But would you actually fly to an airport simply for the food? Believe it or not, some jet-setters do, and they've shared their airside experiences here—in the hopes that no passenger will have to suffer through yet another sorry, soggy sandwich.
Rafael Micha, Managing Partner, Grupo Habita: "Hangar-7 at the Salzburg Airport in Austria houses Ikarus, a Michelin-star restaurant owned by Austrian billionaire and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. A couple of years ago, executive chef Roland Trettl hosted a group of four friends from Mexico—including Mexican chef Martha Ortiz from Dulce Patria—which was, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the most breathtaking dinner of my life.
Maybe it was the surroundings or the almost monastic kitchen where the only words were 'Yes, chef!' in unison or the precise, clockwork precision of the army-like kitchen staff or the sumptuous food. But most of all, Ikarus is not a stiff, pretentious Michelin-star restaurant, but one with a laid back atmosphere which offers a new chef every month. It's not just a worthwhile layover but an amazing excuse visit to Salzburg, specially this coming summer with the festival."
Kim Walker, Creative Director and Senior Vice President of Brand and Marketing, Morgans Hotel Group: "Last summer I cut it too close and missed my flight out of London’s Heathrow Airport. I ended up wandering around Terminal 3 and walked by the Caviar House Oyster Bar. I decided to treat myself and ate an outrageous meal of caviar before boarding my flight. Now I always plan an extra 20 minutes at the terminal so I can get my caviar fix.
In San Francisco International, they have a great place called Willow Street Woodfired Pizza that has delicious rotisserie chicken. The last time I flew in, I remembered to book my car for 30 minutes after arrival so I could stop by and grab food before leaving the airport for my meetings."
Heather Poole, flight attendant for a major carrier and author of The New York Times bestseller Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 30,000 Feet: "Because flight attendants only get paid for flying time in the air, it's in our best interest to stay off the ground. That said, the only airport I don't mind having a three-hour sit between flights is Miami International. That's because of La Carreta, where the Cuban food is so good. And it doesn't matter what time the flight back to New York might be, I always make a stop at Cafe Versailles for café con leche. I need the caffeine just to get through the boarding process—and depending on how long of a day it's been, I might also grab a guava pastry to go along with the coffee.
San Francisco International is my second favorite airport because of The Plant; I crave their wasabi burger on my days off. In Chicago, I've actually prayed passengers would deplane faster just so I'd have time to run over to Tortas Frontera for the taqueria salad. Oh my gosh it's so good!"
Andrew Bender, Lonely Planet author: "Washington's Dulles International may be my least favorite airport in America. It’s far from the city, public transit is an ordeal, check-in and security are madness, its trains and people-movers inevitably drop you off far from the gate, and the commuter plane terminal in Concourse A is awful. The one saving grace of the entire airport? It’s the first place I encountered Five Guys Burgers and Fries, right in Concourse A, no less. It’s my must-stop when changing from transcontinental 777s to smaller planes to far-flung markets like Allentown, Pittsburgh, or Miami. Never mind that it’s a chain, and that they now have one not far from my home in Los Angeles: This Five Guys is somehow special—and yes, I have rejiggered my trip to incorporate it."
Scott Wiseman, President, Cox & Kings, The Americas: "I am a huge fan of biltong (South African beef jerky) and I love to get it at the airport in Johannesburg at Biltong On-The-Go, located on the international airside, after security, by gate A5. I like all the flavors, but my favorite is kudu. (Since you cannot bring it into the States, I always eat it while at the airport.)"
Alpana Singh, Master Sommelier, Chicago's The Boarding House: "I like this trend of airports doing wine bars: JFK has a wine bar, O’Hare just added one in the AA terminal, and of course Dulles has one. Would it make a difference on where you want to connect? That’s how you know you travel a lot. When I was traveling through Switzerland, I fell in love with this ice cream, Mövenpick. It’s 80 percent butter fat! So if I can connect through Geneva, I will, just to get my fix."
Shaun Hergatt, chef, New York City's forthcoming Juni restaurant: "I loved the Marchesi de’Frescobaldi counter at the airport in Rome. It was really something fun, basically an oval counter displaying salad and sliced meats—and of course they had a great wine selection. It was a great counter experience with tasty food, all of it restaurant quality. The service was really efficient as well. I look forward to getting back there soon!"