list. There’s something for both wine lovers and people looking for a casual drink, and Vino Volo makes it easy to choose the right glass with its simple fruitiness and complexity taste graph. Vino Volo is also an online wine retailer, so if you find something that you really like, there’s a good chance you can buy it to sip at home as well.
For a chain named after what is arguably one of the worst days of the week, it doesn’t lack in the drinks department. Ruby Tuesday’s categorizes its drinks into categories like “Relaxers,” “Spiked Favorites,” “MARG - A - RITAS” and “Wine Down.” There’s variety whether you’re a cocktail, wine or beer person. If there’s one way to take the edge off a flight delay, it’s an Island Mai Tai or Coastal Mojito off the Relaxers menu. The drinks are also always affordable (for an airport) at this chain, whether you make a happy hour or not.
Chili’s is an airport staple. It seems like there’s a location no matter which airport you’re in, leaving you at least one familiar bar and restaurant choice in a sea of questionable airport eateries. You know what you’re getting, even if you know that it’s not exactly your favorite. Come because you recognize the red Chili’s logo; stay because there’s a mind-numbingly long Margarita menu.
The neighborhood bar and grill has stayed on people’s minds this year thanks to a seemingly never ending list of rotating $1 and $2 drink specials. Downing a bunch of liquid before a flight isn’t the best choice and the deals vary by location, so there’s a chance that Dollaritas never made it to pre-flight drinkers. That doesn’t mean Applebee’s is a terrible place to grab a quick drink, though. Applebee’s has a reliable beer selection, a standard set of cocktail staples (Long Island Iced Teas anyone?) and low prices that only widespread chains can promise.
This chain is named after everyone’s favorite workday, and has an appropriate cocktail list to reflect that name. T.G.I. Fridays has it all, from classics with a twist (they make their Long Island Iced Tea with boba) to multiple Mule options to celebrity friendly originals (hello, Diddy On The Beach). Whether you have an hour or 15 minutes, Fridays has the options to make you feel like you’re taking off into the weekend.
While Champps has a questionable food reputation at best (always pull up the Yelp rating before settling down in an airport Champps), you’re here to drink. With that singular goal, Champps has your back. Depending on which airport you’re in, there will be a decent selection of beer and sports of some kind playing on TV. As Champps states on its website, the “bar is about hanging out with friends and having fun,” and that’s something we can all use after dragging luggage with a broken wheel through a mile of security checks.