19. Philadelphia International
There are 86 restaurants in the Philly airport. But really, there are only three you should focus on, while locals pelt you with farewell batteries: Tony Luke’s, of course, because cheesesteaks; Chickie and Pete’s for crab fries that will make you very unpopular-smelling on your flight, and Smashburger, for whatever it is they serve.
18. Logan International
Assuming you’re not flying on Virgin and stuck in that little satellite terminal where the security people actually warn you to go get something to eat elsewhere before going in, you’ve got some good local Boston options: a Harpoon Tap Room, a Cisco Brew Pub, Boston Beer Works, Lucky’s, Game On, and THOSE ARE JUST THE BARS. There are also a bunch of Legal Sea Foods, which makes the chowder for the Presidential Inauguration, Todd English’s Bonfire, and Stephanie’s, the original of which is a fancy Newbury spot where ladies enjoy brunching in pink Sox caps and speculating about Julian Edelman’s relationship status.
17. Phoenix Sky Harbor
Sky Harbor has one of our favorite breakfast spots IN THE COUNTRY in Matt’s Big Breakfast (get the salami scramble or one of those Belgian waffles with sweet cream butter or even the Frosted Flakes, which come with banana, nicely). Want beer instead? Go to Four Peaks. Actually, just want pie? WHY ARE YOU ASKING FOR SUCH SPECIFIC THINGS? Well, that won’t work, because Humble Pie is actually a pizza joint. In fact, I could maybe move into Terminal 4, and live there like Tom Hanks in that movie no one liked.
16. Sacramento International
I once flew into here, and was expecting nothing. Maybe a Cinnabon and at least one place to get a pretzel dog. But when I got into Terminal B there were all of these non-chain offerings, like Cafeteria 15L (American comfort cuisine!), Jack’s Urban Eats (sandwiches!), a Burgers and Brew (um, burgers and brew!), and I realized that you can’t judge an airport by its city's status as that place where you're like, "Wait, that's the capital?"
15. Seattle-Tacoma International
SEA-TAC is a fun airport to say aloud. It is also one of the only airports that seems to have a theme, and that theme is “You’re not in an airport, you’re actually in a mildly chill ski town”. So enjoy the Mountain Room Bar or, perhaps, Alaska Lodge or Bigfoot Food and Spirits. Or if you prefer to go off-theme, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, the Seattle Taproom, and Dungeness Bay Seafood House will do just fine.
14. LaGuardia Airport
Once this multi-billion dollar remodel goes through, LaGuardia is destined to be the Pippa Middleton of New York airports (hotter, but less famous?), but, until then, it still has some decently underrated moves, like a Five Guys, Todd English’s Figs, Bowery Bay Tavern, and Six Blocks Bakery, which slings baked goods from Balthazar.
13. Austin-Bergstrom International
Twenty-three times a week, there are live music acts playing in the Austin airport. Let me repeat that: more than three times a day, you can see free, live music at Ray Benson’s Roadhouse, Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar, or Annie’s Cafe & Bar while waiting for your flight. And that’s on top of getting to eat BBQ (or tacos!) at Salt Lick, Tex-Mex at Maudies, and ice cream at Amy’s. Now if they just added a few more options (and maybe a Moosellaneous), they’d be sitting in the top spot.
12. Chicago O'Hare
Rick Bayless. Tortas Frontera. Perhaps the single greatest airport restaurant in the country. It’s too bad most of the other options are just Chili’s Toos, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and a strange lounge called Ice that looks like it belongs in Miami.
11. Minneapolis-St Paul
I was entranced mostly by the Shoyu Ramen. And then the selection of sandwiches and wine at Surdyk’s (a 78-year-old classic MPLS liquor store). And also Andrew Zimmern’s Sloppy Ko ‘wich at Minnibar (get it? No? Nevermind.). And maybe the pints of Surly at Mill City Tavern. And fine, also the pizza at Vero. And the mussels and fries at Mimosa. BUT WHERE ARE THE JUICY LUCY’S?!!?