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Airport food: The sumptuous and the scary

There are healthier, tastier options than pizza at many airports these days.


I don’t have the statistics handy, but my guess is that on average, 99.9 percent of the people running around airport concourses are not there for the food.

That’s not to say dining options haven’t gotten exponentially better. We can all remember the days when the only organic products at airports would get you in trouble with the DEA. Now you can find entire kiosks filled with products to delight your cardiologist right next to gate C16. So let’s start with the good news.

The Good 

Tortas Frontera -- O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
No kidding, Frontera makes you cross your fingers for delays at O’Hare. Rick Bayless, the Chicago-based champion of Mexican cooking, now has two airport branches, both with awesome griddled tortas (sandwiches).

Bar Brace -- Laguardia Airport, New York City
Finally, retaliation for all those nasty airport sandwiches. Jason Denton, owner of the world’s sweetest wine bar, ‘ino in NYC’s West Village, offers his exemplary panini.

Great Lakes Brewing Company -- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
You know you're going to drink whatever you can get your hands on at the airport before your flight. So you might as well drink a really good local microbrew.

The Much Less Good

Just because airport food has generally gotten better doesn’t mean you can’t find dishes that would earn you a spot on my unrealized TV show, "I Ate This and Survived." It’s no fun to name chain names (well it is and you should guess them). We’ll go by category.

Airport pizza
Spinach and broccoli are normally healthy. Except, apparently, at chain airport pizza places where they’re stuffed into a slice for a total of 790 calories and 34 grams of fat. That’s modest compared to the almost-1000-calorie stuffed sausage & pepperoni pizza, which boasts 47 fat grams.

Airport cinnamon rolls
I’m waiting for a celebrity to release a fragrance that captures that sickeningly good, sweet scent of airport cinnamon rolls. Until then, you just have to eat one of these frosting-covered rolls and watch the 880 calories and 36 grams of fat stack up.

Airport nachos
I’ve previously expressed wonder at “volcano nachos,” which come topped with both warm nacho sauce and cheesy molten hot lava sauce. Interestingly, they’re served with low-fat sour cream. What? Please order extra, full-fat sour cream on the side to take the dish right over the 980 calorie/60 grams-of-fat mark.

Airport Chinese food
Because you can customize your order at these places, it’s possible to get the following three-entrée plate: Cream cheese rangoons (crisp wonton skins filled with cream cheese – crisp being code for deep fried), honey-doused walnut shrimp (more fried, this time with a very sweet coating); and orange chicken (more fried, with a different very sweet coating). If you’re sick of counting up fat grams --
and you’re in higher math territory with that entrée -– consider the BBQ pork, which has 1,310 milligrams of sodium.

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