After reading nearly 600 submissions, we’ve selected our favorites. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
The best airport meal I’ve ever had was Christmas 1972 when I was a college student on my way to the West Indies where my family had a winter home. I had to stay at JFK airport in NYC waiting for a 7am flight to San Juan and stayed up all night with some GIs who were on a charter flight from Germany going home for vacation. Around 6am before anything was open they asked a maintenance guy where we could have breakfast. He opened a door and the five of us went downstairs to the Eastern Air Lines staff cafeteria beneath the main level of the terminal. They had everything. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee… and I think only $2 or $3. It was wonderful. I haven’t eaten this well in an airport since.
In 1962, I said goodbye to my then-boyfriend at Idlewild Airport in New York. We ate at the (very fancy) airport restaurant. I ordered a bouillabaisse. The waiter lifted the lid of the tureen and fish eyes stared at me. It turned out delicious and is still one of my (rare) favorites. But it wasn’t just the food: we were surrounded by a bunch of huge neckless hunks. We asked the waiter – we ate with the New York Giants.
When I was a kid (65+ years ago), Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport was one of those great places to eat. People only went there for the food… and to see the celebrities passing by. I remember both the prime rib and the fried chicken! Also, I can honestly say that Clark Gable not only signed my kid’s “Sky Chef” menu, but also called me “Honey”.
Linda Clements, Dayton, Nev.
My favorite moment at the airport was a wild turkey bourbon with Hunter S. Thompson on his Rolling Stone expense account. It was the early 1970’s at the Columbia, SC airport; I was a freshman reporter sent to cover a politician’s campaign visit. That evening, after reading my copy over the phone, I’m waiting at an airport gate awaiting my flight when Hunter comes over from his gate and tells me, “You asked the best (BLEEPING) question of the day, and you were willing to go after him by quoting him with something else when he tried to (BLEEPEN) you. I want to buy you a drink, and we’ll make that (BLEEP) Wenner pay for it.” It was just a bourbon on the rocks, and we both did our flights, because I think at least during his work, there was a lot of that “gonzo” -stuff was a picture.
Gregg Wiggins, Indian Harbor Beach, Florida.
In December 1968, my Cathay Pacific flight was delayed at Haneda Airport in downtown Tokyo. The airline gave me a voucher for a “special dinner” at Shapiro’s restaurant. Surprisingly elegant ambiance, excellent service and the food was exquisite. That night I was served an incredible multi-course dinner on seventeen (17!) separate plates: soup, salad, bread, shrimp Newburg, small perfect steak with vegetables to match, dessert and wonderful coffee. One of the best and most memorable meals I’ve eaten in my 76 years – all for free.
George Wolske, Bumpass, Va.
When I was local to the school, the Williamsburg, Virginia airport was a popular destination for connoisseurs. Pilots would land there just to have lunch. They made their own bread and desserts. The French dip sandwich was probably my favorite. I can still taste the salty broth seeping into the interior of the bun as my teeth sank into the crispy, egg-washed exterior and encountered hot roast beef.
Charles Sweedler, Philadelphia
I had to go back to 1957 when my parents took me from my home in Bayonne, NJ to Newark Airport and the Newarker Restaurant there. It was above the main hall. I can remember eating a huge filet mignon (at least for a 7 year old). Another thing I remember well was a man in a chef’s coat, a large toque and a metal box on his chest handing out slices of garlic bread. I can still remember it well after 65 years!
My family lived as expats in Tokyo from 1988-1991. Our home vacation trips came only once a year and literally included a trip around the world. Once while waiting at Narita Airport, we found a noodle shop outside of the airline lounges on the upper floors. Especially the udon was amazing! It lived on in the family history as “Airport Soup,” the best and most comforting airport meal ever.
Jessica Chapman, Golden Valley, Minn.
October 2006, Hippopotamus, CDG Paris. Steak fries, bien sûr. But amazed that a chain can have such perfectly caramelized shallots. dark brown. Also amused that a uniformed fireman sitting across from me ordered Sole Meunière.
Mic Fleming, Agios Nikolaos, Greece
Simple and clear #1: After spending spring break sweating our way through Cambodia in the middle of the hot dry season, checking in at Siem Reap Airport and finding a Dairy Queen in the terminal gave my family more joy than one could imagine can .
Brian Sapp, Howard, Colo.
Housed in a gleaming Airstream trailer in front of one of Zurich Airport’s entrances, the Sternen Grill serves the best St. Gallen sausages, golden Bürli buns and homemade potato salad that easily cures the worst of jetlag. I place an order as soon as I drop my bags in my hotel room, always order the traditional brat. After you order, it’s ready in 1-2 minutes, and you carry the brat wrapped in a napkin to an outdoor table with an umbrella. Don’t forget to grab some hot mustard, guaranteed to make your parting a bit.
Terry Terhaar, Davenport, California.
London Heathrow. The Caviar Bar, smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye. You have perfect cappuccino. It’s light and nourishing after several really stressful days. I look forward to it every time I travel through London.
Diane Nelson, Charlottesville
Duck cassoulet in 2014. When Ecco first opened an outpost at the international terminal in Hartsfield, they went to great lengths to maintain the ambience of a neighborhood gem, including the amazing dinner specials. This duck cassoulet changed the way I end my vacation. Now I linger over one last good meal. The laundry can wait.
The Dosa booth at Changi Airport in Singapore. A level with the best dosas I’ve ever had!
Andrew Tynan, Brisbane, Australia
One Flew South, Atlanta – it’s really the first time I’ve had eye-level food at an airport restaurant that you wouldn’t find in a good spot next to the gates. The pork belly is amazing; The bar conjures up an incredible pisco sour. It’s become my stopover place when flying through ATL and I know I’m not alone.
I had dinner at the Atlanta airport in September 2012 while on vacation on a layover to Albuquerque, NM. I had a glazed pork belly with pickled onions over arugula with a demi glace jus. It was unexpectedly great. Meaty and greasy and perfect side dishes! pic.twitter.com/lTyOjIOWZ4
– Sara Gellhorn (@sgellhorn) August 3, 2022
Seated meals at Oslo Airport awaiting a Norwegian Airlines flight to the United States in the summer of 2017. Fish soup of course.
Earlier this summer we made a quick stop at Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland. The wood-fired pizzeria in the C gates prepares fresh Icelandic cod that’s so, so good. I think it’s toasted in the pizza oven and served on a mashed sweet potato with seasonal vegetables. I would return to Iceland just for one more helping.
Susan Pierson-Brown, Seattle
Authentic Polish pierogi at Wroclaw Airport [Poland]. I’m willing to travel to Wroclaw just to try these pierogi one more time. They remind me so much of my mom’s homemade pierogi.
Bartosz Szewczyk, Manville, NJ
At Munich’s Franz-Josef-Strauß Airport, a local brewery had a counter and served warm “Leberkäse” — a Bavarian specialty of roast beef and pork paired with a pretzel.
The best meal I had was a Malaysian curry laksa at Melbourne International Airport. It was a small, no-frills sit-down restaurant, but the food I had was authentic and would go well in any Malaysian roadside setting.
Christine Orita, Madera, California.
Jonesy’s Restaurant at the Napa, California Airport in 1973. They served wonderful steaks, grilled on a flat grill under a Napa River Rock, with hash browns. Wonderful with a bottle of the local wine which was very much in those days.
I have the best deep friend cod I’ve had outside of Newfoundland at Humpy’s at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. So good I had to take a picture and text my Newfy husband!
Sue Steinacher, Nome, Alaska
Flyrite Chicken chicken and waffles at Austin Airport. The chicken was good but the waffle was absolutely amazing. They had that cheap waffle maker like your mom buys when you move out, and suddenly she’s buying all the appliances she should have bought when you lived at home.
Ian Curtis, College Station, Texas.
Pizza from Varasano at Atlanta Airport! It’s a perfect margherita and a welcome respite from the travel chaos at the world’s busiest airport. I intentionally planned long layovers in Atlanta around lunchtime to eat my pizza. There is a piano bar during peak hours.