Nobody looks forward to going to the airports around New York. LGA (LaGuardia Airport) has rush-hour traffic 24/7, with taxi lines that snake practically to Yonkers. JFK is so ginormous, one wrong turn in your Uber and you’re going to miss your flight. And bless its heart, Newark is in Newark.
Once you manage to get through the TSA line — having worked up a healthy appetite in the process — you deserve better than a stale $12 cinnamon-raisin muffin. To ease the pain of the pre-flight ordeal, we’ve pulled together a cheat sheet on where to eat in every terminal at New York’s three major airports. Hopefully your next flight leaves from a gourmet gate, but if not, we’ll at least help you find something better than an overpriced bag of almonds.
John F. Kennedy is the granddaddy of NYC airports, moving more than 50 million passengers each year via six terminal buildings (they’re numbered 1-8, but Terminals 3 and 6 are closed). Expect giant lines at security, perpetual gridlock on the roads, and a baffling one-way Skytrain that always seems to go the long way ’round. Most people here are stressed and could use a proper bite to eat.
Long-haul international flights depart from JFK’s Terminal 1, so it’s all the more important to fill up before you go. The go-to is the most American chain of them all, McDonald’s, where Coke actually does taste better. For a more New York-y feel, but with a Korean twist, New York Hot Dog and Coffee does a chunky bulgogi hot dog that should be top of your list.
Once you’ve passed security, hit up Martini Bar for a pre-flight gin martini and quesadilla. Gyros and baklava are solid options at Eat & Go Istanbul, and Panini Express does exactly what you’d expect.
World Bean is the only option pre-security, so for anything more substantial than a cappuccino, you’ll have to wait.
Before checking a bag and entering security in Terminal 4, Central Diner is the chief contender, where diner staples like fried eggs and pancakes are on the grill.
After security, Terminal 4 is an in-transit foodie’s paradise, with a range of innovative and Instagram-worthy meals. Five Borough Food Hall latched onto the street-food scene by bringing the trucks off the street and into the terminal to dish out Mexican, Mediterranean, and other international dishes. Marcus Samuelsson (head chef of Harlem’s Red Rooster) runs Uptown Brasserie, where guests watch dishes like blackened catfish and grits crafted in an open kitchen. The Palm Bar and Grille brings a classic NYC steakhouse to the airport — the grilled twin tenderloin fillets with crabmeat, asparagus, and hollandaise will hit the spot.
For a quick bite, La Brea Bakery (the famed West Coast bakery by Nancy Silverton) has sandwiches and pastries to grab and go. Blue Smoke on the Road is an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s jazzy barbecue joint Blue Smoke — it’s quick and easy, and a pulled pork sandwich is usually exactly what you need before five hours in a middle-of-the-row economy seat. Then there’s Shake Shack, where a burger is always a good bet, especially if that burger is topped with lobster; passengers with early flights can also get in on the action, thanks to a full breakfast menu that includes New York’s favorite: bacon, egg, and cheese.
Before dealing with the are-you-freaking-serious price of checking a bag, the pre-security area of Terminal 5 is a good place to caffeinate with a reliable cup of joe from Dunkin Donuts, or to grab a light sandwich from CIBO Express.
After security, the options improve. Starting with Deep Blue, a futuristically designed sushi restaurant that feels situated in a Vegas casino instead of an airport in Queens. The raw fish is your best bet (the sushi taco trio is a crowd-pleaser), but the seafood ramen and kampachi crudo are also heavy hitters. If you prefer your seafood cooked, Piquillo — by Alex Raij of Txikito — has Spanish tapas and paella in a lux-subway-tunnel styled environment. Other upscale, sit-down options include dry-aged beef at 5ive Steak, Italian at Mark Ladner’s AeroNuova, and French classics at La Vie.
If you’re in a mad hurry, Deep Blue has a takeaway spot: Deep Blue on the Fly. Fresh Italian Pasta lets travelers build their own pasta creations, and Philly Cheesesteaksserves, well, exactly that.
Desserts are a handy pick-me-up in airports, especially after a bad day in transit. Terminal 5 has all your sugar cravings covered. Stressed-out passengers can gorge on ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop (choose your flavor wisely), and if that doesn’t do it, Dylan’s Candy Bar lets you load up on candy by weight.
If you have to eat before security in Terminal 7, avoid these sandwiches at Subway, or pick up our No. 1 ranked Starbucks drink, a Dark Mocha Frappuccino. Just remember to finish it off before it gets launched into the trash by the TSA agent at security.
After the body scanners, Wolfgang Puck Express is a viable option for a hearty sandwich or soup, and Bonfire Restaurant by Todd English has steak tips and a BBQ shrimp salad. Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill is the place for a piña colada before jetting off to the warm winter weather in Minnesota.
Hopefully you have Precheck, since the dining options before Terminal 8 security are slim, unless Dunkin Donuts can tide you over.
If you can hold off, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse is a classic, mahogany-lined steakhouse with a full menu of prime-cut meats, crabcakes, and beer. Sit for a glass of your favorite wine (even if you don’t know why it’s your favorite) at Vino Volo Wine Roomor Cascata, which also serves finger-foods and salads for the road. Wok and Rollboxes up classic Chinese food, and Brooklyn National Deli sends visitors back to wherever they came from with a healthy serving of pastrami and New York City hot dogs.
About 30 million people passed through LaGuardia in 2016, and maybe 30 of them had a good word to say about it. It’s so cramped and overcrowded, former Vice President Biden in 2014 compared it to a “third-world country.” Yet all is not lost. The food options have improved recently, and the future is bright, with a $4 billion makeover in the works.
Yankee Clipper Deli — before security — is widely considered LGA’s overlooked gem. With standard New York deli prices, this is the best bet for a solid sandwich before your flight (the breakfast-time bacon, egg, and cheese is a beast). After security, the only option is World Bean for coffee and pastries.
The pre-security area of Terminal B is a chain-lover’s paradise, offering up airport comfort foods like Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, bagels from Einstein Bros., Dunkin Donuts, and grab-and-go snacks from Au Bon Pain. To refuel before battling the scanners, hit up Five Guys for a bacon cheeseburger and fresh-cut Cajun fries.
Past security, acclaimed chef Todd English’s Fig is a standout option with thin-crust pizzas, handmade pastas, and an ample chicken Parm. Metro Burger Bar ain’t cheap, but there is a strong beer menu alongside an interesting menu of burgers, like the Texas Toast Burger (BBQ sauce, Cheddar, coleslaw, and an onion ring). Crucially, they do poutine.
If you’re in a taxi to LaGuardia Terminal C and are feeling even a little bit peckish, you’ll want to ask the driver to stop at McDonald’s on the way, because there’s really nothing to eat when you arrive. BUT, and it’s a big but, if you can wait until after security, you’ll find some of the best establishments in the entire airport.
Pretend you’re heading to Italy instead of Indiana, with rustic pasta at Cotto, by chef Michael White (Osteria Morini, Nicoletta). Or choose between highbrow and lowbrow pizza, with a slice to-go from the popular Artichoke Pizza or a more intimate pie and wine from Crust. Hit up Kombo (created with the help of Chuko’s Jamison Blankenship) for spicy tonkotsu ramen, gyoza, and breakfast items like fried eggs over rice.
Food is thin on the ground before security in Terminal D, with the only option being light bakery snacks and coffee from World Bean. After your body scan and potential frisk, however, options abound.
Bisoux will transport you to the French countryside with a saucy croque monsieur. Or choose from Italian options at Crust (pizza pies), Tagliare (New York-style slices), and Bar Brace (paninis and other light bites). Wibar pours wines from around the world, and Custom Burgers by Pat LaFrieda does quality beef patties.
Though technically not in New York, Newark Liberty Airport sees more than 35 million passengers each year, most of them burrowing in or out of the Big Apple. And though Jersey gets a lot of flack from the other side of the river, New Yorkers can’t deny they’re excited about Wow Air’s $99 flights to Europe.
Before risking fungus from those sweat-soaked footprints in the body scanner, boost your immune system with a wheatgrass shot from Jamba Juice, or fill up on comfort food with a greasy burger from Cheeseburger Cheeseburger or a burrito from Qdoba Mexican Grill. The food court also has staple airport Chinese at Manchu Wok, and everyone’s fifth-favorite sub shop, Jersey Mike’s.
If you managed not to throw a tantrum at security, reward yourself with a caffeine fix at Abica Coffee or Abica Coffee Express; if you’ve been especially well-behaved, go for cinnamon-sugar pretzel bites at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Seafood is also a tempting sit-down option (we’re talking lobster rolls here, people) at Phillip’s Seafood, and basic-but-satisfying tacos are your salve at Currito Cantina.
If you’re missing your old neighborhood Chili’s (who isn’t?), it doesn’t matter if you’re flying or not, because the margaritas and chicken crispers at Chili’s Too are conveniently pre-security. Alternatively, Mediterranean Bistro has a hearty Middle Eastern menu featuring gyros, falafel, and kabobs. And if all else fails, Wendy’s will never let you down — except of course when they retired spicy nugs.
If you’re flying out of Terminal C, consider yourself lucky: Past security, it has the airport’s best food. Before then, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are your options for trusty if unspectacular pastries.
But it’s worth holding off if you can. After security, tuck into a superlative croque monsieur from Saison, helmed by French chef Alain Ducasse, a man with not one, not 10, but 21 Michelin stars. For Asian fare, hit up Wabi Sabi — which was inspired by Chinatown’s Nom Wah Tea Parlor — or Dale Talde’s Little Purse Dumpling House for firecracker blue cheese and chicken parcels and soy-ginger grilled mushroom shoa bing. If you can’t get enough of Mr. Talde, check out his Caps Beer Garden for an international selection of beer, kimchi, and a Korean fried chicken. Then finish off your pre-flight preparation with a pretzel and caramel corn donut or macaroons from Melange Petit Patisserie, by Jacques Torres (aka “Mr. Chocolate”).
This content was originally posted on thrillist.com