Air travel is coming back. And that means the food is coming back.
In recent years, airport concessions have moved from national chains (perfect for travelers on the run) to local favorites and specialty dishes that showcase a city’s best eateries and cuisine.
Blue Sky News surveyed a few of the best specialty spots at airports around the country you won’t want to pass up when you’re in town. The results made us very hungry.
We’ll start our tour right here at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Primanti Brothers, founded in 1933, is known for its signature sandwiches of grilled meat, melted cheese, an oil & vinegar-based coleslaw, tomato slices, and French fries between two thick slices of Italian bread.
At The Strip Market, travelers can experience the historic Pittsburgh Strip District’s local flavors and offerings such as fresh bakery treats and coffee, fresh fruits and salads, and grab-and-go sandwiches, wraps and snacks.
Gaby et Jules features authentic French confections including macarons, confitures (jams) and gourmet nuts.
Local chocolatier Sarris Candies offers an array of boxed chocolates, bars, pretzels and sweet confections along with a variety of unique gifts.
Steel City at Burgh Sportz Bar is a Pittsburgh-themed sports bar featuring the city’s sports memorabilia that honors the legacy of the region’s professional football, hockey and baseball teams with classic pub fare.
Penn Brewery, Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest brewery, tells the story of Pittsburgh’s European immigrants through its award-winning German-style craft beer and homemade cuisine.
An extension of Pittsburgh’s vibrant Local Bar & Kitchen and Local Brewhouse establishments, Local Craft will offer refreshing brews and bites in a new location in Concourse A.
“It is important for us to offer an array of options as we want to give travelers a true taste of the local food and drink culture that Pittsburgh is known for right here in the airport,” said David Storer, Director of Business Development at PIT.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
Cafe Du Monde: Cafe Du Monde is a New Orleans institution and a must-visit when in New Orleans. The original Cafe Du Monde opened in the New Orleans French Market in 1862, selling their famous beignets and cafe au lait. Beignets are a delicious local delicacy of French-style doughnuts topped with powdered sugar, and their cafe au lait (chicory coffee and milk) is not to be missed.
The original location is still in operation today and the Cafe Du Monde brand has expanded in the New Orleans region, including a location in the airport. Now passengers traveling through MSY have a chance to grab delicious beignets as they arrive or depart the airport.
Traveler tip: Grab more than one napkin!
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Beecher’s: This is a locally owned spot with a famous sister restaurant at Pike Place Market. Visitors to Beecher’s glass-walled cheesemaking kitchens witness firsthand the crafting of their signature Flagship cheese and many other award-winning cheeses.
Floret: Exclusively plant-based menu! The menu features flavorful and creative vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes that utilize fresh and organic produce from local farms. Floret is committed to showcasing beloved local vendors through their partnerships with Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Mystic Kombucha and Fran’s Chocolates, among many others.
Capitol Hill Food Hall: The vibe is inspired by Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Travelers are invited to a bustling urban foodie market featuring some of Seattle’s best plates, drinks and gourmet food products while listening to live music performances.
Highlights include award-winning chowder from Chowder Shack, Grand Central Bakery’s gourmet sandwiches, Salt & Straw artisan ice cream, and Caffe Ladro coffee. Burgers, artisan pizzas, Washington State wines and local craft beers on tap are also available.
“Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is often the welcome home or the bon voyage, the first impression or last memory,” said Kate Hudson, Aviation Communications Manager for SEA. “We want to create a passenger experience that reflects a Pacific Northwest sense of place for our airport.
“Seattleites love to support local businesses and visitors adore our city’s food culture,” she added.
The airport is nearing the end of a long-term dining and retail redevelopment program that will have added more than 50 establishments by 2022.
O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Billy Goat Tavern & Grill: Home of the Original Chicago Burger, The World Famous Billy Goat Tavern has been serving up its “Cheezborgers!” to Chicagoans and patrons worldwide since 1934. From the famous Billy Goat Curse to the inspiration behind the SNL “Cheezborger!” skit, the Billy Goat Tavern has become a Chicago icon and a popular destination for people worldwide to visit.
Garrett Popcorn Shops: You don’t have to stand in the long lines in downtown Chicago to get the classic taste of Garrett’s popcorn, which is handmade daily in copper kettles right at O’Hare. It’s no wonder Garrett Popcorn Shops have been a Chicago tradition since 1949.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila: With a lively atmosphere and style that attracts celebrity regulars, Rocco’s Tacos offers the famous local flavors created by founder Rocco Mangel. Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar combines authentic Mexican flavors with a contagious atmosphere where guests can savor dishes like Molcajetes served sizzling in a traditional lava rock molcajete; enchiladas rojas baked with corn tortillas and Chihuahua cheese and served with refrijoles and yellow rice; and breakfast offerings like huevos rancheros and authentic Mexican churros for dessert.
Casavana: A Cuban café and restaurant offering travelers all the sights, sounds and distinctive tastes of Cuba. The 4,500 square foot restaurant serves authentic home-style Cuban delicacies, including traditional steak dishes like churrasco, palomilla and vaca frita, as well as classic pressed sandwiches and favorites such as black beans and rice, yucca frita, empanadas and sweet-fried plantains.
In addition to a 140-seat dining and bar area, Casavana also features an express café offering specialty coffees, artisan pastries and grab-and-go Cuban meals for travelers in a time crunch.
Did we miss your favorite airport restaurant? Email Elise Gomez at BlueSky@FlyPittsburgh.com and share your favorite spot! We may include it in a future story.
All photos courtesy of respective airports.