Best U.S. Airports for Food 2023
Global Tastemakers is our first-ever reader’s choice awards, celebrating the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. F&W readers voted based on travel completed within the past three years, on categories including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. Due to the limitations of pandemic travel, this year’s Global Tastemakers winners reflect a smaller portion of the globe. In many categories, we’re including an editor’s pick to shout out some more culinary destinations in places you can’t miss. See all the winners at foodandwine.com/globaltastemakers.
There’s something romantic about saddling up to a bar or table in an airport terminal with a suitcase at your feet, people-watching in full force, and a travel day cocktail in hand. An airport terminal is liminal, the people are nameless, and everyone has a single goal: hop on the plane and try to get comfortable. Speaking to that last part, getting a good meal ahead of take-off can make all the difference between a good day and a really bad day.
We asked travelers around the world about airports — airport food, in particular. There’s a reason locals don’t travel out of their way to make a reservation at the newest opening in Terminal C. But some airports are being applauded for their food and beverage options. More often than not, the biggest crowd-pleasers are outposts of the city’s most popular bars and restaurants. Ahead, find the top 10 domestic airports for good eats, as voted by our readers.
San Francisco International Airport
Thirteen miles south of Downtown San Francisco, the region’s largest airport shuffled nearly 10 million travelers to and from their destinations in 2022. Here, travelers applaud Sankaku (Terminal 3) and Tomokazu (Terminal G) for sushi, the pho at Bun Mee (Terminal 1), Roasting Plant Coffee (Ed Lee International Main Hall) for a jolt of caffeine, and Napa Farms Market (Terminal 2) for airplane seat picnic provisions. It doesn’t matter when you’re passing through; you’ll be able to find something to eat that rivals any meal outside of airport walls.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
There are plenty of chain options if you’re looking for something quick and reliable, like Five Guys, Krispy Kreme, and Jersey Mike’s. But the quick options are not what landed the airport on this list. As the busiest airport in the United States, the possibilities span all types of cuisine. Grab a Reuben sandwich at Atlanta Chophouse in the Atrium. Take a seat at Ludacris’ Chicken + Beer in Concourse D, where you can order — you guessed it — chicken and beer (and other Southern staples, like fried green tomatoes). Concourse C is home to a beloved airport restaurant known around the world: One Flew South, which covers Southern fare and sushi. It’s just the medicine you need to forget about the suitcase-baring crowds and anxious travelers outside … at least for a minute.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Artisanal doughnuts, cheese-filled burgers, clam chowder — there are a lot of flavors swirling around this airport’s terminals. While Minneapolis-St. Paul International has plenty of good options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s the airport’s food delivery system that has travelers excited. Called MSP ASAP, flyers can order menu items for takeout from a number of restaurants, or they can opt to have their food delivered to the terminal in 15 to 20 minutes. In Terminal 1, Smack Shack serves lobster rolls beloved by locals. Stone Arch, also in Terminal 1, has a strong list of local beers on tap from brewers on the MN Brewer’s Guild. Hi-Lo Diner gives off retro diner vibes in Concourse F, with classic menu items like malts and French fries and decadent breakfast options like Hi-Tops (fried dough with your choice of toppings).
Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport
The seafood doesn’t stop once you pack your bags and head to the airport. Travelers love the abundance of local favorites like oysters, gumbo, and fish on menus across the terminals. In some restaurants, expect a show — like at the Heritage School of Music Stage in Concourse B, where the wine bar hosts live music acts in partnership with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation. Also, in Concourse B, you’ll find Bar Sazerac. Don’t miss its namesake cocktail or some brandy milk punch. One of Concourse C’s gems is Cure, an outpost of a cocktail bar in the Uptown neighborhood with a James Beard Award-winning bar program.
Portland International Airport
Portland International Airport is consistently voted one of the best travel hubs in the country, and the local dining scene holds up the restaurant roster. With hits like Lardo (sandwiches, Terminal E), Country Cat (great non-alcoholic cocktails, Main Terminal), and Screen Door (fried chicken, Concourse B), there are plenty of options to enjoy a Portland institution before hopping on your flight. PDX is also undergoing renovations that will bring 14 more dining options once completed (projected in 2025). Vegetarians and vegans will be well taken care of — the city’s embrace of plant-based dishes extends to its airport.
Tampa International Airport
From sports bars and tables with aquarium views to menus with authentic Neapolitan pizzas, Tampa International Airport has an unexpected range. The oldest restaurant in Florida has an outpost in Airside E—Columbia Café has been serving up Spanish cuisine and sangria since 1905. In Airside C, taste some of the city’s best local beers at Cigar City Brewing. If pizza is your travel day meal of choice, the Neapolitan wood-fired pies at Bavaro’s (Airside C) will be the carb dose you need to snooze all the way to your destination.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, or Sea-Tac as it’s more commonly known, offers an entirely different dining scene than it did ten years ago. Across the terminals, travelers will find a wide range of options, from the Congolese food at Africa Lounge (Gate A) and poke bowls at Hachi-ko (Gate C) to French classics inspired by chef Thierry Rautureau at LouLou Market and Bar (Gate B). Our readers recommend grabbing some tacos and a beer from Tundra Taqueria (N Gates) and enjoying them at a table next to one of the giant windows overlooking the airstrip.
Nashville International Airport
Barbecue enthusiasts will be happy to see the many options at the Nashville International Airport (Bar-B-Cutie SmokeHous in A/B North Terminal, Swett’s BBQ in Concourse C, and Pig Star by Peg Leg Porker in Concourse B). But there’s more than that. If you want to leave the city with one last taste of its infamous hot chicken, travelers recommend 400 Degrees Hot Chicken in Concourse C. If one last show is on your itinerary before takeoff, stop at Tootsies Orchid Lounge (Concourse C), where live music takes center stage.
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Local restaurants and shops line the terminal halls of Austin’s international airport, which is perfect for a city that is so focused on nurturing its local communities. Breakfast tacos are non-negotiable when you’ve got an early flight, and travelers recommend Tacodeli (Gate 23) for a quick fix. Amy’s Ice Creams (Gate 21) is a great spot for an unexpectedly great airport treat — two locally made scoops on a cone, of course. The nearby Salt Lick Barbecue (between Gates 21 and 22) serves smoked meats and Texas-produced wines. Oh, and you’re never far from a good cup of coffee — Jo’s Coffee at Gate 19 is a favorite.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Detroit has balanced its restaurant roster to cater to travelers on all schedules: quick bites, a cup of coffee while making a mad dash to a gate, or a lingering meal to fill a couple of hours. Dining opportunities are split among two terminals: McNamara Terminal and Warren Cleage Evans Terminal. Those looking for something quick can’t leave without a snack from Leo’s Coney Island (McNamara Terminal) or National Coney Island (Warren Cleage Evans Terminal). If you have more time, travelers suggest Atwater Brewery (an outpost of a local favorite in Warren Cleage Evans Terminal) or Embers Lounge (Michigan-produced wines and Italian fare in the Warren Cleage Evans Terminal).
Editor’s Pick: Denver International Airport
Given that the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen has been around for 40 years, F&W editors are intimately acquainted with the Denver International Airport. Even when there are delays (and there are delays), the airport’s dining outlets offer everything you could want from a travel day meal, whether you need to cry over a burrito at Cantina Grill, grab some jerky from a stand-alone kiosk, or reward yourself with a treat from Voodoo Doughnut. -FW Editors