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EAT UP! 10 airport dining experiences that make flying taste better
By DAVID LANDSEL
Airfarewatchdog.com contributing writer
Who loves airports? Very few people! Who loves food? Pretty much everyone, right? Sometimes – more and more, actually – the two are not mutually exclusive. For every terrible Newark (EWR), there's a pleasant little Portland (PDX) – a place where travelers can actually feel human, if only for a little while. A place where real food (and drink) is served. In nice surroundings, even. Hungry? Airfarewatchdog has selected ten for-really-reals awesome airport dining experiences worth traveling for. PS: You may have seen other lists out there. Ours is better, because we've actually been to these places. You're welcome!
#1 SURDYK'S FLIGHTS @ MSP
Used to be we could blame Northwest, now it's Delta's fault. Doesn't really matter who's doing it, but plenty of travelers heading east or west get shoved through the Twin Cities. Not the worst thing that's ever happened; this is a modern and fairly easy to use airport; those on longer layovers can just hop the train from the terminal over to the Mall of America, just minutes away. Staying closer to your gate? There are, luckily, some great places to eat; right now, there's some good buzz is on the recently-opened Surdyk's Flights. Surdyk's is a revered local liquor purveyor that's now serving up wine, beer and cocktails (along with some great food) in a sleek little spot in the Lindbergh Terminal mall area. Try the local cheeses (and the local beers). Order a Bellini and the baked figs, stuffed with blue cheese and walnuts. Try it all. (Don't miss your flight! Or do!) (Current fares to Minneapolis)
#2 PLANE FOOD @ LHR
#3 CAT CORA @ SFO
You may remember her from such Food Network programs as "Iron Chef America," which she won, back in 2005. While the made-for-TV Cora may not be the next Jean-Georges – after all, until now, her biggest project has been a just-okay restaurant at Disney World – the little lady sure is tearing it up at San Francisco's schmancy new Terminal 2. Flyers are flipping for her lobster mac and other fun small plates, plus there is also a great cocktail list. (How many times have you seen ouzo on a cocktail menu at an airport outside of Greece?) Of all the flashy new food outlets in this terminal, Cat's is queen. (Current fares to San Francisco)
#4 ROGUE ALE HOUSE @ PDX
#5 CAFE DECO @ HKG
The famed restaurant that attracts young lovers and hungry families top the top of The Peak on Hong Kong Island also feeds travelers in an airy, open-plan space at Hong Kong's airport (Terminal 1). From Hainanese chicken to hamburgers, sushi to oysters and some really solid Thai food, this is essentially a high-end, pan-Asian diner that will please pretty much everyone; the sea view and live jazz music many evenings encourages sticking around. After an extended stay in some hotter and sweatier corner of Southeast Asia, this cool, civilized room feels like a tiny miracle.
#6 NORTHPOINT CUSTARD @ MKE
Is that cheap Frontier Airlines fare forcing you into an unexpected date with Milwaukee on your way to somewhere else? Do you now feel like a total schlimazel? Don't be a schlemiel -- Milwaukee's airport is one of the best-kept secrets in airport awesomeness, with a great independent bookstore (Renaissance), kiosks from excellent local coffee roaster Alterra, killer pizzas at Nonna Bartolotta's and now, to complete the picture, burgers and frozen custard from Northpoint. Did you know that burgers and frozen custard are a religion in Milwaukee? Did you know that Northpoint is considered by people who like their food to taste good to be one of the top purveyors of both? Opened a couple of summers back on the city's lakefront by the same folks behind Nonna's and a bunch of very fine Milwaukee restaurants, the stand is seasonal. The newer airport location is not, thank goodness -- travelers get access to the good stuff year-round. If you've never had fried cheese curds, don't start now, though addicts should be advised that Northpoint's are worth the trip. (Current fares to Milwaukee)
#7 SORA JAPANESE @ DTW
#8 ONE FLEW SOUTH @ ATL
#9 LA CARRETA @ MIA
It's so much better to get wherever you're going in Latin America directly from your home city, but there's a silver lining to the cloud that is a Miami layover: A 24-hour La Carreta. And also a 24-hour Versailles. The twin Cuban chainlets that every Miamian knows (and most love at least a little) command a large presence in the revamped main terminal here; La Carreta is a full-service restaurant all day, and a sandwich slash cafe cubano spot late at night. (If you can't find it, just ask any airport worker. It's where they're all eating, anyway.) (Today's list of airfares to Miami)
#10 TORTAS FRONTERA @ ORD
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