Looky, there! Up in the air!
Jumping off the success of our inaugural “48 Hours In…Miami” post, we’ve got jetsetting funny man Jason Kessler of Fly & Dine listing off his favorite airport bites across the nation, whether you’re running to your connection or killing time on a layover.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Alabama (BHM)
I’ve flown in and out of Birmingham a lot in the past year and I never seemed to time my trip perfectly, because Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q was never open for me. It’s worth a visit if you make it there during daytime hours and want some real Southern ‘cue on-the-go.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Illinois (ORD)
As a native Chicagoan, I’ve flown through O’Hare more times than I can count. While I used to be down with the Chili’s Too for some airport chicken crispers, I now take solace in the glory that is Tortas Frontera. Chicago chef Rick Bayless is offering up tasty Mexican sandwiches of all varieties at this airport location, and I happen to love the short rib – rich Pepito with black beans, cilantro crema, Chihuahua cheese, pickled tomatoes, and arugula. Make sure to stop at Garrett’s Popcorn for their Chicago Mix of cheese corn and caramel corn before you head to your flight.
Chicago Midway International Airport, Illinois (MDW)
Another Chicago airport option, Midway seems to go through local restaurants quickly. They used to have a Superdawg but that’s no longer there. There are still plenty of Chicago classics, though, and I always like stopping at Manny’s, the cafeteria-style deli that my parents used to take me to. They don’t have the pickle-stabbing superstar that the original location has, but they do have Manny’s very good, very greasy potato pancakes. Get a few and be sure to apologize to the person next to you on the plane for not packing extras.
Los Angeles International Airport, California (LAX)
There’s a revolution going on at LAX and it just so happens to be all about food. Almost every terminal is being revamped in terms of their dining options and there’s a major emphasis on satellite locations of local favorites. In the Tom Bradley International Terminal alone, you’ve got Michael Voltaggio’s sandwich shop ink.sack, caviar specialists Petrossian, and Umami Burger. Terminal 4 just got Campanile, La Provence, Cole’s, and more – while Nate ‘n Al’s, Lemonade, and B Grill by BOA are amongst the local favorites in other terminals. If you want to eat like a local in LA, you won’t even need to leave the airport.
Miami International Airport, Florida (MIA)
My big secret in MIA isn’t the local goodness of Cafe Versailles or La Carreta. Instead, I head to Lorena Garcia’s Cocina. Almost hidden within the terminal, it’s a tiny space adjacent to a bar and they serve great snacks to tide you over before the flight. Their baked ham and cheese empanadas are my go-to.
Jason Kessler is a food and travel writer based in Los Angeles. He’s the creator of Fly&Dine, the best source for eating while you travel — in the air, at the terminal, and on the ground. He’s also a frequent contributor to Bon Appetit, Food Republic, Sunset Magazine, Angeleno Magazine, Organic Spa and many other publications. As a TV writer, he’s written for NBC’s The Office, True Jackson VP on Nickelodeon, and The MTV Movie Awards. Follow him on Twitter at TheHungryClown and FlyDine for the latest in foodie travel news.